For many Indigenous communities, land titles aren’t the same as tenure security

In communities’ visions of a secure future, good governance, transparency, and respect for customary rights matter more than a piece of paper
, Monday, 6 Feb 2023
Women resin transporters, walk as carry resin from the fields to the village, for one kilo they earn Rp. 600, – and usually they can carry fifty kilos one way in Penengahan village, Pesisir Barat regency, Lampung province, Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/CIFOR

With international climate negotiations putting Indigenous Peoples and other local communities in the spotlight for climate funding, more attention is being paid to protecting those groups’ rights to their land and forest.

That often takes the form of land titling programs, but titles alone don’t guarantee rights. And while tenure security can make communities more secure, exactly what that means varies from place to place, according to a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF).

“I think a lot of people still believe that land titles grant tenure security, and it’s hard to get away from this idea,” said CIFOR-ICRAF principal scientist Anne Larson. “Data show that people often consider a piece of paper reassuring — a sign of legitimacy meaning that others will respect their rights. But anyone who has worked in this field for very long knows how limited a title can be.”

Larson has seen cases in which a newly titled community’s leader has sold off forest rights to the highest bidder, or an Indigenous community has won title only to have government agencies fail to support its efforts to defend itself against settlers who invade its land.

“It’s frustrating to share in the victory of seeing a title granted to an Indigenous community that has been fighting for it for so long, only to see all the apparent advantages of having that title practically eroded by the time it is delivered,” she said.

So what do communities expect from land tenure?

“In a study that included communities in Indonesia, Uganda and Peru, we found that many things matter for the well-being of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, but secure tenure is the foundation,” Larsen said. “The study shows how multiple factors that influence well-being are interconnected.”

If a title does not ensure tenure security, however, what does?

Visions of the future

When Larson and her colleagues dug into what forest dwellers mean by tenure security, they found that it varies from place to place but with important common threads.

They used a method called participatory prospective analysis, in which people involved in tenure issues — community members, government representatives, members of non-governmental organizations and academics — created future scenarios involving land and forests.

The result, Larson said, was a more comprehensive understanding of how tenure relates to the livelihoods, identity, and the overall well-being of local communities.

The three countries were chosen because they reflected various tenure models, from ownership of forest resources by Indigenous or traditional communities to arrangements in which communities and state entities share forest management.

Multiple workshops were held in the three countries in 2015 and 2016, leading the participants through a five-step process. In the first step, they defined their situation, answering questions such as: ‘What is the future of tenure security in this region 20 years from now?’

Once that was defined, they identified factors that could have a positive or negative impact on forest and land tenure. They then examined how those factors affected each other, to identify the most influential or ‘driving’ forces — the ones that could lead to a domino effect

After determining what those drivers would look like if they were positive or negative, the participants chose the most logical combinations of factors to create a variety of different potential future scenarios. They built narratives around those, and in Peru, an artist produced drawings of each. The groups then created action plans to work toward their desired futures.

Examples of the drawing of an optimistic and pessimistic scenario from the Peru sites. Illustrations by Lesky Zamora Rios (watercolor on paper and digitized).

Context and history matter

Communities in the regions chosen for the study have different types of tenure and face various pressures from outside their territories, and the scenarios the workshop participants developed show that local characteristics and history are important.

In Peru’s Loreto and Madre de Dios regions, the government has been granting titles to Indigenous communities, but many communities still lack titles, and overlapping claims abound. Communities do not have rights to subsoil resources, such as oil and minerals, and can use forest resources but cannot own them.

In positive future scenarios, workshop participants stressed coordination between national and local governments and between the government and communities, a central role for Indigenous Peoples, transparency, effective monitoring, and governments with sufficient capacities and resources. Negative scenarios, which represented backsliding in rights, included elements such as a lack of government coordination, lack of interest in Indigenous issues and corruption.

In Indonesia’s biodiversity-rich Maluku region, much of the forest is managed by communities under a customary system, while in the Lampung province of Sumatra, the expansion of commercial plantations led to a tenure reform under which communities manage state forest areas. As in Peru, overlapping claims are a source of conflict in both places.

Positive visions of the future included consistent and transparent policies, government support for communities and respect for customary rights, and a greater role for women in managing forest resources. Negative scenarios included unclear policies, forest degradation, inadequate budgets, poor coordination, and lack of collaborative forest management.

In Uganda, workshops were held in three regions: Lamwo, where forests are managed through customary, clan-based institutions; Masindi, with a mix of private, government-managed, and communal forests; and Kibaale, where most forests are on private land.

Positive scenarios stressed the importance of collaboration between government and communities, trained government staff, adequate funding, available information, and highly participatory policy development. Negative visions of the future were characterized by corruption, lack of government support and funding, unclear policies, political favouritism, and lack of community participation in forest management. The published study includes a model of factors that influence security.

The scenarios clearly show that for forest dwellers, legal rights are only one aspect of tenure security, Larson said. Government officials and others must also listen to communities’ needs and help them bring their visions of the future to fruition, taking into account the different factors that make that possible in each place.

“Our research findings suggest that communities’ visions of a positive future depend on factors besides titles, especially community governance, the role of the state and the relationship between communities and the state,” she added. “A title will only bring security if other conditions are in place, and although those conditions have some general characteristics, such as organized communities, they also are specific to a place’s context and history.”

What does this mean for scholars and practitioners of community and Indigenous land rights? “It means deeper engagement with Indigenous Peoples and local communities,” she said, “as well as the importance of listening to peoples’ needs and visions for the future, supporting their self-determination to act on these and fostering the enabling conditions in each specific context.”


The Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reform, carried out by the Center for International Forestry (CIFOR), was funded by the European Commission and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), with technical support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

This study was part of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the CGIAR Research Program on Forest, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which was led by CIFOR.

 

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Framing up the community-centred future of peatland management | Center for International Forestry Research

Framing up the community-centred future of peatland management

Experts share knowledge from long-term research in Indonesia and beyond
, Friday, 6 Feb 2015
Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Ricky Martin/CIFOR

Indonesia has the third-largest area of biodiversity-rich tropical forests in the world. The archipelago is considered one of the world’s 17 ‘megadiverse’ countries and houses two of the 25 global biodiversity ‘hotspots’. In 2015, however, the country experienced its worst forest fire disaster in almost two decades. In September and October that year, carbon emissions released by the fires reached 11.3 million tons per day – higher than the emissions of the entire European Union, which released 8.9 million tons daily over the same period.

 

In response to the disaster – and as part of wider efforts to restore 14 million hectares of degraded land, including two million hectares of peatlands – the Korean and Indonesian governments have developed a peatland restoration project which focuses on the ‘3Rs’: rewetting, revegetation, and revitalization. Activities include rewetting infrastructure, revegetating over 200 hectares with tree planting, and land revitalization in 10 villages surrounding the project site, as well as the creation of a small peatland education centre.

 

“We believe that this peatland restoration project will help create a sustainable ecosystem and have a productive impact on the community,” said Junkyu Cho, Korean Co-Director of the Korea-Indonesia Forest Cooperation Center (KIFC), during a symposium to share knowledge and experience gained from peatland restoration initiatives in several locations across Indonesia, on 7 December 2022 at CIFOR’s Bogor campus. The international symposium also aimed to enhance the network of researchers involved in peatland restoration and governance.

 

The research team, which hails from Korea’s National Institute of Forest Science (NIFoS) and the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF), will develop a model for restoring peatlands and other degraded lands in Indonesia in ways that make the most of science and technology and improve local livelihoods.

 

“We hope that various issues, such as climate change adaptation, nature-based solutions, and bioeconomy will be explored under the rubric of peatlands,” said Hyungsoon Choi, the director of NIFoS’ Global Forestry Research Division. The researchers are also helping to develop sustainable community-based reforestation and enterprises, said CIFOR-ICRAF Senior Scientist Himlal Baral.  

 

During the symposium, Baral also shared information on CIFOR-ICRAF’s long-term Sustainable Community-based Reforestation and Enterprises (SCORE) project, which runs for the same period as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and provides valuable opportunities for research. The study involves identifying areas for restoration, and for planting sustainable timber and non-timber forest products. “We start with small demonstration trials, and we hope to scale up and achieve long-term impacts,” he said, adding that smart agroforestry is one of the options for restoration.

 

Nisa Novita, from local NGO Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara (YKAN), shared some of her research into the mitigation potential of natural climate solutions for Indonesia. Her team found that the country offers a dramatic opportunity to contribute to tackling climate change by increasing carbon sequestration and storage through the protection, improved management, and restoration of drylands, peatlands, and mangrove ecosystems. “Protecting, managing, and restoring Indonesia’s wetlands is key to achieving the country’s emissions reduction target by 2030,” she said.

 

Several presenters shared models for cost-effective restoration. A-Ram Yang of NIFoS’ Global Forestry Division discussed a visit to the Perigi peatland landscape in South Sumatra in September 2022. Meanwhile, a team from Korea’s Kookmin University shared their experience assessing ecosystem services in North Korea’s forests with a view to adapting these for use in Indonesia.

 

Budi Leksono, a senior researcher at the Research Center for Plant Conservation and the Forestry, National Research, and Innovation Agency (BRIN), spoke of the potential of genetic improvement to serve restoration goals. “The use of improved seeds for plantation forests has been proven to increase the productivity and quality of forest products,” he said. “In accordance with the goal of restoration in Indonesia to restore trees and forests to degraded forest landscapes on a large scale, it should also be applied to the landscape restoration program to increase the added value of the land, and will have an impact on increasing ecological resilience and productivity.”

 

On a similar note, in a research collaboration with CIFOR-ICRAF, scientists at Sriwijaya University (UNSRI) developed a model for landscape restoration to be applied to species with high economic value, which includes using improved seeds for certain species such as Calophyllum inophyllum, and Pongamia pinnata. One of the scientists, Agus Suwignyo, said that “the use of improved seeds for landscape restoration will have an impact on people’s welfare if this is also followed by implementing a planting pattern that is in accordance with the conditions of the land and the needs of the local community.”

 

Participating farmers also chose their own preferred species, such as jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), avocado (Persea americana), mango (Mangifera indica), nangkadak (a hybrid of Artocarpus heterophillus and Artocarpus integer), sapodilla (Manilkara zapota), oranges (Citrus sp.), soursop (Annona muricata), rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) and betel or areca palm (Areca catechu). From 2018 to 2020, UNSRI helped local farmers to develop smart agrosilvofishery, improved rice cultivation, introduce other economical rice crops, plant trees, and cultivate various local fish species.

 

The method showed positive results. “During the long dry season in 2018, the surrounding area was burned by other farmers, but our demo plot area was not burned,” said Suwignyo. “This year, we scaled up the area to 10 hectares.” The story echoed a common theme within the symposium: the importance of well-planned, multidisciplinary, evidence-based restoration that puts both people and nature first.

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El modelado informático para estimaciones más precisas de emisiones GEI en turberas | Center for International Forestry Research

El modelado informático para estimaciones más precisas de emisiones GEI en turberas

Datos de emisiones de plantaciones de palma aceitera en turberas podrían afinarse
, Tuesday, 18 Oct 2022
Plantación de palma aceitera en zona de turbera, Indonesia. Faizal Abdul Aziz/CIFOR

Las estimaciones nacionales de emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero derivadas de plantaciones de palma aceitera en turberas tropicales, pueden ser mejoradas con los resultados del modelado informático, indican los resultados de un estudio reciente realizado en Indonesia.

El equipo de estudio fue conformado por científicos del Centro para la Investigación Forestal Internacional y el Centro Internacional de Investigación Agroforestal (CIFOR-ICRAF) y de la Universidad de New Hampshire.

Los países que informan a la Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático podrían estar sobrestimando sus emisiones de dióxido de carbono derivadas de la palma aceitera en turberas convertidas y al mismo tiempo subestimando la liberación de óxido nitroso de la turba en descomposición. Contar con estimaciones poco precisas puede distorsionar las medidas necesarias contra el cambio climático en el marco del Acuerdo de París y otros tratados internacionales.

Para el estudio, los autores se basaron en emisiones simuladas de plantaciones de palma aceitera en la provincia indonesia de Kalimantan Central durante un periodo de 30 años. Para empezar, realizaron mediciones de campo de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero a lo largo de tres años con el fin de captar la variabilidad en el tiempo y extrapolar los resultados mediante el modelado informático.

“En Indonesia existe una gran variación estacional en términos de precipitaciones, lo que puede tener un gran impacto en las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero, por lo que se necesitan mediciones de campo que abarquen un año completo, o varios años, a fin de entender los cambios anuales”, afirma Erin Swails, científica del CIFOR-ICRAF y autora principal del estudio.

Gases de efecto invernadero

Los científicos se centraron en las emisiones de dióxido de carbono y óxido nitroso, que en conjunto representan casi el 100 % de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero derivadas de plantaciones de palma aceitera en turberas. El metano —un poderoso gas que también contribuye al calentamiento global— no fue tomado en cuenta en el estudio porque sus emisiones son insignificantes en el caso de turberas drenadas.

Las plantaciones de palma aceitera son responsables de gran parte del cambio de uso de la tierra en los bosques pantanosos de turba del sudeste asiático, lo que conlleva drenaje del suelo, incendios debido a labores de desmonte y uso de fertilizantes. Este proceso de conversión tiene un profundo impacto en la composición química de la turba y transforma el ecosistema de un potencial sumidero de carbono en una importante fuente neta de emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero, según el estudio.

Factores de emisión

El Grupo Intergubernamental de Expertos sobre el Cambio Climático (IPCC por sus siglas en inglés) —el organismo de las Naciones Unidas encargado de evaluar el conocimiento científico relacionado con el cambio climático— promueve el uso de un marco acordado internacionalmente para calcular y reportar las emisiones y eliminaciones nacionales de gases de efecto invernadero, como se indica en sus directrices de 2019. Estas incluyen valores por defecto de los llamados factores de emisión, que se utilizan para vincular la liberación de un gas de efecto invernadero a la actividad concreta que la ocasiona.

El suplemento sobre humedales del año 2013 proporciona valores “por defecto” de los factores de emisión para las plantaciones de palma aceitera en suelos orgánicos, con el fin de ayudar a cuantificar las emisiones de dióxido de carbono, óxido nitroso y metano. Una actualización de este suplemento, basada en las investigaciones desarrolladas en la última década, puede ayudar a afinar los valores de dichos factores.

A menudo, se utilizan datos por defecto cuando no se dispone de cifras más específicas. Sin embargo, esta información genérica podría no reflejar la situación real de un país determinado, lo que pone de manifiesto la importancia de afinar los factores de emisión. Actualmente, estos factores se basan apenas en un número reducido de observaciones de plantaciones jóvenes, lo que da lugar a estimaciones inciertas sobre las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero, señala el estudio.

“Las directrices del IPCC se basan sobre todo en mediciones de campo realizadas en el sudeste asiático, principalmente en Malasia e Indonesia. Pero, en general, se dispone de muy pocos datos sobre turberas en América Latina y África, por lo que estas regiones estarían basándose más en los valores por defecto de los factores de emisión”, afirma Swails.

El modelo

Los autores utilizaron un “modelado basado en procesos” conocido como DNDC (siglas en inglés de DeNitrification-DeComposition, desnitrificación-descomposición), que simula procesos físicos y biológicos para describir el comportamiento de un ecosistema. De acuerdo con los autores, este enfoque es especialmente útil para investigar las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero en turberas tropicales porque puede reproducir los impactos de las prácticas agrícolas comunes y al mismo tiempo incorporar la hidrología de los humedales y los procesos bioquímicos del suelo orgánico.

El modelado permite afinar los valores de los factores de emisión y puede ser muy útil para países que se encuentran en el proceso de elaboración de sus niveles de referencia de emisiones forestales o de informar sobre sus inventarios nacionales de gases de efecto invernadero, ya que reduce la incertidumbre a la hora de estimar la emisión de dichos gases en las turberas, según Swails.

“La realización de mediciones de campo implica numerosos desafíos financieros y logísticos”, afirma. “Siempre requeriremos de datos de campo, pero los modelos son una herramienta adicional que nos ayuda a afinar los valores de los factores de emisión”.

Mejora de las estimaciones

El estudio demostró que las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero de las plantaciones de palma aceitera en turberas tropicales varían considerablemente a lo largo de un periodo de 30 años. Los autores recomendaron afinar las directrices del IPCC reduciendo los valores por defecto de los factores de emisión para el dióxido de carbono en un 61 % para la segunda década y en un 77 % para la tercera.

“Si estamos sobrestimando las emisiones de las plantaciones más antiguas, significa que estamos inflando nuestras líneas de base a largo plazo”, afirma Swails. “En consecuencia, es posible que no estemos logrando las reducciones de emisiones que pensamos mediante cambios en las políticas y una mejor gestión de la tierra”.

Por el contrario, los factores de emisión de óxido nitroso podrían incrementarse en un 34 % en las dos últimas décadas debido a la descomposición de la turba y a la mayor disponibilidad de amonio —una forma de nitrógeno— para la formación de óxido nitroso.

Sin embargo, el aumento previsto de las emisiones de óxido nitroso a lo largo del tiempo no compensa la correspondiente disminución de las emisiones de dióxido de carbono, lo que indica una reducción de las emisiones totales de gases de efecto invernadero a lo largo de la rotación de 30 años, según el estudio.

“Esto no implica que las plantaciones de palma aceitera sean menos problemáticas a medida que envejecen, sino que necesitamos factores de emisión más precisos porque son importantes para comprender el impacto del cambio de uso de la tierra en las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero y el cambio climático”, afirma Swails.

*Esta investigación recibió el apoyo de los gobiernos de los Estados Unidos de América y Noruega, y se llevó a cabo como parte del programa de investigación del CGIAR sobre Cambio Climático, Agricultura y Seguridad Alimentaria (CCAFS).

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