October 2011


Communal tenure and the governance of common property resources in Asia
Kirsten Ewers Andersen
FAO Land Tenure Working Paper 20, April 2011

This paper presents an overview of the distinctive features of communal tenure in different community-based land and natural resource management systems. Communal tenure refers to situations where groups, communities, or one or more villages have well-defined, exclusive rights to jointly own and/or manage particular areas of natural resources such as land, forest and water. Two models of communal tenure are presented. In the first model, the permanent title model, the state fully and permanently hands the land over to local indigenous communities for private collective ownership. In the second model, the delegated management model, the state maintains ownership of the resources and delegates management to local groups, most often villages, for a specific period of time, with the possibility of renewal. In addition to these two general models, one may still find traditional customary communal tenure in remote communities. Here the state does not actually regulate or intervene in the management of resources, but all local communities in the area would know of the local rules of harvesting and withdrawal rights. Both the permanent title in communal land and the delegated management model may originate from an existing customary arrangement, where the rules are known and have been adhered to by right-holders – and their neighbors – for generations. The state can acknowledge these existing communal systems through formalization of existing rules and rights. In a different situation, where customary arrangements are no longer present and the resource is degraded and under open access, the formalization of delegated management of, for example, a new community forest, may imply setting up or inducing communal tenure institutions, where they did not previously exist.

Communal tenure will very likely play a significant role in the policies and actions for climate change mitigation. With the emergence of REDD initiatives, governance and benefit-sharing of carbon finance become critical questions in defining who owns the carbon stocked in forest. Marketable community rights to this special resource unit (stocked carbon) must be supported by national legislation that favors communal tenure of some of the carbon properties. This may lead to a separation of rights to carbon from the broader rights to the forest and land, an aspect not yet addressed by theoretical work on communal tenure. Download the paper [pdf] …

Can indigenous peoples be relied on to gather reliable environmental data?
Stanford University release, 13 October 2011

CALIFORNIA, USA: No one is in a better position to monitor environmental conditions in remote areas of the natural world than the people living there. But many scientists believe the cultural and educational gulf between trained scientists and indigenous cultures is simply too great to bridge – that native peoples cannot be relied on to collect reliable data. But now, researchers led by Stanford ecologist Jose Fragoso have completed a five-year environmental study of a 48,000-square-kilometer piece of the AmazonBasinthat demonstrates otherwise. The study Large-Scale Environmental Monitoring by Indigenous Peoples set out to determine the state of the vertebrate animal populations in the region and how they are affected by human activities. But Fragoso and his colleagues knew they couldn’t gather the data over such a huge area by themselves. Fragoso and his colleagues worked in the Rupununi region inGuyana, a forest-savanna ecosystem occupied by the Makushi and Wapishana peoples. The researchers recruited 28 villages and trained more than 340 villagers in methods of collecting field data in a consistent, systematic way. The villagers were shown how to walk a transect through an area, recording sightings and signs of animals, noting the presence of plants that animals feed on and marking their observations on a map.

The training was not without its challenges. Many of the older villagers were expert bushmen, but could not read, write or do arithmetic. Many of the younger villagers, who had received some formal education, were literate but lacked knowledge of the animals and plants in the wilds around their communities. So researchers paired younger and older villagers to go into the field together. All the villagers were paid for the work they did. The most consistently accurate data was recorded by technicians in communities that had strong leadership and that were part of a larger indigenous organization, such as an association of villages. After all the data verification was done, the researchers found that on average, the indigenous technicians were every bit as able to systematically record accurate data as trained scientists. They were also probably better than scientists at detecting animals and their signs. Read the press release … Read the abstract of the study Large-Scale Environmental Monitoring by Indigenous Peoples, by J. B. Luzar, K. M. Silvius, H. Overman, S. T. Giery, J. M. Read and J. M. V. Fragoso, published in BioScience 61(10), 2011 …

Arctic science: The Local Perspective
Henry Huntington, Pew Environment Group, 12 October 2011

WASHINGTON DC, USA: In this piece, Henry Huntington writes that the concept of scientists using indigenous, or traditional, knowledge in their research has received increasing attention over the past few decades. This is particularly true in the Arctic, where the potential global effects of changes such as permafrost thaw and ice melt have created an urgent need to understand how climate change is affecting the region. Historical physical data about the region are lacking, but indigenous cultures there have retained practices and knowledge acquired over countless generations. Read the piece … Read a SciDev.Net article on the issue, including link to full article by Huntington on Nature …

South Africa: TK Legislation in The New Tradition
Owen Dean, IP Watch Inside Views, 6 October 2011

In this article, Prof. Owen Dean comments on South Africa’s attempt to grant protection to traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions through the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill, stressing that the bill as it currently stands is unworkable and will not provide any meaningful protection to TK. Read the article …

Campesinas Protect Traditional Diversity of Food Crops
IPS, 13 October 2011

PUNO, PERU: The fruits of the land in the Andes, like the hundreds of varieties of potatoes, corn, and quinoa – a highly nutritious seed native to this region – depend largely on women, who select the seeds, weed the fields and gardens, help harvest the crop, and preserve and store food. The work of these native highlands women acts as a natural seed bank for the Andean region, built up over generations for the benefit of humankind. Women are also actively participating in the GIAHS project in the country in the Cuzco-Puno corridor. Read the article …

“They Tell A Story And There’s Meaning Behind That Story”: Indigenous Knowledge And Young Indigenous Children’s Literacy Learning
Jan Hare, Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, October 2011, doi: 10.1177/1468798411417378

This research draws on the reflections from group discussions with indigenous families and interviews with early childhood educators and community stakeholders from five First Nations reserve communities in Canadawhose young children participate in the national Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve (AHSOR) programme. The purpose of the study was to examine the contributions of indigenous knowledge to young indigenous children’s literacy learning. In the course of the examination it became clear that there is a literacy orientation within indigenous knowledge systems that draws on oral tradition, land-based experiences and ceremonial practices that, when linked to the discourses of schooling and literacy, provide the basis for improving educational outcomes for indigenous children and families, whose relationship with schooling has been historically troubled. Read the abstract …

HerbFEST 2011
11-13 October 2011 (Lagos, Nigeria)

Organized by Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme, a Nigerian NGO, the International Centre for Ethnomedicine and Drug Development and the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency, this expo was complemented by a workshop on regulation and standardization of natural products, and production, processing and marketing practices. Visit the meeting website … Read the organizers’ press release …

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