In many African countries, the majority of land is under customary tenure: the rights, rules and responsibilities to possess, occupy and use it are based on community customs. But customary-held land rarely enjoys adequate protection under national laws; any legal mechanisms to uphold land rights may be easily circumvented. With land-based investments expanding rapidly in Africa in recent years, scarce resources are coming under pressure. Conflicts erupt between competing land users. Communities find themselves dispossessed.
Strengthening the legal framework for customary land-rights holders is crucial for their legal recognition and protection. IDLO works to elevate the land rights of communities in Africa and empower customary rights holders to protect their land.
For more information, see IDLO's publication Protecting. Community Lands and Resources. Evidence from Liberia, Mozambique and Uganda.
“I heard on the radio that this place helps people at no cost,” said Sarah*, a client at a legal aid center in Jinja, Uganda. Sarah’s estranged husband had refused to provide maintenance for their children.
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Photos: ©IDLO_Lorelei Taylor French
Indonesia is home to half of the earth’s tropical peat lands, which cover 11 per cent of the country’s land area. Composed of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter, peat lands in Indonesia are highly biodiverse and store 60 billion of the world’s 88.6 billion metric tons of carbon held in tropical peat.
IDLO works to empower rural women by enhancing legal knowledge and rights awareness, giving them tools to promote justice in their local communities, and promoting their professional participation in the justice sector. Many women living in rural communities are excluded from decision-making processes and unable to access formal justice structures.
Sustainable management of natural resources in Indonesia is negatively affected by overlapping land permits, with local governments, companies, local populations and indigenous people simultaneously claiming the same land. In East Kalimantan, the government has identified several nature reserve areas, but in the same area there are vast coal deposits, oil palm plantation sites and timber, gas, oil and coal extraction companies. Beyond this, local communities claim ownership of land based on historic or customary rights.
Fires are affecting forests and peat lands in Indonesia. This is problematic because these areas are often declared de facto open areas for which the government grants licenses to concession companies. Overlapping permits can result in farmers being displaced on their own lands, tenure conflicts and the criminalization or eviction of rural communities.
The rolling hills of Burundi, or collines, represent the heart of its rural society. Burundi has a growing population and one of the highest population densities in Africa, yet 90% of its nine million inhabitants live in rural areas and many rely on subsistence farming for food.