To conserve tropical forests and wildlife, protect the rights of people who rely on them

Kashwan, Prakash

Publisher:  The Ecologist
Date Written:  26/04/2017
Year Published:  2017  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20933

Who are the best guardians of forests and other wild places? Governments? Conservation NGOs? Corporations? No, writes Prakash Kashwan, it's the indigenous peoples who have lived in harmony with their environment for millennia. But to be able do so, they must first be accorded rights to their historic lands and resources, both in law and in practice.



Mexico's experience shows it is possible to protect land rights without harming natural resources. After the Mexican revolution at the beginning of the 20th century, the government launched an extensive program of agrarian reforms.

Large-scale land redistribution put nearly 70% of the country's forestland under the control of peasant collectives. Along with strong social mobilization, this process gave peasants a voice in political and policy decisions.

Contrary to fears that political populism would cause large-scale destruction of forests, these reforms in Mexico led to the emergence of the strongest community forestry programs in the world and contributed to the sustainable protection of Mexico's forest and wildlife resources.

Local groups collectively control and manage forest commons by developing their own management plans. They include sustainable harvesting of forest produce, including timber, for consumption and commercial sale. These community groups also have the authority to create forest management rules that work well in a local context. Government agencies cannot override these rules.
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