Indigenous Leaders Say Stronger Land Rights Helped Slow Deforestation
Forest Carbon Portal, 29 October 2013

OSLO, NORWAY: Findings to be presented in Oslo by PRISMA, a research institute in El Salvador, and the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), suggest that countries in Mesoamerica have been handing back rights to indigenous peoples in recent decades, and a pattern of improved forest protection is emerging. Those local communities in Mesoamerica with strong land rights are outperforming governments and industry in conserving the forests under their care. Entitled “Mesoamerica at the forefront of community forest rights: Lessons for making REDD work,” the study found a strong correlation between forest cover and sites where indigenous communities have meaningful rights over land tenure. In Panama, indigenous people manage more than 50 percent of the country’s mature forests. There, and in Guatemala and Honduras, deforestation pressures are especially fierce and forests that are controlled or claimed by indigenous peoples and forest communities are often surrounded by deforested areas under exploitation for mining, logging or agriculture. Indigenous communities believe that their successful struggle for rights could serve as a model, not only for justice for indigenous peoples but also for better outcomes in reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+), one of the main mechanisms promoted by international agencies to mitigate the impacts of climate change globally. Despite the encouraging progress in forest conservation being made in Mesoamerica however, the PRISMA report shows that it could be reversed by a failure of governments to recognize or enforce indigenous rights over their territories. Read the article … Download the report [pdf] …