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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 guide is an online version of Namati’s step-by-step Community Land Protection Facilitator’s Guide, which is available to download here. This online version splits the guide into sections and includes links to related resources. There is also a French version of the 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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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.
Chapter: Context for Community Land Protection
A chapter from the Guide that provides a short introduction to the global context for community land protection and the history of how Namati developed its community land protection approach.
Empowering Communities To Document And Protect Their Land Claims: A Solution To The Global Land Grab?
A blog post by Rachael Knight summarizing the major findings of the first phase of the Community Land Protection Program from 2009-2011.
The Global Call to Action on Indigenous and Community Land Rights
This resource is for the website of an international and cross-national advocacy campaign to double the global area of land legally recognized as owned or controlled by Indigenous Peoples and local communities by 2020.
Community Lands, Common Future: A Case for the International Land and Forest Tenure Facility
An illustrated video from The Tenure Facility that voices the growing consensus that community rights are vital to mitigating climate change and ensuring sustainable development.
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.
Chapter: About Namati
A chapter from the Guide that introduces Namati and how we work.
Protecting Community Lands and Resources: Evidence from Liberia, Mozambique and Uganda [Executive Summary]
In recent years, governments across Africa, Asia and Latin America have been granting vast land concessions to foreign and domestic investors for agro-industrial enterprises and resource extraction. Often, governments make concessions with a view to furthering development and strengthening the national economy. Yet in many cases, these land concessions dispossess rural communities and deprive them of…
The following resources provide a general outline of the entire community land protection process as followed in Namati's approach.
Chapter: Step-by-Step Overview of the Community Land Protection Process
A chapter from the Guide that summaries the five stages of the community land protection process developed by Namati and partners.
Protecting Community Lands and Resources (video)
Provides an overview of the full community land protection process, the role of grassroots legal advocates, and resulting positive impacts.
Diagram of the Community Land Protection Process
A visual representation of the five stages of the community land protection process developed by Namati and partners.
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!
Chapter: Adaptation of the community land protection process
A note from the Guide about adapting the approach and exercises in the Guide.
Community Guide to Protecting Community Lands and Resources in Liberia
An example of a local adaptation of the approach – a Liberia-specific guide for communities seeking to strengthen their community land tenure security from Namati partner the Sustainable Development Institute.
Uganda Community Guide: How to Protect Your Community’s Lands & Resources
An example of an adaptation of the community land protection approach from Uganda. This guide from the Land and Equity Movement in Uganda and Namati presents a step-by-step process for communities to secure stronger legal protections for common grazing lands and improve local land governance, within the social and legal context of Northern Uganda.
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.
Chapter: Suggested Practices for Good Program Management
A chapter from the Guide that outlines various lessons and tips for managing a community land protection program.
Chapter: The Art of Good Facilitation
A chapter from the Guide that describes why good facilitation is key to the success of community land protection efforts and provides practical tips on how to improve facilitation skills.
Chapter: Community Selection
A chapter from the Guide detailing recommendations for how to select communities to work with and how to prioritize between communities.
Chapter: Ensuring the Participation of Women and Minority Groups
A chapter from the Guide that emphasizes the critical importance of the participation of women and minority groups and shares practical tips to ensure their voices are heard.
Lessons from the Field: Customary Rules and Practices Strengthen Women’s Land Tenure in Rural Mozambique
This Lesson from the Field describes how Centro Terra Viva (CTV) and Namati support communities to strengthen women’s land rights within customary systems and harmonize local practices with national and human rights law.
Chapter: Working with Community Leaders
A chapter from the Guide that discusses the importance of working closely with local leadership during community land protection efforts, and strategies to do so effectively.
Chapter: Preserving and Revitalizing Culture
A chapter from the Guide that discusses how culture is central to community land protection and strategies for integrating culture into programming.
Chapter: Involving Government Officials in the Community Land Protection Process
A chapter from the Guide that explains the importance of involving government officials in community land protection efforts and includes recommendations about how to effectively engage government stakeholders.
Chapter: Community Exit
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.
Chapter: Introducing the Community Land Protection Process to Communities
A chapter from the Guide that suggests how organizations can begin discussing community land protection with interested communities.
Chapter: Community Definition
A chapter from the Guide that investigates the complicated question of how communities define themselves for the purposes of community land protection.
Lessons from the Field: Complexities of Community Self-Identification in Liberia
A brief from Namati partner the Sustainable Development Institute on how they have handled the community definition question in Liberia. Defining the boundaries and membership of a community is the first step in community land protection and documentation. These decisions require careful negotiation among a wide range of stakeholders and consideration of many social, political, cultural, and practical factors.
Chapter: Community Visioning
A chapter from the Guide that explains the Community Vision activity, designed to build community unity and motivation to complete the community land protection process.
Lessons from the Field: ‘Visioning’ as a Foundation for Community Land Protection
Until recently, staff at the Land and Equity Movement in Uganda (LEMU), would start a community land protection process with conflict resolution. However, they found that focusing on contentious internal land disputes tended to exacerbate internal discord and even impede the community land protection process. This Lesson from the Field describes how LEMU went back to the drawing board to develop an innovative solution:…
Chapter: Valuation of Community Lands and Natural Resources
A chapter from the Guide that explains the Valuation activity, designed to build awareness of the value of common lands and natural resources and increase community motivation to complete the community land protection process.
“We are looking at gold and calling it rock”: Supporting communities to calculate the replacement costs of their communal lands and natural resources
A blog post by Rachael Knight on the World Bank’s People, Space, Deliberation blog that explains why the Valuation activity is so powerful.
Chapter: Establishing Terms of Engagement
A chapter from the Guide that introduces a method for increasing a community’s sense of ownership over the community land protection process and improving accountability between a community and an implementing organization.
Chapter: Selecting and Training Community Land Mobilizers and Interim Coordinating Committees
A chapter from the Guide about how to form and support an effective team of community members who can steward the community land protection process.
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.
Chapter: Drafting By-Laws for Good Governance of Community Lands and Natural Resources
A chapter from the Guide that gives an overview of the by-laws process and recommendations for how to facilitate it.
Chapter: The Content of the By-laws
A chapter from the Guide that provides greater detail on the recommended content of community by-laws and prompts to help communities ensure their by-laws are comprehensive and implementable.
Chapter: Strengthening the Land Rights of Women and Members of Minority Groups
A chapter from the Guide that offers strategies for leveraging the by-laws process to strengthen the rights of women and vulnerable populations.
Making Rules for Land Governance (video)
This resource is a short animated video that illustrates the process for creating community by-laws and an accountable, equitable and sustainable governance structure.
Chapter: Making a Zoning/Land Use Plan
A chapter from the Guide that explains how the community mapping activities intersect with the community by-laws process through the creation of a zoning and land use plan.
Chapter: Creating Land Governance Councils
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.
Chapter: Ensuring Implementation and Enforcement of Community By-Laws
A chapter from the Guide that explains challenges that communities often face when implementing and enforcing their by-laws and suggests how communities can proactively prevent these issues.
Lessons from the Field: Holding Leaders Accountable in Land Transactions
Namati and the Sustainable Development Institute in Liberia (SDI), have worked with the community of Duah for over 3 years to document the community’s land and establish an inclusive local governance system for land and natural resources. In the spring of 2013, Duah faced a serious challenge: Clan elders agreed to a large land deal with a local palm oil investor without the…
Chapter: Supporting Transparent Management of Community Finances
A chapter from the Guide that explains ways to address critical questions about community financial management during the by-laws process.
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.
Chapter: Mapping Community Lands and Natural Resources
A chapter from the Guide that shares recommendations for designing the process of community mapping.
Mapping and Boundary Agreements (video)
A short animated video that gives an overview of community mapping, including the steps of sketch-mapping, resolving land conflicts, marking boundaries with neighbors, and making an official map.
For Responsible Mapping of Community Land, Create Accountable Land Governance
A blog post that explains how providing maps or other documentation of community land rights without ensuring intra-community mechanisms to hold leaders accountable can inadvertently make communities more vulnerable.
Chapter: Harmonizing Boundaries with Neighbors
A chapter from the Guide that explains the recommended process for communities to negotiate and agree upon the location of their boundaries with neighboring communities.
Chapter: Resolving Land Conflicts
A chapter from the Guide about common reasons for local land conflicts and techniques to mediate and resolve them.
Lessons from the Field: Responses to Encroachment
Community land protection efforts must often confront cases of encroachment, where individuals have claimed part of community land as their own private property. Namati and the Land and Equity Movement in Uganda (LEMU) have witnessed this in many communities in northern Uganda, where encroachment disputes often threaten to undermine or stall community land protection efforts. Over the past five years, LEMU has developed ways…
Chapter: Marking and Documenting Agreed Boundaries
A chapter from the Guide that considers various options for creating a final community map, including GPS measurements and surveying.
When Legal Empowerment Meets Community Mapping
This resource is a blog post about how Namati and the Kenya Land Alliance tested new tools for participatory community mapping in Tana River, Kenya.
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.
Chapter: Pursuing Legal Registration of Community Land Claims
A chapter from the Guide that gives general recommendations for how to support communities to use legal procedures to secure registration or recognition of their claims.
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.
Chapter: Preparing Communities for Negotiations with Investors
A chapter from the Guide that details important skills and procedures for communities to prepare in case potential investors approach them seeking access to land or natural resources.
Protecting Land in Investment Negotiations (video)
A short animated video that explains how communities can empower themselves to negotiate with potential investors to ensure that agreements promote genuine community prosperity.
Community Guide to Getting a Fair Deal from Companies and Investors
A how-to guide for rural communities considering whether to share their land and natural resources with investors.
Chapter: Returning to the Vision with Community Action Plans
A chapter from the Guide that suggests how to return to the earlier Community Vision to motivate communities to create specific, feasible action plans to move towards their vision.
Chapter: Integrating Livelihood Supports
A chapter from the Guide with strategies for how the Community Land Protection process can support sustainable local livelihoods.
Chapter: Supporting Communities to Regenerate the Local Ecosystem
A chapter from the Guide that provides a brief introduction to concepts and techniques of ecosystem restoration for communities that want to rehabilitate or enhance their local ecosystems as part of their community action plans.
Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change [Video]
The World Resources Institute explains how securing community land rights help maintain healthier forests and lower carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
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.
Chapter: Introduction to Monitoring and Evaluation
A chapter from the Guide that introduces general good practices of monitoring and evaluation.
Chapter: Gathering Baseline and Endline Data
A chapter from the Guide that explains the process of conducting a baseline and endline in order to measure impacts from community land protection efforts.
Chapter: Ongoing Monitoring and Evaluation – Collecting Data throughout the Community Land Protection Process
A chapter from the Guide that provides specific recommendations for collecting and using data in community land protection efforts.