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  • Study reveals government views on collective titling in Peru

Study reveals government views on collective titling in Peru

A CIFOR consultant discusses community frontiers in Campemento Neshuya, Ucayali River, Peru. Photo by M. del Aguila Guerrero/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

To legally obtain title to their community lands, indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon must navigate a maze of legal paperwork and technical steps that can take as long as a decade to complete.

Research by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) found that the process is challenging not only for villagers, but also for government officials.

Lack of coordination among the many government agencies involved, conflicts over rights and boundaries, and the high cost of conducting technical studies, such as mapping community boundaries, were among the difficulties reported.

Underlying those obstacles are differences in the way indigenous people and government agencies understand territorial rights, said Iliana Monterroso, a CIFOR scientist, who led the research.

“Differing expectations, tight budgets and difficulties in coordination among government agencies are the main obstacles mentioned by those interviewed,” she said of the study, which surveyed 32 national and regional government officials.

The researchers examined two ongoing tenure reform processes in Peru targeting native communities. One involves changes in laws that recognize land rights, while the other involves rights to forests, including promoting access to forest resources and support for forest management.

“While the government perceived them as two different sets of regulations, with different institutions responsible for implementation, indigenous communities saw them as a group of measures that should ensure protection of their territorial rights,” said Monterroso.

The study also underscored differences between the way national and sub-national government officials view tenure reform. While those working for the national government see reforms as a way to formalize land rights, regional officers see them as a way to increase access and use of resources to support livelihoods for native communities.

“Besides incongruences in how regulations are perceived, these results also point to a need for greater coordination and communication between the different levels of government,” Monterroso said.

Read also: Reclaiming collective rights: land and forest tenure reforms in Peru (1960-2016)

Community members stand in front of a river in Cashiboya, Loreto Province, Peru. Photo by M. del Aguila Guerrero/CIFOR

Shared responsibility, different expectations

Granting legal land titles was initially implemented by Peru’s central government. With the dawn of decentralization in the early 2000s, Lima handed regional governments responsibility – under national guidelines and  provision – for boundary demarcation, titling communal lands, and the granting of usufruct rights to forests.

Peruvian law considers all forest lands as public; indigenous communities bid therefore for titles on communal lands classed as agriculture and usufruct contracts for those as forests.

The process involves more than 20 steps and at least a dozen government agencies, both national and regional.

Overall, 60 percent of the government officials involved in implementing tenure reform, including recognition of rights to both land and forests, work at the sub-national level, Monterroso said.

Those officials generally have a significant level of education and experience. 90 percent of those surveyed had a university education, as well as averaging 10 years of work experience.

But working with indigenous communities poses particular challenges for government officials – nearly two-thirds mentioned indigenous communities or cultural norms as a stumbling block when implementing tenure reforms.

“They have the skills necessary for the administrative work, but can lack the cultural understanding needed when titling native communities,” Monterroso said. “Working in an intercultural environment requires the ability to recognize the needs of indigenous communities and how best to go about helping to resolve conflicts.”

Conflicts are not uncommon. When officials were asked about the main obstacles they encountered in the titling process, boundary disputes were mentioned most often, followed by illegal logging, overlapping permits for use of resources, and inefficient management of finances.

Around 40 percent then went on to say that their work involved educating communities about their rights, and the channels available to them to file complaints, but only six percent said they are directly involved in helping to resolve conflicts.

Previous research has shown that while Peru has a high level of conflict over land rights, a relatively small percentage of government officials report that is part of their responsibilities; this is a clear weakness in Peru’s legal system for titling.

Read also: Gender and formalization of native communities in the Peruvian Amazon

A dirt road leads to a community in Tingo de Ponasa, San Martin, Peru. Photo by M. del Aguila Guerrero/CIFOR

Budgets and coordination are key

More than one-third of the government officials surveyed mentioned inadequate budgets as a significant obstacle to implementation of tenure reform.

Although titling is free for communities, the process is expensive for subnational governments because of the cost of transporting teams to remote areas. As a matter devolved, they therefore have to allocate from their budget assigned from the national Ministry of Economy and Finance, or use contributions from international cooperation agencies.

Costs could range as high as USD 10,000 or more for a single title, depending on the location, the amount of work required, and how long the process takes. Titling takes an average of eight years, although some communities have been waiting for their title for several decades.

“Limitations affecting implementation are mainly associated with inadequate budgets, inefficient communication among the various government agencies involved, and cumbersome procedures,” said Monterroso. “Despite this, overall the respondents had a positive view of how well tenure reform was being implemented.”

The study points to several ways in which the process could be made more effective, she said.

Officials responsible for implementing tenure reform should be prepared to work with indigenous communities and be sensitive to the views of women and young people.

Indigenous communities and government officials often have different understandings of land tenure, so they also must address diverse and sometimes contradictory views about forest and land management and conservation, said Monterroso.

Because the process involves allocating budgets and responsibilities among a minimum of 12 government agencies, it is not surprising officials were in agreement that inter-agency collaboration and coordination are key to making reforms successful.

That’s why Monterroso is calling for additional measures to facilitate better access and exchange of information to not only increase coordination among national and regional government agencies, but to “have a cost-effective way to advance tenure reform implementation.”

She added, “most importantly everyone involved must keep in mind that the role of the state is not simply to grant the community a land title, but to ensure that the resources in the territory can provide the inhabitants with a sustainable livelihood.

“Titling is just the first step.”

By Barbara Fraser, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


This study is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), and is supported by the European Commission, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the Global Environment Facility, and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets.

FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, ICRAF, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Informal, traditional and semiformal property rights should be fully acknowledged, panel agrees 

Informal, traditional and semiformal property rights should be fully acknowledged, panel agrees 

A father and child are pictures in a garden in Colombia. Photo by Augusto Riveros/TBI
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A father and child are pictured in a garden in Colombia. Photo by Augusto Riveros

LANDac, the Netherlands Academy on Land Governance for Equitable and Sustainable Development, held its annual international conference on June 28-29 in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Titled “Land governance and (im)mobility”, the conference explored the nexus between land acquisition, displacement and migration.

On the second day of the event, the wide range of parallel sessions included “‘Good Enough Tenure’ in Sustainable Forest and Land Management”, organized by Tropenbos International (TBI), in collaboration with the universities of Wageningen, Freiburg, Campinas and Kyoto, Kadaster Internationaal, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

The session discussed the practical implications of the increasing evidence from research and experiences in different parts of the world on the value and scope of so-called ‘good enough tenure’ arrangements for international and national policymakers and investors.

The main message that emerged from the panel session was that all players need to think beyond formal land regularization to provide enabling conditions for smallholders to secure property rights and incentives for investment.

A lack of formally recognized land and resource property has always been a constraint for small-scale farmers and forest communities. Mainstream land governance focusses largely on tenure regularization as a means to provide security. Smallholders without such formal tenure tend to be excluded from external funding streams, because banks, other private investors, governmental agencies and even some donors often require land titles as collateral to mitigate the risk of default from failed investment.

As a result, these actors have not been able to deal effectively with the mobility and the complex local reality, including the local needs and opportunities that exist in rural and forest areas in tropical countries.

The four panelists – Marieke van der Zon of Wageningen University, Kyoto University and TBI; Peter Cronkleton of CIFOR; Bastian Reydon of Universidade Estadual de Campinas’ Land Governance Group; and Benno Pokorny of University Freiburg – provided hands-on examples from Latin America, providing evidence that there is a variety of formal, informal and semiformal tenure situations and arrangements in these areas.

In many cases these informal, traditional and semiformal property rights are considered good enough for social and economic development and for conservation, as they are respected, upheld and protected by strong local institutions. These good-enough tenure right arrangements should be fully acknowledged as a valuable “local institutional capital” for making trustful and secure arrangements between local smallholders and external actors to engage, to invest and collaborate on a reciprocal basis.

They must therefore play a much more prominent starting point in promoting sustainable, inclusive and equitable development, with the panelists emphasizing the need to understand the local specificity of arrangements, advocating a “fit-for-purpose and place” approach.

Read the panelists’ abstracts: 

View the presentations from the session:

Adapted from the article first published by Tropenbos International. 

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  • Informal, traditional and semiformal property rights should be fully acknowledged, panel agrees 

Informal, traditional and semiformal property rights should be fully acknowledged, panel agrees 

A father and child are pictures in a garden in Colombia. Photo by Augusto Riveros/TBI
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A father and child are pictured in a garden in Colombia. Photo by Augusto Riveros

LANDac, the Netherlands Academy on Land Governance for Equitable and Sustainable Development, held its annual international conference on June 28-29 in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Titled “Land governance and (im)mobility”, the conference explored the nexus between land acquisition, displacement and migration.

On the second day of the event, the wide range of parallel sessions included “‘Good Enough Tenure’ in Sustainable Forest and Land Management”, organized by Tropenbos International (TBI), in collaboration with the universities of Wageningen, Freiburg, Campinas and Kyoto, Kadaster Internationaal, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

The session discussed the practical implications of the increasing evidence from research and experiences in different parts of the world on the value and scope of so-called ‘good enough tenure’ arrangements for international and national policymakers and investors.

The main message that emerged from the panel session was that all players need to think beyond formal land regularization to provide enabling conditions for smallholders to secure property rights and incentives for investment.

A lack of formally recognized land and resource property has always been a constraint for small-scale farmers and forest communities. Mainstream land governance focusses largely on tenure regularization as a means to provide security. Smallholders without such formal tenure tend to be excluded from external funding streams, because banks, other private investors, governmental agencies and even some donors often require land titles as collateral to mitigate the risk of default from failed investment.

As a result, these actors have not been able to deal effectively with the mobility and the complex local reality, including the local needs and opportunities that exist in rural and forest areas in tropical countries.

The four panelists – Marieke van der Zon of Wageningen University, Kyoto University and TBI; Peter Cronkleton of CIFOR; Bastian Reydon of Universidade Estadual de Campinas’ Land Governance Group; and Benno Pokorny of University Freiburg – provided hands-on examples from Latin America, providing evidence that there is a variety of formal, informal and semiformal tenure situations and arrangements in these areas.

In many cases these informal, traditional and semiformal property rights are considered good enough for social and economic development and for conservation, as they are respected, upheld and protected by strong local institutions. These good-enough tenure right arrangements should be fully acknowledged as a valuable “local institutional capital” for making trustful and secure arrangements between local smallholders and external actors to engage, to invest and collaborate on a reciprocal basis.

They must therefore play a much more prominent starting point in promoting sustainable, inclusive and equitable development, with the panelists emphasizing the need to understand the local specificity of arrangements, advocating a “fit-for-purpose and place” approach.

Read the panelists’ abstracts: 

View the presentations from the session:

Adapted from the article first published by Tropenbos International. 

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  • Social forestry impacts local livelihoods in Indonesia

Social forestry impacts local livelihoods in Indonesia

Women cross the Way Bulak River in Lampung, Indonesia, as they carry resin from damar tree areas to their village. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

In a two-part series, the Center for International Forestry Research’s (CIFOR) Forests News examines ongoing research from Lampung province, Indonesia, as part of the Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reform (GCS-Tenure).

The first article, Why social forestry: Keeping the coffee, looks at the village of Tri Budi Syukur in Lampung, Sumatra, which developed from a destroyed landscape to profitable plantations, showing the benefits of social forestry schemes.

Having implemented versions of social forestry schemes for nearly two decades, Lampung is the pioneer province for social forestry in Indonesia, and Tri Budi Syukur has been its flagship village.

Between 2014 and 2017, the GCS-Tenure team measured the impact of social forestry on local livelihoods, using three indicators: income from coffee bean harvest, family food security, and initiative to invest in land recovery. Livelihoods and the landscape were found to be thriving hand-in-hand, largely due to the institution of social forestry.

Watch: Why social forestry: Keeping the coffee

One of the key lessons learned in Tri Budi Syukur was that despite local capabilities, outside support is still needed. Whereas once the government and villagers were pitted against one another, success has grown since they began working together.

The second article, Why social forestry: Securing the sap, addresses how tenure security from forestry schemes can help communities stabilize their economies and reduce conflict.

In Pahmungan village, Lampung, people have used damar trees and the sap they produce as their main source of income for more than a century. However, the land has been a place of contention, as governmental changes to land status have clashed against customary tenure practices.

Watch: Why social forestry: Securing the sap

Without proper land rights, the community lacks bargaining power to set the price of damar sap and keep it from fluctuating, putting not only local livelihoods but also the forest at risk, as it can lead to the felling of trees for extra cash.

Outside help is beginning to step in. Local environmental NGO Watala Lampung not only helps the community manage repong damar sustainably, but it helps educate villagers on the benefits of social forestry and provides platforms for government engagement, to promote the importance of repong damar.

In looking at these tenure insecurity issues, scientists found that implementation of social forestry schemes could be the answer to the latent challenges.

Read more: FTA at the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit 2018

These articles were written by Nabiha Shahab and first appeared on CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on the topic, please contact Tuti Herawati at [email protected] or Esther Mwangi at [email protected].


This work is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • For secure land rights, indigenous forest communities need more than just titles

For secure land rights, indigenous forest communities need more than just titles

The native lands of the Tres Islas community are seen in Peru. Photo by CIFOR Photo/Juan Carlos Huay llapuma
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The native lands of the Tres Islas community are seen in Peru. Photo by CIFOR/Juan Carlos Huay llapuma

While securing a land title may be a key step for forest-dependent communities, it is not sufficient to ensure legal rights and improve livelihoods, study highlights.

Under Peruvian law, a title gives traditional forest communities rights over land, but resources on that land, such as forests, formally remain the property of the state. In order to use these resources, communities are required to follow additional procedures to obtain permits and authorizations.

This was the case faced by the indigenous community of Tres Islas in the Amazonian region of Madre de Dios – despite securing a land title more than 20 years ago, non-governmental organizations working in the region have reported that a large portion of the community’s territory is overlapped by mining permits.

Read also: Reclaiming collective rights: land and forest tenure reforms in Peru (1960-2016)

The law states that indigenous communities may be granted communal titles over agrarian lands, but rights over forests are limited to usufruct contracts – that is, the right to use, but not own, the resources found there.

Furthermore, while the government recognizes indigenous communities’ long-term-use rights over forestlands, it reserves the right to grant time-limited concessions to companies and individuals, for example for extractive activities such as timber or mining, often within the same territory. This inevitably leads to overlapping land rights and, sometimes, conflict.

In recognition of August 9 as the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. The Tres Islas Community video was produced by Yoly Gutierrez and Martin Balbuena.

In 2010, the people of Tres Islas decided to build a fence to keep out miners and loggers who had been granted permits to use land under their title without the community’s authorization. Community leaders thought that they were exercising their rights when they decided to limit access by outsiders, but instead their fence was destroyed, and they were sued and incarcerated.

After years of conflict, the community took their case to the Peruvian Constitutional Court and won, establishing a legal precedent that ensures protection of indigenous territorial autonomy and requires community consultation in any case that directly affects indigenous territory.

Read also: Long road ahead to indigenous land and forest rights in Peru

“The case in Tres Islas shows the challenges that many traditional communities face across the globe, where titles or formal recognition don’t fully ensure rights, tenure security or the improvement of livelihoods,” says Iliana Monterroso, a researcher who leads the Centre for International Forestry Research’s (CIFOR) Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reform in Peru.

An historical analysis performed as part of the study also shows that while governments continue to discuss reforms to simplify regulations, it is indigenous movements and non-profit organizations that have been instrumental in ensuring that communities receive technical support to comply with norms and establish a better position from which to benefit from the resources available in their forestlands.

“The findings suggest that continued support is needed to ensure that communities can develop the skills to take advantage of acquired rights. While a title or certification is very important, there are other things to consider as part of these reform processes,” Monterroso says.

By Yoly Gutierrez, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Iliana Monterroso at [email protected] or Anne Larson at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors

This research was supported by the European Commission and GEF with the technical support of FAO and IFAD.

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  • Reclaiming collective rights: land and forest tenure reforms in Peru (1960-2016)

Reclaiming collective rights: land and forest tenure reforms in Peru (1960-2016)

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Overview

In Peru, since 1974, more than 1,200 communities have been titled in the Amazon for over 12 million hectares, representing about 20% of the country’s national forest area. This working paper analyzes policy and regulatory changes that have influenced how indigenous peoples access, use and manage forest and land resources in the Peruvian Amazon during the last fifty years. It reviews the main motivations behind changes, the institutional structures defined by law and the outcomes of these changes in practice.

The paper discusses political priorities related to land and forest tenure, social actors involved in reform debates and the mechanisms used for recognizing indigenous rights claims. The paper argues that there has not been a single reform process in Peru; instead multiple reforms have shaped forest tenure rights, contributing to both progress and setbacks for indigenous people and communities. This working paper is part of a global comparative research initiative that is analyzing reform processes that recognize collective tenure rights to forests and land in six countries in highly forested regions.

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  • Collective forest tenure reforms: Where do we go from here?

Collective forest tenure reforms: Where do we go from here?

Photo by Achmad Ibrahim for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
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Photo by Achmad Ibrahim for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

By Anne Larson, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

The recent World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty, held this past March in Washington D.C., provided a unique opportunity to reflect on collective land tenure reforms not only from a research point of view, but also from that of governments.

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) organized a South-South Exchange at the Conference, as part of its Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reforms. Seven government officials from Peru, Colombia, Indonesia, Nepal, Uganda and Kenya were invited to participate. These officials represented land offices from Latin America and forestry offices from Africa and Asia.

The Conference speakers and participants provided me with much room for thought on the subject of land tenure reforms, which I will outline below.

Overall, the topic of collective tenure reforms reminded me of that simple chromatography experiment in elementary school where you put black ink on a wet coffee filter and watch the colors of the spectrum emerge and spread.

The black ink represents the idea of forest reforms to recognize or grant rights to communities living in or near forests. Although some developing countries began to address such issues by the early 20th century – such as Mexico, which granted land (including forest land) rights to communities after the 1910-1917 revolution – the ink hit the wet coffee filter in a few key Asian countries (i.e. Nepal and India) in the late 1970s and for most countries after 1980. Others are just beginning to consider community forest rights.

Photo by Manuel Boissière for CIRAD and Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

FIRST-GENERATION QUESTIONS ON REFORM: CONTENT AND EXTENT OF RIGHTS

The result today is that some countries are still grappling with first-generation questions, while others have moved on to the other colors in the spectrum, including second and third-generation challenges.

The former were exemplified at the Conference in the frustrations of those who have been working on these issues for 10 to 20 years or more, who asked, “Haven’t we come further than this by now?”

But some countries are still questioning what types of rights (content, extent, duration), if any, communities should have over forests and/or forestland.

In fact, it is notable that even in the countries that have moved into second and third -generation questions, this first question is still relevant. It concerns new geographical locations, new rights and the relationship between land and forest rights.

In Colombia, as discussed during CIFOR’s Policy Roundtable at the Conference by Andrea Olaya, Principal Advisor to Colombia’s National Land Agency, this refers to new institutions emerging from the recent peace accords, as well as the demand for land from former combatants and displaced peoples in relation to existing rights.

In Indonesia, it refers to the new “asset agrarian reform”, as stated by Pak Hadi Daryanto, Director General for Social Forestry and Environmental Partnership at the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry. These reforms resulted in the return of the first 13,000 hectares of customary land to nine indigenous communities in January of this year.


Ronald Salazar, Director of Agrarian Property and the Rural Cadaster Office at Peru’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, pointed out that the distinction between forest rights and land rights in Peru leads to separate laws and government institutions. This is not uncommon among countries, and follows a logic that people in communities may find baffling, or outright oppose. For instance, indigenous activists in Peru are now demanding that their titles recognize “territorial integrity,” covering not only agriculture and pasture, but also forestlands.

This fundamental question about what rights for communities also concerns rollbacks to rights where new demands, or sometimes political and economic constituencies, threaten rights that had already been recognized, such as those behind economic reforms in Peru or Brazil.

SECOND-GENERATION QUESTIONS: TENURE SECURITY AND LIVELIHOODS

The second-generation questions are about rights protection and livelihoods. Formal rollbacks are not the only challenges to tenure security. Even after formal recognition, communities need access to justice if rights are infringed upon or eliminated.

And even secure rights are not enough to secure livelihoods. As one government official said during a private forum: “Why do we have reforms if not also to improve livelihoods?”


At the Policy Roundtable, Krishna Prasad Acharya, Director General of the Department of Forests at Nepal’s Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, said there are now 20,000 organized groups in Nepal, and forest area has increased from 39 percent to 44 percent, but more still needs to be done to support forest use and management.

At the same event, Gerardo Segura, Senior Natural Resource Specialist at the World Bank, highlighted the importance of removing barriers to communities for forest management.

THIRD-GENERATION QUESTIONS: GENDER AND ELITE CAPTURE

Third-generation questions are focused on problems such as community differentiation, gendered outcomes and how to prevent elite capture at the community level – that is, assuring that livelihood improvements reach those most in need.

At the Policy Roundtable, Dr. Prasad noted that women leaders are emerging in community forestry in Nepal. Bob Kazungo, Senior Forestry Officer at Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment, spoke of the importance of affirmative action and a gendered approach.

On other panels, speakers expressed concern that reforms may be detrimental to women’s tenure rights. For example, researchers reported cases where rights were registered to men as household heads, whereas under customary systems both men and women had previously held rights.

Emilio Mugo, Director of the Forest Service at Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Water, asked: “How do we address community leaders who, on the one hand, serve as custodians, but on the other, play the role of gatekeepers?” This question speaks to institutional strengthening as a way to fight elite capture.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

The invited officials were quick to distinguish themselves as public servants, from the politicians who define policy direction and priorities. Dr. Mary Goretti Kitutu, Ugandan State Minister for the Environment, introduced herself on the Roundtable as “the only politician here” and stressed the importance of packaging information on tenure and linking it to development, in order to reach politicians. Dr. Daryanto highlighted the importance of having the budgets necessary for implementation.

When asked by the audience how officials should “insulate themselves from politics”, Dr. Mugo reminded them, “Everything you touch in natural resources is political.” This underscores the importance of building a community of practice and coalitions for change.

No country has addressed all forest demands from communities, and most still face competing claims or outright opposition to the recognition of collective forest tenure rights.

On the one hand, these three generations of questions suggest that countries are at different places and thus, research for impact needs to prioritize accordingly.


On the other hand, they highlight the importance of South-South exchanges and knowledge sharing. As some countries begin to address the multi-colored spectrum of challenges, mutual learning can suggest ways to address complex issues such as tenure security, livelihoods and gender from the beginning of reform processes, therefore increasing the potential for success.

For more information on this topic, please contact Anne Larson at [email protected].
This research was supported by FAO, IFAD, EC and GEF
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  • What’s in a land title?

What’s in a land title?

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Sergio Perea, president of the Tres Islas community in Peru, presenting Brazil nuts. Photo credit: Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
Sergio Perea, president of the Tres Islas community in Peru, presenting Brazil nuts. Photo credit: Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

The indigenous community of Tres Islas in southeastern Peru seems to have it all—good fishing; a vast forest of timber, Brazil nut, palm and other trees; and natural beauty any ecotourist would pay to enjoy.

But the villagers have learned that having communal land rights does not guarantee the enjoyment of all these rights.

“Our community received its land title more than 22 years ago through the efforts of our parents and grandparents,” said Sergio Perea, president of Tres Islas, one of the communities included in a global forest-tenure study conducted under the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. “We thought having this title would give us the right to all the resources on our land.”

But this isn’t the case. Possessing a land title doesn’t guarantee the rural villagers in Tres Islas’ tenure security or improved livelihoods .

In this region, the forests are considered state property, and communities must obtain permits to use timber and non-timber resources. That is often a difficult, time-consuming process that requires technical expertise and payment of fees that communities cannot afford.

What’s more, the community’s current land title does not cover the entire area that the villagers claim as their territory. This has led to conflicts with people who hold timber rights or other concessions on land that the community considers its own.

Even on their titled land, villagers must have a government permit to harvest timber. They also face conflicts with outsiders who hold mining concessions that overlap with their land, as well as with miners and loggers who operate on their land illegally.

FIGHTING BACK

But the villagers of Tres Islas have found innovative ways to organize and obtain the assistance they need to find solutions.

“Because of the challenges they faced, they had to organize quickly,” said Iliana Monterroso, a post-doctoral fellow at CIFOR, who leads the Peru part of the comparative study, which also includes Uganda and Indonesia. “They also developed new skills, as they had to engage with the government and with non-governmental organizations, and the courts. Some of the lessons from their experience can be useful to communities elsewhere that find themselves in similar situations.”

Under Peruvian law, a title gives indigenous communities land rights, but resources such as forests remain the property of the state. While indigenous communities can receive permits to harvest timber, they must file annual operating plans.

Most communities lack the expertise to develop such plans, so they hire outside forestry experts. The high cost of preparing the plan can exceed the expected revenue from timber sales.

On public lands, the government grants concessions to private individuals or companies for a specified time. These concessions may be for extractive activities, such as timber or mining, or for Brazil nut harvesting, reforestation, conservation or ecotourism.

For decades in Madre de Dios, the region where Tres Islas is located, these concessions were handled by different ministries, which did not coordinate with one another. As a result, today there are many overlapping claims.

On a single piece of land, different concession holders may have rights for timber, Brazil nut harvesting, tourism, farming and mining. Sometimes, outsiders’ claims overlap indigenous communities, even though the communities possess the title.

To further complicate matters, some concessions, such as oil and gas and large-scale mining, are controlled by the national government, while regional governments manage others.

Although the residents of Tres Islas gained title to their land more than two decades ago, the entire community falls within two oil and gas leases. By law, the Peruvian government must hold a prior consultation with indigenous communities about any development project that would affect their communal rights.

After some internal conflict, the community voted in January 2015 not to participate in any prior consultation about exploration in the oil and gas leases. That effectively cut off oil and gas development in the area for the moment, although the issue is likely to come up again.

The battle against mining was longer and more complicated. Madre de Dios has a long history of small- and medium-scale placer gold mining, much of it unregulated. Several government-granted concessions overlapped Tres Islas, while other miners operated illegally within the community’s boundaries.

With the mining camps came problems of illegal logging, commerce of contraband gasoline for motors, and trafficking of women for prostitution, according to community leaders.

In 2010, the community decided to retake control of its lands by limiting access by outsiders. Transportation workers who provided services to illegal miners sued them and won. The community then took the case to Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal, which issued a landmark ruling in 2012 upholding the community’s autonomy and its right to control access to its territory.

Villagers in Tres Islas are now preparing for a future that they hope will be more sustainable. With the help of non-profit organizations, they developed a timber management plan, which complies with regulations that require them to have an annual operating plan and keep meticulous records. They also have plans for harvesting Brazil nuts and other non-timber forest products, and they are launching a community-based tourism enterprise.

Each activity is coordinated by a committee, and the members of the committees pay a portion of their earnings into a fund that is used to benefit the entire community.

“The community needed to organize internally in the short term to handle its legal problem, so it established a committee to work with the lawyers,” said Monterroso. “Then they began to realize that they needed to organize other groups for other important activities, such as managing non-timber forest products, like Brazil nuts.”

At the beginning of each year, community members gather the cannonball-shaped Brazil nut pods that fall from huge trees (Bertholletia excelsa). They skillfully split the pods open and spread the Brazil nuts out to dry. In the past, they sold the nuts to intermediaries, often at unfavorable prices.

With outside support, Tres Islas has now acquired equipment for drying and processing Brazil nuts so the community can increase its income. Members of the community’s Brazil nut committee are already experimenting with new products, such as Brazil nut sweets.

Plans are also under way to process palm fruit, although the plant has not yet been equipped. An ecotourism committee is also developing plans to attract visitors. With two of Peru’s major nature tourism attractions, Manu National Park and the Tambopata National Reserve, Madre de Dios is a magnet for tourism.

CHALLENGES AHEAD

Although the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling means the community’s land rights are more secure, the villagers still face challenges in bringing their plans to fruition.

They are awaiting installation of electricity for the Brazil nut processing plant. Financing the preparation of annual operating plans for timber management will also be a challenge, said Perea. And in the tourism business, they will be competing with established agencies.

They are not alone: the challenges of Tres Islas are common to all three countries that comprise CIFOR’s global comparative study on forest tenure reform according to preliminary findings.

“In all these countries, they are facing three main problems: land grabbing and competing land uses; lack of support to defend their rights and fully benefit from the forest resources; and limited capacity, in terms of capital, to make their resources more profitable,” said Mani Ram Banjade, a post-doctoral fellow at CIFOR involved with this project.

Baruani Mshale, who leads the study in Uganda, shares a similar view. “In the case of Uganda, we are also finding that providing a certificate or a title is absolutely essential, but not an end in itself. There is a lot more that needs to be done, and it goes beyond the forest. It goes beyond the title deed. It is a matter of understanding what else is needed by the forestry communities.”

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  • Assessment of governance mechanisms, livelihood outcomes and incentive instruments for green rubber in Myanmar

Assessment of governance mechanisms, livelihood outcomes and incentive instruments for green rubber in Myanmar

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FTA communications

Authors: Kenney-Lazar, M.

Over the past decade, rubber cultivation has expanded throughout the Mekong region, from established centers of production in Thailand, China and Vietnam to new sites in Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. Rubber has brought opportunities for increased incomes and livelihood improvement as well as social and environmental risks. The2012 drop in rubber prices has sent the sector into disarray, halting the expansion of rubber and constraining the ability of farmers and companies to profit. This study examines how rubber production in Myanmar is governed, especially the socio-ecological dynamics of varying forms of production: smallholding, contract farming and large-scale estate plantations. Based upon an analysis of secondary literature and interviews with key stakeholders, it was found that rubber production in Myanmar is for the most part not ‘green’, meaning that it has not reduced poverty and protected ecosystem services and forested areas. The price crash has prevented most smallholding farmers from increasing their income. Wages on large-scale plantations have been low and only a limited amount of work for Myanmar people is available. Large-scale estates have been developed on land expropriated from communities and have replaced forested areas that provide important ecosystem services to local communities. The paper argues that if rubber is to be truly green then significant changes to production and trade must be made, including minimum price supports from the state, appropriate land use planning measures, the establishment of cooperatives, the protection of community land rights, and the implementation of agroforestry rubber production models.

Series: CIFOR Working Paper no. 207

Publisher: Bogor, Indonesia, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

Publication Year: 2016

Also published at Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

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  • Strengthening women’s land rights for land restoration

Strengthening women’s land rights for land restoration

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FTA


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