Friday, June 29, 2012

New Namati Report on Community Land Registration

Namati, in partnership with the International Development Law Organization, the Sustainable Development Institute, Centro Terro Viva, and the Land and Equity Movement in Uganda, has released ‘Protecting Community Lands and Resources: Evidence from Liberia, Mozambique and Uganda.’ The report documents the experiences of 58 communities supported by the Community Land Titling Initiative with their nations’ community land registration laws. 

Through the process, communities succeeded in addressing land disputes, improved local governance, enhanced local conservation of natural resources, and strengthened the rights of women and other marginalised groups. Based on these lessons, the report concludes that community land registration efforts should include three processes: the technical work of mapping and titling community land, the peace-building process of resolving land disputes, and the establishment or strengthening of local governance mechanisms. Moving forward, Namati will use these lessons in strengthening its Community Land Protection Program

The report’s executive summary can be found here, and the full report can be downloaded here. The press release for the report launch can be accessed here and the study’s homepage can be found here. Those interested in the work are encouraged to join the Global Legal Empowerment Network here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Africa BCP Initiative Review in Wa, Ghana

Shea producers from Dafiama meeting with ABCPI
The Natural Justice team was in Wa, Ghana for a review of the first phase of the Africa Biocultural Community Protocols Initiative (ABCPI) on 21-22 June. The meeting included a review of the lessons learned from the first year of the initiative. The review began with reflection by representatives from each of the communities who engaged in the Biocultural Community Protocol (BCP) process through the initiative. The representatives were also encouraged to reflect on the usefulness of ‘BCPs: A Toolkit for Community Facilitators’ and to propose amendments or additions. 

From Ghana, the community of Dafiama is preparing a BCP on Shea conservation and marketing and the community of Tanchara further developed and used for dialogue their BCP on local gold exploration and sacred sites. From Ethiopia, the community of Sheka Forest is developing a BCP asserting their right to steward the forest. In Kenya, the Maasai community of Ilkusemeti is preparing a BCP on land use, the Samburu community is extending their BCP on livestock keeping rights, and the communities of Lamu are demanding community inclusion in a major port development planning. In South Africa, the Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners of Bushbuckridge are using their BCP to consider an access and benefit sharing (ABS) agreement with a cosmetics company. In Namibia, the community residing in Bwabata National Park is contemplating using a BCP to establish their right to reside and conserve the park. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

MSP Review in Wa, Ghana

Shea butter production
The Natural Justice team was hosted by the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD) for a gathering in Wa, Ghana from 18-20 June for a review of the multi-stakeholder processes (MSPs) and biocultural community protocols (BCPs) developed over the past year through the Africa BCP Initiative. The gathering began with a review of the BCPs in the process of being developed in the Africa BCP Initiative. These include BCPs in Ghana, South Africa, Namibia, Ethiopia and Kenya around gold mining, Shea nut conservation and production, pastoralism, land tenure, forest conservation, and traditional medicinal knowledge. Representatives from ETC Compas, GIZ and CIKOD, organisations which have supported the BCP Initiative, offered feedback on the BCP processes and results. 

The gathering then reviewed MSPs conducted in Tanchara, Ghana, around gold mining, and Lamu, Kenya, around major infrastructure developments. Participants in both MSPs presented the processes and results from their MSPs and received feedback from other members of the BCP Initiative. 

On the 20th, the group visited a traditional Shea nut producing community in Dafiama, Ghana which is in the process of developing a BCP. Shea pickers demonstrated the process by which Shea nuts are turned from nut to butter. The traditional leadership of the community shared their concern at the depletion of Shea trees and their enthusiasm for the BCP. It is hoped that the BCP will reduce the destruction of Shea trees from charcoal production and mining and increase the value that communities receive for the Shea that they have maintained and harvested.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Major New Publication on Community Protocols, Rights and FPIC

Volume 65 of Participatory Learning and Action (PLA), published by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), has just been released. Entitled "Biodiversity and Culture: Exploring community protocols, rights and consent", the special issue was guest edited by Krystyna Swiderska (IIED), Kanchi Kohli (Kalpavriksh), Harry Jonas and Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice), Wim Hiemstra, (COMPAS Network for Endogenous Development), and Maria Julia Oliva (Union for Ethical Biotrade).

This special issue of PLA explores two important participatory tools that indigenous peoples and local communities can use to help defend their customary rights to biocultural heritage, natural resources, and lands:  community protocols – or charters of rules and responsibilities – in which communities set out their customary rights to natural resources and land, as recognised in customary, national and international laws; and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) processes, in which communities decide whether or not to allow projects affecting their land or resources to go ahead, and on what terms.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Preparatory Meeting for CBD COP11 in Burundi

From 9-14 June, the African regional preparatory meeting for indigenous peoples and local communities for the 11th Conference of the Parties (COP11) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) took place in Bujumbura, Burundi. The meeting was co-hosted by the CBD Secretariat, the ABS Capacity Development Initiative, the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC), the Indigenous Information Network (IIN), and the Unissons-nous pour la Promotion des Batwa (UNIPROBA). The agenda of the meeting is available here.

The meeting contained specific capacity development sessions on Article 8(j) of the CBD, the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), biocultural community protocols, and intellectual property rights. It also served as an opportunity for the 55 representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities from 21 African countries to strategize ahead of COP11, which will take place in October in Hyderabad, India. Gino Cocchiaro, Lassana Kone and Johanna von Braun (Natural Justice) supported the meeting by holding a session on biocultural community protocols as well as co-facilitating a two-day training session on intellectual property rights and ABS.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Seeds of Freedom"

A new film, "Seeds of Freedom", has been released by the Gaia Foundation and the African Biodiversity Network (ABN) along with GRAIN, Navdanya International and MELCA International. It is narrated by actor Jeremy Irons and features indigenous farmers from the ABN as well as interviews with Dr Vandana Shiva, Percy Schmeiser, Henk Hobbelink and Kumi Naidoo.

From, "Seeds of Freedom charts the story of seed from its roots at the heart of traditional, diversity rich farming systems across the world, to being transformed into a powerful commodity, used to monopolise the global food system. The film highlights the extent to which the industrial agricultural system, and genetically modified (GM) seeds in particular, has impacted on the enormous agro -biodiversity evolved by farmers and communities around the world, since the beginning of agriculture."

More information can be found at

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ashoka Globalizer

Harry Jonas attended the Ashoka Foundation's 6th Globalizer Summit in Geneva. The event focused on rural innovation and farming, and brought together a range of Ashoka Fellows and international advisors to focus on how the Fellows could scale their ideas to better support a range of rural communities and preserve biodiversity. The event included one-on-one sessions with successful entrepreneurs to focus on the critical questions facing Fellows as their ideas grow. Harry thanks Nihar Kothari, Philip Riddel, Biksham Gujja and Marc Castagnet for their invaluable advice, and particularly thanks the Ashoka RIF and Globalizer teams for an excellent few days.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Africa Workshop for ILCs in Preparation for CBD COP 11

The first of three regional workshops in preparation for the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is taking place from 9-14 June in Bujumbura, Burundi. This workshop has been organized jointly by the CBD Secretariat and the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Capacity Development Initiative and brings together nearly 50 representatives from indigenous and local communities (ILCs) from across the Africa. 

The workshop is split into two sections. The first section will concentrate on the CBD, in particular articles 8j and 10c, and includes a closer look at the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from their Utilization. Gino Cocchiaro, Lassana Kone and Johanna von Braun from Natural Justice supported this last segment through an introduction to biocultural community protocols and their value in the context of ABS

The second section of the workshop includes an introductory training on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and ABS, organized on the specific request of ILC representatives to the ABS Initiative, with the aim of better understanding IPRs.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Borana BCP Training

From 5-7 July, Natural Justice and Kivulini Trust facilitated a biocultural community protocol (BCP) training workshop for the Borana pastoralist community of the Waso Rangelands, Kenya. The increase in development projects, wildlife conservation areas and influx of other groups in Waso has contributed to the loss of the Borana’s traditional lands and diminished grazing areas for their livestock. This continued loss has led to a slow decline in their traditional institutions, customs and norms as members of the community are forced to choose other livelihood options. This change has also negatively impacted the biodiversity in the area, which was conserved and sustainably used by the communities through their traditional pastoralist practices. 

The BCP training in Waso was attended by a number of the community members, including elders, women, youth and NGOs supporting the community. The BCP process, or Fin Jiru Gumi Waso (Wellbeing of the Waso Community in KiBorana), will combine with a number of ongoing projects in the region which seek to protect the community’s resources and culture. The process will highlight the community’s customary laws and norms around biodiversity conservation, inform the community of their relevant international and national biocultural rights, establish representative bodies to dialogue with government or private enterprises interested in utilizing the resources and/or traditional knowledge on their traditional lands, and create a platform for discussion with neighbouring communities in the interest of peacebuilding. This initiative is supported by the Christensen Fund.

Final FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Tenure

Farmer in Uganda. Photo via
The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) endorsed the ‘Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security’ on 11 May.  The process of developing the guidelines was initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in 2009 and was finalised by CFS lead negotiations involving governments, civil society, the private sector, international organisations and academia. CFS chairperson Yaya Olaniran described the guidelines as "the product of a three year, inclusive process of consultations and negotiations that brought together many stakeholders and ensured that a wide range of voices were heard…The result is that we have a meaningful series of principles and practices that everybody — countries, the private sector, farmers, civil society — can stand behind and support, and that will work out in the real world." 

The guidelines encourage increased recognition of informal tenure systems, ensuring tenure administrative systems are affordable and accessible, managing restitution for those illegally evicted from their lands in the past, ensuring the rights of indigenous communities, increasing transparency in agricultural investments, supporting effective and equitable dispute resolution around land tenure, and addressing increased urbanisation. Looking forward, implementation will depend upon governments which participated in the negotiations. 

The guidelines can be downloaded here and an informal aid for reading the guidelines can be found here. FAO’s press statement upon the adoption of the guidelines is here

Saturday, June 9, 2012

New RRI Report on Forest Tenure Rights

With over 50 new laws passed to protect forest tenure rights and an increase from 10-15% to 21-31% of forest owned or controlled by Indigenous Peoples and forest communities from 1992 to today, there has been significant progress. This is not only a significant advance for communities, it also strengthens conservation as community managed forests outperformed public protected areas in preventing deforestation. Unfortunately, much of this progress has come in a few countries, most of them in Latin America. Most countries lack effective protections for the tenure rights of communities. While there is increased recognition of traditional land tenure rights, much of this recognition has had limited impact. Increased large-scale land acquisitions threaten to further undermine tenure security. 

In this context, the Rights and Resources Initiative has prepared a new report to take stock of the progress made since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro’s commitment to sustainable development. The report includes specific examples from China, Brazil, India, Nepal, Cameroon and Mexico. 

The report can be downloaded here. The summary can be found here.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Special Rapporteurs Warn on Large-Scale Land Acquisitions

In Meruake, Indonesia, 1-2 million hectares of rainforest and small-scale farming plots are being converted into export-led crop and agrofuel plantations, potentially impacting the food security of up to 50,000 people. Three thousand hectares of land in the Isabella region of the Philippines has already been converted to sugar cane production for agrofuels, with a further 8,000 hectares being targeted. These developments are part of a broader trend in South East Asia towards increased large-scale land acquisitions for producing biofuels. 

In response to these acquisitions, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, and UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, have urged governments to “step up their vigilance in regard to large scale acquisitions to ensure that the fundamental rights of these communities are not violated, be they small-farmers, fishers, hunters, foragers or craftsmen.” The experts warned that "converting bio-diverse forest land to intensive monocropping can entail wide environmental impacts, from the loss of forest-dwelling game species in Meruake, to reduced resistance to flooding and landslides in Isabela….we must also be sensitive to the impacts of sudden influxes of workers on local food access, traditions and ways of life.” They further argued that “development is not always the outcome, however many jobs and export dollars a project promises to yield…new economic opportunities, and new, more intensive uses of land, must not be at the expense of the human rights of local populations.” 

Read more about their comments here. Read more about Special Rapporteur Anaya's work here. Read more about Special Rapporteur De Schutter's work here

Monday, June 4, 2012

Roundtable on the Green Economy in Africa

On 1 June, Natural Justice participated in a roundtable discussion on the prospects and challenges around an inclusive and pro-poor, natural resource-driven green economy in Africa in Johannesburg, South Africa. The roundtable, organised by the Open Society Initiative for Africa, Heinrich Boell Foundation and One World, brought together policy makers, researchers, civil society and practitioners to contribute to the debate on the green economy, define some of the policy questions and responses needed for the region, and to support key African actors to champion an inclusive, pro-poor green economy. 

Natural Justice presented on its experiences with communities that have interacted with the green economy through mechanisms such as Access and Benefit Sharing and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). The presentation emphasised that much can be learned from the traditional stewards of the lands, waters and resources, such as some of the Indigenous communities in Namibia, who have been able to maintain some of the most biodiverse areas in the world. 

Find further information on Natural Justice work on the green economy here.

New Report on Southern Voices on Climate Change Policy

On 21 May, the Southern Voices Capacity Building Programme launched a new report, “Southern Voices on Climate Policy Choices – analysis of and lessons learned from civil society advocacy on climate change,” in Bonn, Germany. The report considers advocacy groups’ ability to influence climate change policy at the international, regional, national and local levels. It is based on more than 70 case studies and considers civil society's impact on legislation, policy and implementation. 

The report includes contributions from more than 20 networks, and their members, of the Southern Voices Programme and was edited by Dr Hannah Reid of the International Institute of Environment and Development and a team of Southern Voices experts. It is published by the Climate Capacity Consortium. 

The full report, along with summaries in French, Spanish and English, can be downloaded here

Friday, June 1, 2012

Indian Law Centre Principles on REDD+

Photo via the Indian Law Centre
The Indian Law Centre has released new principles focused on the intersection of international law, indigenous rights and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+). The principles seek to stimulate further discussions on how REDD+ can be implemented with a human rights-based approach. 

The Centre has been advocating on REDD+, which seeks to compensate developing nations which reduce their rate of emissions from deforestation, and considering its potential benefits and challenges to the advancement of the livelihoods and rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. The Centre has expressed particular concern on the limited protections for indigenous peoples in planned REDD+ programmes to be implemented by the World Bank, the United Nations UN-REDD Programme, and others. The Centre recommends improved policies to ensure that these programmes operate in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other instruments of international law which protect the rights of indigenous peoples. 

The principles are entitled the “International Law Principles for REDD+: The Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Legal Obligations of REDD+ Actors.” The principles can be downloaded here. The Indian Law Centre requests that comments on the principles be emailed to or feedback shared via their online survey here. Background information on the principles can be found here.

RRI Review of Forest Tenure Legislation

With increased attention to forest conservation, especially in the context of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), issues of tenure insecurity of Indigenous Peoples in forest areas are increasingly recognised. Despite this attention, there has been little comprehensive information on legislation and policy to address these challenges. To address this gap, the Rights and Resources Initiative has produced a review of national legislation related to Indigenous Peoples’ forest tenure rights in 27 nations. The countries reviewed are home to 2.2 billion rural people and include as much as 75% of the developing world’s forest cover. 

The review reveals that there has been a dramatic increase in legislation that recognises rights since 1992, as well as a significant increase in the amount of land owned or controlled by Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Unfortunately, these advances have failed to reach the majority of forest communities, especially in Africa. The review also finds that there is a significant gap between formal legislation and actual implementation. 

Download the full report here. Read the Rights and Resources Initiative’s introduction to the research here.