Rights-based Solutions to Deforestation

updated January 2017

Unlike legislation or product certification in distant consumer countries, rights-based solutions to deforestation seek to recognise the right of individual forest dwellers to social and economic development. Family livelihoods and tenure are often the first casualties from clearance of land.

In this model, forest protection is pursued not solely out of environmental concern but also as a vital component of human poverty reduction. For example, the practice of agro-forestry, which involves strategic preservation of trees to support arable and livestock farming, can transform prospects for local food security, especially in dryland forest regions.

Likewise, the pressure on forest inventory arising from uncontrolled wood fuel and charcoal production can be relieved by a strategic plan for the sustainable energy needs of all members of a community.

An established illustration of the rights-based approach is known as community forest management in which state control over land has been transferred to local forest communities. Countries such as Mexico and Nepal can demonstrate long traditions of this model.

Its premise is that a combination of small-scale timber and non-timber enterprises, underpinned by traditional knowledge and skills, can generate sufficient livelihoods to align the interests of the community with sustaining the forest environment.

A 2014 report by the World Resources Institute concluded that forests managed by communities in the Brazilian Amazon recorded deforestation rates which were 11 times lower than in neighbouring areas.

Security of tenure is the common denominator of community solutions to deforestation. There has been improvement in recent decades, with over 30% of forests in developing countries now controlled by indigenous and forest peoples. But in two key countries – Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo – tenure remains almost entirely under government control. And the trend may encounter resistance as “land-grabbing” indulged by foreign investors escalates land values, tempting government officials to retain control.

An encouraging response to the land-grabbing controversy is the approval by the UN Committee on Food Security of Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests. The Guidelines suggest ways in which undocumented traditional land tenure should be recognised by governments and investors, respecting principles of human rights, gender sensitivities and sustainable development.


Deforestation in Argentina disrupts lives – the rights of the The Wichi community in Salta have been disregarded in the drive to clear forest lands for agriculture
from Al Jazeera English

Community-based forestry – Dominique Reed, FAO Team Leader of Social Forestry, talks about the potential of community-based forestry
from UN Food and Agriculture Organization

more Forests briefings
Importance of Tropical Forests
Deforestation and Forest Degradation
Tropical Forests and Climate Change
Causes of Deforestation
Sustainable Development Goal for Deforestation
Consumer Solutions to Deforestation
Market-based Solutions to Deforestation
Source material and useful links

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