Although Indigenous and rural communities are vital to the fight against climate change, in many countries these populations struggle to obtain formal rights over their land. Securing land rights for rightful landholders addresses poverty and climate change together.
The rapid and crucial shift from fossil fuels to renewables has witnessed a familiar trend: Women — especially rural and indigenous women — are severely marginalized in decisions about land use.
Land degradation neutrality is daunting, but not impossible. And often the solutions are simple, even if the implementation is challenging: protect forests and land, and the people stewarding them.
Rachel McMonagle, Landesa’s Climate Change and Land Tenure Specialist, urges the Biden Administration to put Indigenous Peoples’ rights and expertise at the forefront of climate change solutions.
2020 was a tough year on many fronts, and land rights were no exception. COVID-19 hindered land rights advocates from doing field research, meeting with government officials, prioritizing policy initiatives, and obtaining funding. Despite these headwinds, we have seen important advances, and the field continues to grow. Here are eight breakthroughs in 2020 to celebrate.
COVID-19 and climate change are impacting all of us, but the dual disasters have a disproportionate impact on communities in emerging economies. These impacts are felt most acutely in rural areas, especially among indigenous communities and minority groups, and by women and others who are marginalized within those groups. Land rights were already crucial for food security, identity, and survival; but COVID-19 and climate change make land rights an increasingly vital solution in rural areas.
Legal recognition of land rights is a necessary basis for successful biodiversity conservation and restoration. To be effective, the process must include rural land users, with attention to intersecting vulnerabilities faced by women, youth, and other marginalized groups.
What if we could alleviate rural poverty, strengthen women’s rights, and help turn the tide against climate change, all at once? In Myanmar, a program to secure land rights for the country’s forest-dwelling communities is helping villages make progress toward all three.
Both the climate crisis and inequality require a democratic overhaul. Governments globally should start by turning over legal control of land and natural resources to local communities and indigenous land users. Their rights are key to survival for all of us.
With the world’s food supply under threat and millions already facing climate-driven migration, a land-use revolution is needed. Legal reforms that strengthen rural communities’ land rights are essential to providing the leverage and incentive to invest in climate resilience.