In many parts of the world, Indigenous Peoples and local communities have no legal recognition of their rights over the forest land they live on, despite the fact that when they do, they are better able to conserve it, bringing climate, biodiversity and development benefits.
At COP 26, countries and philanthropic foundations pledged USD 1.7 billion up to the end of 2025 to recognise indigenous and local community land rights. However, while 19% of that pledge has been disbursed in 2022, only 7% has reached local communities and indigenous peoples directly.
At the EU REDD Facility, we have gathered experience in working closely with partners in Côte d’Ivoire and Indonesia to find innovative solutions to enhance local communities’ and smallholders’ legal security over their lands.
Securing land certificates in wooded areas of Côte d’Ivoire
Based on the experience of the REDD+ project in the Mé region of Côte d’Ivoire, the Facility is supporting the delivery of individual or collective land certificates. These certificates are an official recognition of the customary rights over land. The project covers 2500 hectares of wooded areas threatened by agricultural production and logging.
In support to the GIZ programme Forests4Future, these activities also enable:
- Farmers, especially non-Ivorians, to secure access to land through the signing of lease contracts with land certificate holders.
- The implementation, with private operators, of innovative rural reforestation or agroforestry models. These models can secure private investments in other people’s land and related benefits, such as timber production and carbon sequestration.
- To significantly increase rural populations’ resilience by:
- Enabling the full reintroduction of trees (and associated benefits) into farming systems when climate change impacts are increasing
- Securing the activities of vulnerable groups (women and youth), especially those dedicated to harvesting of non-timber forest products
This approach met the interest of the World Bank, which is integrating the lessons learnt from this ongoing pilot into a new major project dedicated to the free delivery of land certificates in 16 regions of Côte d’Ivoire, with a focus on wooded areas and women’s access to these certificates. Given the affordable cost related to this operation (EUR 20 per hectare), this new approach could also be extended through public-private partnerships involving cocoa and timber stakeholders.
Analysing the legal basis for customary forestry in Indonesia
Over the past decade, decentralisation and reformation efforts in Indonesia have increased the role of communities in forest management, in which land tenure plays an important role. The Social Forestry policy aims to redistribute 12.7 million ha (around 10%) of state forest area to local communities through several mechanisms.
Along with partners in Indonesia, the EU REDD Facility conducted several analyses of the Indonesian legal framework concerning land tenure, particularly in relation to customary forestry. For example, we assessed whether the legal framework enables customary and indigenous groups to be involved in legal and sustainable production and trade of timber from their customary forests, especially because some of them rely on logging and the timber trade to support their livelihoods.
Recently, we analysed changes brought about by the issuance of the sweeping Job Creation Law and its impacts on indigenous or customary peoples’ rights. This analysis suggests that the Job Creation Law generally strengthens the status of social forestry and provides an affirmative policy for indigenous communities. Nonetheless, it has not simplified the procedures that customary communities must follow when applying for official recognition of their customary forests.
The Facility is also supporting the implementation of the Indonesian Government’s social forestry policy through support to a group of oil palm smallholders in South Sumatra currently applying for a social forestry permit. The policy provides groups of farmers with secure tenure permits to continue farming on state protection forest land, provided that they switch from oil palm monoculture to agroforestry within one plantation cycle, to restore the area. The Facility’s Land-use Planner tool will be used to support the smallholders in identifying their agroforestry options.
Local land tenure for global benefits
These are examples of how work on improved land tenure can have benefits that go far beyond those to the local communities and environment. You can read more about how tenure security helps address climate change, conserve biodiversity and advance sustainable development in our related blog post “Securing land rights: one stone, three birds”.
Alice leads the EU REDD Facility’s legal work on land allocation and forest conversion. She also provides technical support on the national climate plans of the Facility’s partner countries.
Before joining the Facility, Alice worked as an environmental lawyer in London. She then followed the international climate change negotiations for over ten years, and consulted for various international NGOs and the United Nations. Alice teaches climate change negotiations at ESADE University in Barcelona.
Satrio provides technical and analytical support for the Facility’s work on forest and land use governance in Southeast Asia. He is based in the European Forest Institute’s office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Satrio previously worked on forest and ocean issues at World Resources Institute Indonesia, where he managed projects and conducted research on forest and landscape restoration, social forestry, and sustainable ocean and coastal ecosystems. He has a background in climate science, environmental studies, and international relations.