Namati

How to Protect Community Lands – Online Resource Guide

Namati’s Community Land Protection Program and partners use a five-part approach that supports communities to: proactively document and map their lands, strengthen local governance, seek formal government recognition of their land rights, and plan for the future of their lands.

This toolkit is an online version of Namati’s step-by-step Community Land Protection Facilitator’s Guide. This online version splits the Guide into sections and includes links to related resources. Download the complete Guide here.

Each piece of the Guide exists because of hard-won lessons from implementation. We recommend reading the entire Guide before beginning community land protection efforts because each step is inter-related. Namati encourages adaptation of this process – please share your experiences with us! If you have questions or comments about using the Community Land Protection approach, email communitylandprotection@namati.org

Rising demand for land and natural resources is putting pressure on communities, especially those that do not yet have legally recognized rights to the lands they have used and managed for generations.

Weak protections for the land rights of communities and families can lead to displacement, corruption, and conflict. This damages local livelihoods and ecosystems and undermines global efforts to increase prosperity, peace, and biodiversity.

What is Community Land?

Namati uses ‘community land’ to refer to the territories of indigenous and rural communities, whose rights to the land and natural resources are based on historical use and management. Community territories encompass both ‘commons’ or ‘communal land’ that is held and managed by a community as a group and any lands that are held privately by individuals and families.

In many countries, communities and families do not have secure, legal recognition of their land rights - leaving them vulnerable to dispossession by governments, companies, or powerful elites. Protecting land rights at the community level is an efficient and effective way to protect both common resources and hundreds of families’ lands at the same time. Recognizing the authority of communities to own, administer, and manage their lands has been shown to foster local prosperity and promote sustainable natural resource management.

About Namati’s Community Land Protection Program

Namati’s Community Land Protection Program supports communities to use national land laws to protect their lands. Our integrated approach combines the legal and technical work of mapping and documentation with strengthening local governance to resolve conflicts, improve equity, and ensure accountable and participatory management of land and natural resources.

We work in partnership with national and local organizations. We also support governments to design and implement legislation that protects community land rights. At the global level, we advocate for recognition and protection of community rights to land and natural resources.

Overview of the Process

The following resources provide a general outline of the entire community land protection process as followed in Namati's approach.

Adapting the Community Land Protection Process

This is an approach, not a mandate. The Guide is divided into chapters so that the community land protection process can be adapted to different contexts. However, we strongly recommend reading the entire Guide to understand why each piece is critical for community success. Please share innovations with us and the Global Legal Empowerment Network!

This section sets out recommendations and guidance on how to most effectively design, manage, and facilitate community land protection initiatives, including strategies to ensure inclusive participation and how to responsibly exit communities.

See also Namati’s Toolkit on How To Develop A Community Paralegal Program for more program management tips and resources.

Managing a Community Land Program

Selecting Communities

Empowering Women and Minority Groups

Working with Local Leaders

Including Culture in the Process

Exiting a Community

  • Chapter: Community Exit

    Namati

    A chapter from the Guide that explains how to responsibly end community land protection efforts with each community – whether the process is complete or not – and avoid leaving communities in a vulnerable state.

The activities in this stage raise awareness of the importance of protecting community lands, motivate community members’ participation, and establish mechanisms to ensure an inclusive and representative process.

Introducing the Process

Defining a 'Community'

Motivating Participation

Establishing Clear Roles

The activities in this stage support communities to catalogue their existing rules for land and resource management, then improve these rules to enhance justice, equity, accountability, prosperity, and sustainable natural resource management. Facilitators also support communities to align their customary rules with national laws.

Creating Community By-Laws

Zoning and Land Use Planning

Strengthening Governance Structures

  • Chapter: Creating Land Governance Councils

    Namati

    A chapter from the Guide that explains how communities can use their by-laws to build or improve their local governance structures, hold their leaders accountable, and support participatory, transparent, and democratic community decision-making about their collective lands and natural resources.

Supporting Implementation and Enforcement

Ensuring Transparent Management of Funds

The actions in this stage support communities to make participatory maps of their lands, resolve boundary disputes and land conflicts, and document the agreed boundaries with various forms of physical evidence, including signed agreements with neighbors, boundary trees or other markers, and GPS data.

Designing a Mapping Process

Agreeing on Boundaries

Marking and Mapping Boundaries

During this stage, communities follow national legal procedures to formally document and register their lands and receive state documentation of their rights. The materials in this section are intentionally general because the specific legal context and official procedures required to register community lands will vary by nation.

Approaching Legal Registration

These activities are designed to foster long-term community growth and prosperity, according to each community’s self-defined plans and intentions. They support community members to pursue a range of livelihoods, regenerate local ecosystems, prepare for potential negotiations with investors, and take specific steps to actualize their shared community vision.

Training Communities to Negotiate with Potential Investors

Planning for a Prosperous Future

This section offers recommendations for gathering, analyzing, and using data throughout the community land protection process in order to document short- and long-term impacts and improve implementation.

Using Data in Community Land Protection

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