When land titling is not quite what it seems

9 September 2017

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has published useful information on the problem of land rights in the Amazon. It points out that, though indigenous communities may have title to the land they occupy, this does not necessarily mean they can control what happens on that land. CIFOR says that in order to protect the livelihoods of indigenous peoples from extractive industry (such as forestry and mining), much more needs to be done than simply conceding land titles.

It points to the story of Tres Islas, a community in Madre de Dios region that received its land title 22 years ago. A large part of its territory overlaps with mining concessions authorised by various governments. In 2010, the community built a fence in a bid to stop loggers and miners occupying their land. Their attempts were in vain; the fence was torn down. Eventually, they took their case to the Constitutional Tribunal (TC) and won. The court’s decision created an important precedent, strengthening the jurisprudence around prior consultation.

A video about Tres Islas has been produced by CIFOR. According to Iliana Monterroso, a Guatemalan who works as a CIFOR researcher on forest tenure in Peru, “The case in Tres Islas shows the challenges that many traditional communities face across the globe, where titles and formal recognition don’t fully ensure rights, tenure security or the improvement of livelihoods”. 

According to John Beauclerk, who has worked for many years in this area, communities require a large amount of support if they are to make their tenure rights effective, not least in areas such as health and education.

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