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  • Forest tenure reform implementation in Uganda: Current challenges and future opportunities

Forest tenure reform implementation in Uganda: Current challenges and future opportunities

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  • A recent study, focusing on national and district-level government officials involved in forest tenure reform implementation processes in Uganda, has highlighted key challenges and opportunities for future improvements. Analysis of responses shows that:
  • As reforms responded to a need for sustainable forest management and livelihood improvements, activities leant towards forest protection, rather than strengthening and securing community forest tenure rights.
  • Progress in tenure reform implementation has been below implementers’ expectations, largely due to inadequate funding, onerous processes of registration, declaration and management of Private Natural Forests and Community Forests, or in the case of Collaborative Forest Management, negotiation of rights with Responsible Bodies.
  • The main economic, social and political challenges faced by government officials implementing reforms were budgetary limitations, poverty levels in forest-adjacent communities, migration and socio-cultural norms. Research respondents noted also that often, politicians impeded rather than supported reform implementation processes. Some of them derived political capital out of exerting pressure on technical staff to engage in, as well as protect, illegal activities.
  • The study revealed a number of technical problems that constrained the implementation of forest tenure reforms. These included the tedious processes involved in getting the rights formalized, community inability to protect and safeguard forest tenure rights, and inadequate benefits accruing to communities involved in forest management activities.
  • There was no agreement among the respondents as to who is responsible for safeguarding community forest tenure rights. Development partners and civil society organizations (CSOs) also undertook activities to support the securing of local tenure rights, such as capacity building, resource mobilization, awareness raising and conflict resolution. However, such support was often shortlived and localized. Although government and CSOs are both involved in reform implementation, there is limited formal coordination between them.

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  • Strengthening women's tenure and rights to forests and trees and their participation in decision making

Strengthening women’s tenure and rights to forests and trees and their participation in decision making

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Presented by Dr. Esther Mwangi on Feb. 8, 2018, during the More than a seat at the table: Strengthening women’s tenure and rights to forests and trees and their participation in decision making webinar, organized by the CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research with the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

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  • Possibilities and challenges for forest tenure reform in Indonesia

Possibilities and challenges for forest tenure reform in Indonesia

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In a three-part series, the Center for International Forestry Research’s (CIFOR) Forests News looks at ongoing research from the village of Honitetu in Maluku, Indonesia, as part of the Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reform (GCS-Tenure).

Forest tenure reform has been at the center of the debate, on national as well as international policy agendas, in recent years. The reform is intended to give customary communities, local communities or local governments ownership or some level of rights over forestland and resources. Despite over two decades of experience of tenure reform in most of the developing countries, the impact of the reforms on the ground has fallen short of the expected outcomes. The reforms are either inadequate in conserving forest resources or providing limited livelihood returns for local people.

The research on forest tenure reform has demonstrated that a number of factors including a regulatory framework, administrative management, market forces, resource systems, and community attributes are key in determining the impacts of the reforms. However, there is limited understanding of the extent to which each of these factors affect the outcomes at the systems level. The research accommodates history, scale and power dimensions of reform into consideration, and aims to generate insights by investigating the emergence, concurrent implementation practice, key outcomes and bottlenecks of these reforms.

With field research currently ongoing in Indonesia, Peru and Uganda focusing on the connections between land rights, conservation and livelihoods, this research program builds on CIFOR’s existing body of knowledge on forest tenure reform.

The first article of the recent series, ‘The forest belongs to the community’, looks at tenure reform in Maluku.

As tenure laws continue to change, customary management is under challenge by top-down government control, the entry of private industry with business permits, increasingly limited rights for local people, and a shrinking area of forest for them to forage and farm in, the article states.

The article is accompanied by a video titled Mapping traditional forests in Maluku, Indonesia.

The second article in the series, The power of ‘sasi’: A sustainable taboo, investigates a customary resource management technique that is used to enforce rotational harvesting.

The endurance of the sasi tradition in Maluku is a testament to its effectiveness as a resource management technique. Adapting to changing legal conditions, landscapes and beliefs, it has maintained its power in the local imagination, as well as its results for sustainable forest management, according to the article.

The article features a video titled Sustainable symbols: ‘Sasi’ taboos in Maluku, Indonesia.

Finally, The forest farmers shows the challenges facing indigenous communities in rights over their forests. Indigenous forest users can be left with insecure tenure over the land that sustains them, the piece says.

That piece is accompanied by Changing times: Living off the forest in Maluku, Indonesia.

Following the series was the article Postcards from the field: The view from Honitetu, in which scientist Nining Liswanti, the Indonesia coordinator for a GCS-Tenure, shares her experiences in Maluku.

Her research has brought findings back to Jakarta on the community’s aspirations for tenure reform to recognize customary lands, and the right to manage them according to ancient traditions.

The articles mentioned above were written by Catriona Croft-Cusworth and originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

All four articles were produced in collaboration with Aris Sanjaya (video), Ulet Ifansasti (photographs), Aini Naimmah (transcription), Budhy Kristanty (production) and the community of Honitetu village, Maluku, Indonesia.

For more information on this topic, please contact Esther Mwangi at or Nining Liswanti at

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, the Global Environment Facility, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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  • Enhancing tenure security and gender equality in the context of forest landscape restoration

Enhancing tenure security and gender equality in the context of forest landscape restoration

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The Enhancing tenure security and gender equality in the context of forest landscape restoration Discussion Forum was held at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Bonn on Dec. 19, 2017.

The breadth and ambition of international commitments to restore the environment often hide the failure to consult – and directly benefit – the communities who rely on the targeted landscapes. Furthermore, past initiatives have occasionally exacerbated existing social inequities. Therefore, involving local communities, institutions and interests is necessary for a sustainable environmental agenda.

By drawing on a broad range of stakeholders in an open discussion, the forest landscape restoration (FLR) agenda aims to fully incorporate gender awareness and residents’ concerns. As a general theme, the panel sought to identify conflicts and synergies between forest restoration, tenure security and gender equality.

The session was hosted by the World Bank, with Program on Forests (PROFOR), Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This video was originally published by the GLF.

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  • Women’s rights to land and communal forest tenure: A way forward for research and policy agenda in Latin America

Women’s rights to land and communal forest tenure: A way forward for research and policy agenda in Latin America

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In this synthesis paper, the authors of this Special Section contribute towards a collective research and policy agenda on rural and indigenous women’s forest and land rights in Latin America. Based on the key lessons from the empirical evidence, we map out a way forward for the research agenda and suggest a few key institutional and policy priorities for rural Latin America.

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  • Securing tenure rights to communal forests in Masindi district, Uganda: Lessons from Participatory Prospective Analysis (PPA)

Securing tenure rights to communal forests in Masindi district, Uganda: Lessons from Participatory Prospective Analysis (PPA)

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  • The Participatory Prospective Analysis process in Masindi district, Uganda, brought together government, private sector, NGO and local communities stakeholders to collectively reflect on factors affecting local tenure rights, forecast future scenarios and propose actionable plans for securing forest tenure rights.
  • Participants identified several factors threatening local forest tenure rights: lack of land ownership documentation; inadequate implementation and enforcement of forest policies, laws and programs; land use changes; gender bias against women; political interference; lack of community awareness of forest tenure rights; and inadequate financial and human resources to effectively protect local people’s rights to forests and land.
  • To identify potential barriers and drivers, three workshops were organized. With both forestry and agricultural sectors being male-dominated, a women-only workshop was organized to capture women’s perspectives and compare findings with those of the mixed gender group.
  • Four ‘key driving forces’ impacting forest tenure security were identified by both groups: (1) community participation in forest tenure reform implementation, particularly that of women; (2) access to financial resources to implement forest tenure reform activities; (3) the importance of outside organizations having an awareness of community, cultural and institutional norms and beliefs regarding forest tenure rights; (4) the role played by local and national government agencies and politicians in coordinating and promoting progress towards forest tenure reforms.
  • Women stakeholders emphasized the importance of access to land for forestry activities as critical to securing their rights; they also identified that supportive men and domestic relationships can impact on women’s rights to forest land. Mixed group stakeholders identified the role of oil, gas and other industrial activities as a key threat to local forest tenure security.
  • Participants developed four scenarios to anticipate potential future situations impacting on local forest tenure rights. Desirable scenarios depicted a well-governed, well-financed forestry sector characterized by gender equality and participative forest management. Undesirable scenarios were characterized by a dominant oil and gas sector undermining forest sustainability and forest rights; a weak, underfunded and poorly-managed forest sector; forest conversion to other uses; government failure to recognize community rights and integrate communities in forest management; and disappointed, disempowered communities collectively destroying forests for survival instead of managing them sustainably.
  • Several actions were identified to secure local forest tenure rights: (a) making district-level government more responsive to local needs and aspirations around community forest tenure reforms; (b) increasing the number of well-trained district government officers and providing adequate financial resources; (c) facilitating a faster, affordable process for community forest registration, including community incentives; (d) equipping communities with knowledge, skills and resources to enhance their participation in forest tenure reform implementation; (e) promoting environmentally and socially responsible investments to mobilize resources for protecting local people’s forest tenure rights.

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  • FTA gender scientists to launch 'The Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forests' during IUFRO congress

FTA gender scientists to launch ‘The Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forests’ during IUFRO congress

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A Nepali woman prepares rice for cooking. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR
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Clouds cover the hills in Nalma village, Nepal. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

During the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) 125th Anniversary Congress, CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) scientists Bimbika Sijapati Basnett of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and Marlène Elias of Bioversity International will officially launch The Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forests. This reader has been edited by Carol J. Pierce Colfer, Elias, Sijapati Basnett and Susan Stevens Hummel.

“The reader gives an overview of a collection of key articles on gender and forests published over the last 30 years. This way, the collection makes it possible to easily access excellent forestry-relevant social science within an overarching gender analytical framework and demonstrates the leading debates in the field,” said Elias.

The IUFRO congress, which will be held from Sept. 18-22, is fully booked. With a total of 2,100 researchers, practitioners and policymakers present, launching the book – on Sept. 21 from 12:30pm to 1:15pm CEST – during the conference will attract many people interested in the topic of gender and forests.

Read more: FTA Focus on Gender newsletter

Why a book about gender and forests?

“As we have seen over the past years, there is currently much interest in, and an expressed need for, mainstreaming gender in natural resource management, including forestry,” said Sijapati Basnett.

The focus of the book is on the role of gender relations in people and forest interactions, as told through the collection of various studies from both developed and developing countries. It includes theoretical analyses, methodological pieces, case studies and cross-country comparisons, and forms a companion volume to Gender and Forests: Climate Change, Tenure, Value Chains and Emerging Issues (2016), also edited by Colfer, Sijapati Basnett and Elias.

Published earlier this year, the Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forests has already been well received and is of great value to biophysical science and social science students, both seasoned professionals and professionals in training.

Read more: Material galore: FTA scientists working on a second book on gender and forests

Presentation during gender and climate policy session

A Nepali woman prepares rice for cooking. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

During the IUFRO conference, on Sept. 20, Sijapati Basnett will also give a presentation on the topic of “Gender norms and gendered impacts of oil palm conversion in Indonesia: Challenging private sector commitments to climate change mitigation.”

According to the abstract for the session, the ‘zero deforestation’ movement has received recognition across a wide spectrum of actors for bringing together private sector corporations to commit to climate change mitigation. This is particularly the case in Indonesia where lowland tropical forests continue to be converted to make way for oil palm production, and some state-led measures are considered to have failed in reducing and halting deforestation.

The abstract adds that although women in oil palm-dominated landscapes play integral roles as oil palm producers and workers, alongside their responsibility for household food security, critical questions about gender equality have thus far been absent from the zero deforestation policy agenda.

Sijapati Basnett will participate in the session to present on case studies that illustrate the role of gender norms in enabling particular kinds of oil palm investment on the one hand, and in shaping pathways to inclusion, exclusion and dispossession on the other.

Both the book launch and the lecture will be filmed and posted online, will details to be announced. FTA will also present a subplenary session at the same event, in cooperation with IUFRO, titled “Research for sustainable development: Forests, trees and agroforestry” to debate the key priorities for trees and forests in sustainable development, which will also be livestreamed.

By Manon Koningstein, FTA Gender Integration Team. 

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

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

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

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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).


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.


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 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.


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
This research was supported by FAO, IFAD, EC and GEF

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  • Interview on tenure reform: Lessons from the Global South

Interview on tenure reform: Lessons from the Global South

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Reforms around the world are putting resource rights in the hands of communities and local governments. Photo: CIFOR
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Reforms around the world are putting resource rights in the hands of communities and local governments. Photo: CIFOR

Interview with Anne Larson, Senior Scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Over the past two decades, a global trend has seen increasing recognition of the rights of communities and local governments to manage their own resources, particularly in developing countries. An ongoing study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has followed this process across Asia, Africa and Latin America, finding key lessons for successful tenure reform.

The latest findings and their implications will be discussed this week at a South-South Policy Dialogue held on the sidelines of the World Bank Land and Poverty Conference in Washington, DC. Ahead of the event, Forests News sat down with Anne Larson, a Principal Scientist at CIFOR and team leader of the Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reform, to hear her thoughts.

Can you tell us more about the upcoming South-South Exchange?

We’ve done a couple of these exchanges in the past. This time we have government representatives coming from six countries where we conduct our research – from Indonesia, Nepal, Uganda, Kenya, Colombia and Peru. The idea is, on the first day, that we will be able to meet each other in person and discuss expectations for the week. And at the end of the week, we’ll be able to have a discussion about what was learned, what’s new, what’s changed. We will have time to address questions, doubts, ideas, together with a few key resource people who work on this topic.

During the week, the invited officials will be able to attend presentations and will also present their own country experiences on the implementation of tenure reforms during our Policy Roundtable on Tenure Reform Implementation. Our research team is also presenting papers on several panels, based on the field research findings. And on the last day, we are giving a Master Class on Reform Implementation and Tenure Security.

The advantage of doing this in parallel with the World Bank conference is that it allows us to draw on the resources of the many people who will attend, from all over the world. The week is a huge learning opportunity, but it also gives us the opportunity to discuss as a group, highlight our research and raise questions with practitioners.

What do you hope to achieve from the event?

So far, engagement with policy makers and practitioners in multi-stakeholder forums and exchanges has shown strong potential for raising awareness of the impacts of, and barriers to, reform implementation across different socio-political and historical settings, as well as the impacts of reform on livelihoods and sustainability. These engagements have been aimed also at encouraging debate and discussion on the types of tenure reforms being implemented, and their effects on tenure security.

To better understand the institutional frameworks for implementation in study countries, we have administered short surveys to the government representatives directly involved. This will be the topic of our roundtable discussion: CIFOR will present some preliminary cross-cutting findings, and government officials from six countries will be able to contribute based on their specific experience with implementation.

Can you give some more background about tenure, and how it relates to rights and resources?

Tenure refers to the content, or substance, of rights and to the security of rights. It refers to rights from different points of view, to overlapping rights and sometimes to conflict. Understanding rights requires an understanding of history and of power relations. In addition, a focus on ‘rights’ alone only tells part of the story: not all rights can be exercised, and not all of those who gain access to resources have rights.

Among other things, recognition can be very empowering to the people who have their historic rights recognized, such as indigenous peoples. Nevertheless, this may be short-lived if there is not accompanying support (rather than obstacles) to resource access and management. That is, it is not enough just to earn the right to call the land or forest their own, people also need to be able to use it – in some cases management regulations are very restrictive, and in other cases people need technical support, tools and financing, to be able to make the best use of resources to improve their livelihoods.

What is driving tenure reform across the Global South?

There are a number of factors leading to reform. Some are broader dynamics, like the end of authoritarian regimes and attention to decentralized governance more broadly, others are country-specific. A study of the history of reforms in Peru, for example, found that changes in favor of indigenous land rights have often occurred in response to moments of crisis. In Indonesia and Peru, the state as a whole has supported community rights when it was ideologically disposed to do so, or when it was strongly encouraged to by social action or political calculation, sometimes in response to conflict. It also appears that donor funding can help the cause of communities.

Does tenure reform lead to more sustainable land management?

Research is mixed and the results depend on many different factors besides just who owns or manages the forest. There is certainly evidence that under the right conditions, forests can be not only well managed for resource sustainability but also provide for local livelihoods and wellbeing when they are in the hands of local people. However, it is also important to note that indigenous people or local communities may have rights, by law, to land and forests that should not necessarily be conditioned on whether they will manage those forests well. Sometimes these are two separate issues.

What are the common challenges to reform?

Challenges range from resistance and opposition to deficits in human, technical and financial resources at all levels, as well as broader governance problems, such as weak rule of law. Reforms require overcoming resistance to indigenous and community rights from multiple arenas, for example: those who believe natural resources should be managed by the state for the greatest public good; development interests that support large-scale private investment and see granting resources to communities as taking them out of production; and conservationists who fear local people will over-exploit resources and prefer models such as ‘parks without people’.

These particular perspectives or worldviews combine with more questionable opposition due to competition for control over resources, and biases such as racism, to stack the deck against rights recognition. Overcoming the obstacles to recognition and respect for legitimate community rights requires coalitions for change and a clear understanding of the roots of opposition.

What lessons can be learned from experience?

There are no ‘magic bullets’ for securing recognition and respect for legitimate tenure rights for local communities. There are, however, many ways to support tenure reforms and their implementation that will increase the likelihood and sustainability of success, and the contributions of tenure security to effective and equitable natural resource governance.

We’ve found specific challenges related to community dynamics, for example, to do with gender. Preliminary findings show that women have a very low participation in the drafting of reform processes, while men dominate the formalization or implementation process across the studied countries. In Indonesia, Uganda and Peru, women are less informed about reform implementation and outcomes, this has important implications in terms of the realization of rights.

In general, we have found that having a strong, evidence-based understanding of the existing challenges to recognition of tenure rights is essential for designing strategies to overcome them. This includes the challenge of building coalitions and supporting grassroots organizations and social movements; designing a clear roadmap, with communities, for implementation; supporting the enabling conditions for improvements in livelihoods and effective and sustainable resource management; and monitoring progress to adapt to and confront new challenges.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and was supported by GEF, FAO, EC and IFAD.

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  • Exploring Participatory Prospective Analysis: A collaborative, scenario-based approach for analyzing and anticipating the consequences of tenure reform implementation

Exploring Participatory Prospective Analysis: A collaborative, scenario-based approach for analyzing and anticipating the consequences of tenure reform implementation

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  • Where the land meets the sea: Governing mangrove forests

Where the land meets the sea: Governing mangrove forests

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Mangroves in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo: Sigit Deni Sasmito/CIFOR
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Mangroves in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo: Sigit Deni Sasmito/CIFOR
Mangroves in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo: Sigit Deni Sasmito/CIFOR

By Kate Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

On December 26, 2004, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra, Indonesia, swept a massive tsunami across the Indian Ocean. The wave forged two kilometers inland in some places, and wiped out towns, crops, lives and livelihoods. In Indonesia’s Aceh province alone, 167,000 people died.

Could anything have reduced its devastating impact? In the tsunami’s wake, global attention fell on the potential of mangroves. Many of Indonesia’s mangrove forests had been cleared prior to 2004 to make way for shrimp farms – and subsequent research showed that mangroves and other forests can help protect coastlines and people from the force of tsunamis, hurricanes, and rising sea levels.

The indigenous people of Pahawang Island already knew that, though. In the 1980s and 1990s, the mangrove forests fringing their island – a speck in a bay at the eastern end of Sumatra – were over-exploited. They were turned into charcoal by Korean companies, cut down for timber, and converted to fish-ponds by migrants from East Java.

By the early 2000s, coastal erosion had become a huge problem for the islanders. Houses, agricultural land and fish-ponds were swept away in storms; fish no longer bred amongst the looping mangrove roots; and malaria and dengue outbreaks became more common.

So village leaders got together and pioneered their own, innovative governance system for their mangroves. They developed an organizational structure, and divided the mangrove area into three territories – a strict protection zone, an area where only non-timber products like firewood could be gathered, and a ‘utilization zone’ where limited timber harvesting was allowed. They also identified areas for reforesting, and secured seedlings and funding.

There’s much to be learned from local experiences like these, say scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research, who have just released a new global study on mangrove governance, involving both a review of international literature and case studies in Indonesia and Tanzania.


“In Indonesia they were very clear: they managed their mangroves to protect their lives, livelihoods and assets from storm surges, from the sea,” says Esther Mwangi, who helped lead the overarching study. “The mangroves are an important buffer against the energy and the strength of the ocean.”

Mani Ram Banjade led the on-the-ground research in Indonesia, focusing on three villages in Lampung province.


A researcher measures the diameter of mangrove trees in Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo: Kate Evans
A researcher measures the diameter of mangrove trees in Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo: Kate Evans

In Pahawang especially, mangrove protection was a very bottom-up affair.

“The local community leaders took the initiative and developed their own rules, regulations and governance mechanisms. Then they got the approval from the local government as well, and from their personal and political connections they also got some resources from outside.”

It worked so well in Pahawang, he says, because the local government recognised the islanders’ rights over the land and supported their efforts – and because strong leaders harnessed community awareness of the role of mangroves in coastal protection.

“Even if they’re not getting a direct economic benefit from the mangrove, they still value its conservation,” says Banjade.

“It’s a good model,” says Steven Lawry, CIFOR’s Director of Forests and Governance Research, who also worked on the report. “This is an example of how strong leadership and persistence have led to good outcomes with respect to local mangrove conservation. People are out there up to their waists in water, planting mangroves, because they see the importance to their livelihoods.”


In many places worldwide, these kinds of bottom up approaches to governance are necessary, because mangroves often fall through the cracks at the national level, says Mwangi.

Washed by the tides, simultaneously of the land and of the sea, mangroves don’t neatly fit into governance structures. Globally, it’s rare for countries to have specific rules for mangroves. They’re either governed under a hodgepodge of two or three ministries, or they fall under the forestry department.

That isn’t a perfect match, says Mwangi.

“In mangrove forests, the timber is not the biggest thing – the value is in coastal protection, fisheries, carbon sequestration – things that are not forestry. And yet this resource has been placed in the hands of forestry departments. So there is a bit of a tension.”

Where governance is spread among multiple ministries, coordination is a problem. And many efforts to improve it have failed. Indonesia put together a mangrove management and coordination plan in 2012 – but it hasn’t yet been fully implemented.

Even more telling is the case of Tanzania. In 1991 it was one of the first countries to create an integrated management plan for mangroves – and yet to date, 25 years on, it too has not been implemented.

The reasons behind these failures is a prime area for future research, says Mwangi – but perhaps a better approach, she suggests, would be to bring in new legislation that is specific to mangroves, like the rules pioneered on Pahawang.

One could easily say the village regulations are substituting for a national, mangrove-specific regulation that is missing,” says Mwangi.


Something that’s lacking at all levels – from fishing village to academia – is an appreciation of gender dynamics.

“In the literature review there was hardly anything on gender, and then when we looked at the ground level we saw exactly the same thing – a widespread gender blindness in mangrove management.”

People’s relationships to mangroves are gender-differentiated, Mwangi says. Women might gather firewood, while men harvest timber and fish.

Yet in both Tanzania and Indonesia, women rarely sat on management committees, and their participation in decision-making was curtailed in a number of ways.

In Tanzania, researchers found that meetings were often organized in the late afternoon, when most women were fetching firewood and water to cook the evening meal. When women were present, social customs dictated they sit behind the men and ‘say yes to everything’, even when they disagreed.

“Not only as a matter of right, but also in terms of being effective, it makes sense to have women on governance committees,” says Mwangi. “They too have knowledge and use the resource, so their presence and input in decision-making is important.”

Gender aside, there’s a lot national governments can learn from the innovative ways local communities are managing their mangroves. And it’s crucial those villages receive support and assistance to do that from regional and national bodies, Mwangi says.

“With good local leadership and support from others at different levels of government, communities can organise, develop rules and can work together to conserve their mangroves.”

The study found that a transition is underway in a few countries towards increased community participation in mangrove management. Though Latin America has been most enthusiastic, Tanzania’s government is also starting to experiment with community-based approaches in some mangrove areas, says Lawry.

That is encouraging, he says, because the traditional model of mangrove governance – strict top-down regimes that try to protect mangroves by locking local people out – hasn’t worked very well, in Tanzania, Indonesia and elsewhere.

“Despite government intentions to manage them sustainably, governance regimes are generally ineffective at conserving mangroves. They generally fail to involve communities, and at the some time they don’t effectively regulate large-scale commercial users of mangroves, with a result that mangrove loss is accelerating,” he says.

“Where we do see progress towards sustainable mangrove management, it’s in places where communities have clear rights, and they enjoy clear benefits.”

*This research was supported by USAID

For more information on this topic, please contact Esther Mwangi at or Steven Lawry at
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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  • Where Land Meets the Sea: A Global Review of the Governance and Tenure Dimensions of Coastal Mangrove Forests

Where Land Meets the Sea: A Global Review of the Governance and Tenure Dimensions of Coastal Mangrove Forests

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Authors: Rotich, B.; Mwangi, E.; Lawry, S.

This report provides a synoptic analysis of the legal and governance frameworks that relate to the use and management of mangrove forests globally. It highlights the range of challenges typically encountered in the governance and tenure dimensions of mangrove forest management. This assessment forms part of a broader study that includes national-level assessments in Indonesia and Tanzania. It was carried out under the USAID-funded Tenure and Global Climate Change Program. The report provides information on the challenges for mangrove rehabilitation and restoration, legal frameworks for the governance of mangroves, mangrove governance and tenure in practice, and lessons in mangrove governance for policy and practice. Primary findings from this assessment show that authority over mangrove forest management is overwhelmingly vested in state institutions and that mangrove protection is a central objective. Given the ambiguous role of mangroves situated between the land and sea, the configuration of state authority for mangrove management is quite complex. In some countries, there is fragmentation of responsibilities across two or more agencies such as forests, fisheries, environment, and wildlife. This contributes to a high level of segmentation and jurisdictional ambiguity. Frameworks and mechanisms for enabling multi-sectoral coordination across agencies and governance levels are uncommon, and where they exist, they are difficult to put into practice.

Pages: 40p

Publisher: CIFOR and USAID Tenure and Global Climate Change Program, Bogor, Indonesia and Washington, DC

Publication Year: 2016

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  • Host country governance and the African land rush: 7 reasons why large-scale farmland investments fail to contribute to sustainable development

Host country governance and the African land rush: 7 reasons why large-scale farmland investments fail to contribute to sustainable development

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Authors: Schoneveld, G.C.

The large social and environmental footprint of rising investor demand for Africa’s farmland has in recent years become a much-examined area of enquiry. This has produced a rich body of literature that has generated valuable insights into the underlying drivers, trends, social and environmental impacts, discursive implications, and global governance options. Host country governance dynamics have in contrast remained an unexplored theme, despite its central role in facilitating and legitimizing unsustainable farmland investments. This article contributes to this research gap by synthesizing results and lessons from 38 case studies conducted in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Zambia. It shows how and why large-scale farmland investments are often synonymous with displacement, dispossession, and environmental degradation and, thereby, highlights seven outcome determinants that merit more explicit treatment in academic and policy discourse.

Source: CIFOR Publications

Publication Year: 2016

ISSN: 0016-7185

Source: Geoforum

DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2016.12.007

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  • Strengthening women’s tenure rights and participation in community forestry

Strengthening women’s tenure rights and participation in community forestry

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Key messages

  • Although women’s rights and participation may be granted by statute, they are not automatically exercised or implemented due to cultural norms, lack of capacities or inadequate budgets.
  • In the absence of effective implementation of gender equitable statutes, negotiation and facilitation by trusted intermediaries can begin to strengthen women’s rights and participation, and lower transaction costs of collective action.
  • Adaptive Collaborative Management (ACM), which aims to level the playing field, resolve conflict, foster collaboration and negotiation, and build skills and capacities, is a viable way to promote gender equity, even among communities that are strongly patriarchal and characterized by cultural practices that exclude women from tree planting and land ownership.
  • Men are important actors for strengthening women’s rights and overall empowerment. Mixed groups of men and women can be viable pathways for women’s empowerment as opposed to women’s only groups.
  • ACM facilitation has opened up opportunities to improve local livelihoods and demonstrated gains to sustainable forest and land management, especially on-farm tree planting and the restoration of degraded forests.

Source: CIFOR publications

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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.


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.


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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