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Are Forest Tenure Rights Critical for Green Rural Development?

Although in the last 10 years, the forest area owned or controlled by indigenous peoples and communities has increased from 21% to 31%. However, in many cases the penetration and enforcement of reforms transferring forest rights to communities is still problematic. In Latin America, where forest ecosystems cover as much as 21% of the land (940 M ha), and include more than 50% of the world’s tropical forests, rates of land use change are also the highest. Even in those countries that are beginning to control deforestation (e.g., Brazil), forestlands continue to be significantly threatened by rapidly expanding agribusiness, oil and gas infrastructure, mining, illegal drug cultivation and logging. There is growing evidence that local communities managing forest ecosystems significantly contribute to the economy, conservation of biodiversity, low carbon emissions growth and other environmental services. Nelson and Chomitz (2011) found that multiple-use protected areas in Asia and Latin America limited fires more effectively than strictly protected areas, and indigenous territories were much more effective, with remoteness and environmental factors held constant. Viable tenure reforms that clarify and secure access of local communities to an array of forest rights will be vital in reducing deforestation and degradation of rural landscapes: in particular, the rights to access forest resources and exclude outsiders from their property, the authority to define or plan land use patterns and manage natural resources, and the duration and permanence of these rights over time are important elements of the land tenure systems of countries interested in designing and implementing green rural development policies and programs (e.g.  REDD+). Governments interested in combating forest ecosystem destruction and degradation will need to incorporate detailed legal analyses and include plans to address gaps and extend recognition of tenure rights and other reforms necessary to enable communities to manage and benefit from their lands, forests, and carbon.


This activity, based on a systematic comparative analysis of forest tenure regimes in six countries of Latin America, seeks to contribute to the discussion and analysis currently under way in many countries in Latin America regarding the key policy, legal, institutional and technical elements needed to strengthen, expand and enforce their forest tenure regimes. The six proposed countries (Argentina, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru) are currently designing or implementing REDD+ strategies with support from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) or Forest Investment Program (FIP) funds, or work with the World Bank on land policy and administration issues.


Climate Focus International produced an Inception and Methodological Framework Report, which was the basis for initiating the forest tenure analysis at the desk level from five of the six participating countries (Honduras is still in preparation) that was completed in December 2013.

Land regularization and forestry experts from the Bank and other external partners — the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) and the Salvadoran Research Program on Development and Environment (PRISMA) — met in December 2013 and developed a set of detailed comments and recommendations, both general and country specific, on how to strengthen the expected project outputs, and to orient Climate Focus International on better ways to conduct the field phase of the project.

In-country field visits were carried out to interview key local technical experts, government agencies and primary stakeholders. The comparative analysis report was completed in July 2014, and the final draft of the strategic analytical report has been completed and is under revision by several bank teams. The final product will be published and disseminated before the end of FY15 Q4. 

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Author : Worldbank [1], Climate Focus International [2], [1] [2]
Last Updated : 02-24-2017