Put more forest land in the hands of indigenous groups and other forest residents (AlertNet)

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Climate Conversations – Keeping forest dwellers involved in forest protection and REDD

By Laurie Goering

It’s no coincidence that Latin America has had some of the best success protecting tropical forest. That’s because the region, led by countries like Mexico and Brazil, has put more forest land in the hands of indigenous groups and other forest residents than any other part of the developing world, according to the U.S.-based Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).

Forest residents who own or otherwise control the land they live on have a strong incentive to protect it from illegal loggers and other destructive pressures, argues Andy White, head of the initiative, which works on forest policy issues, especially land tenure.

The proof? Brazil’s indigenous reserves have become the heart of that country’s Amazon forest protection effort, he says, and in Mexico, where communities own 80 percent of forest land, forests are more effectively managed and protected than in many parts of the world. Altogether, nearly a third of Latin America’s forests are owned or designed for use by indigenous communities, RRI figures show.

But in Africa, less than 2 percent of land is owned or controlled by forest dwellers – a major impediment to protecting forests in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, where government-owned forests benefitted from years of war – which effectively kept out big logging companies – but are now coming under increasing pressure.

“Fundamentally we think this not a healthy situation,” White argues.


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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