Indigeneity and communal tenure

Indigeneity, communal tenure, and socio-ecological conditions on forested lands 

Lead reviewer: Dr. Maggie Holland, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

In recent years, there has been a strong international call for increasing the formal recognition of communally-held lands in the Global South, particularly in forested regions and in lands customarily held by indigenous and traditional peoples. Theoretical guidance suggests that securing community land rights should positively influence ecological outcomes and indicators of community well-being, including tenure security, through recognizing communities with formalized management and exclusionary authority, as well as the assurance of receiving the flow of benefits from the land and natural resources into the future. However, much of the success of formalization depends on what bundle of rights exist within a catch-all tenure category referred to as “communal,” “traditional,” or “indigenous”, and to what degree the formalization process aligns with and reflects the locally-realized and socially-upheld rights that communities already exercise, which also connects directly with existing cultural and social norms. In this EBF systematic review, we examine the characteristics of indigeneity and the security of tenure on community lands in forested regions, and query the current evidence base to see how these two factors work alone, or in combination, to influence the health of socio-ecological conditions on these lands.

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