Why indigenous and community land rights matter for everyone

Achieving gender equality in land ownership would empower women and give them greater influence over the way that land is used. In the picture: Luz Evelia Godines Solano, a coffee farmer from Nicaragua.
Achieving gender equality in land ownership would empower women and give them greater influence over the way that land is used. In the picture: Luz Evelia Godines Solano, a coffee farmer from Nicaragua.

Up to 2.5 billion people depend on lands and natural resources that are held, used or managed collectively, which make up over 50 percent of the land on the planet. But they legally own just one-fifth. The remaining land remains unprotected and vulnerable to land grabs from more powerful entities like governments and corporations. 

Did you know that 90% of Africa’s rural land is undocumented, leaving rural communities vulnerable to land-grabbing?

But why do indigenous and community land rights matter for everyone?

There is growing evidence of how vital the role played by full legal ownership of land by indigenous peoples and local communities is in preserving cultural diversity and in combating poverty and hunger, political instability and climate change. To sum up, recognizing traditional lands has a wider benefit to society and to the health of the planet.

Some key facts:

  • It's a matter of human rights. This is particularly true for indigenous peoples, for whom international law recognizes the right to access and control their customary land. It's their land.
     
  • Secure land rights are a precondition for development. They increase incomes and advance a range of social benefits that extend beyond communities. Nations that recognize and enforce land rights reduce hunger and achieve greater and fairer economic growth.
     
  • Achieving gender equality in land ownership would empower women and give them greater influence over the way that land is used. According to FAO, more women land's tenure would increase average crop yields some 20–30%, which could help reduce a 10-20% the number of undernourished people worldwide.
     
  • Tanzanian women with secure land rights earn three times more income than those without; in India, secure land rights have been linked to a decrease in violence generally, including up to eight times less domestic violence.
     
  • Forests managed by indigenous peoples and local communities store 37.7 billion tons of carbon - more than the world's 2013 emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes.
     
  • According to United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), pastoralism is “one of the most sustainable food systems on the planet [...] between two and 10 times more productive per unit of land than the capital-intensive alternatives that have been put forward”.
     
  • Secure indigenous and community land rights can prevent the extinction of more than 4000 languages.

Source: Download the report: Common Ground: Securing Land rights and safeguarding the earth
 

Stand for Land

We are in the midst of the single biggest attack in the world today on people’s identity, rights, livelihoods and security, as well as our environment. Farmers, pastoralists, forest-dependent people, fisherfolk, and indigenous peoples cannot afford to lose this fight, nor can we.

As part of the global Land Rights Now movement, we call on the governments in Sri Lanka, Peru, Australia, Honduras, India and Mozambique to fully recognize and uphold the land rights of the indigenous peoples and local communities. Join us. Visit Stand for Land and take action. 

It is their land, their right, and their life - and the time to act is now.

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