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Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Helping Communities Protect Their Lands & the Many Benefits

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendant groups, pastoralists, hunters and gathers, and other types of local communities have collectively held and managed their traditional lands for hundreds, even thousands of years. Many of these groups steward their land and natural resources sustainably, as they serve as primary sources of food, medicine, fuel and construction materials, as well as employment, income, welfare, security, culture and spirituality. Community land also provides a host of regional and global benefits, such as climate change mitigation, wildlife habitat, water purification, tourism and more.

Learn how the lands of Indigenous peoples and other local communities provide critical ecosystem services that generate local, regional and global benefits such as climate mitigation and biodiversity conservation.

Despite their value, few traditional lands are legally recognized as belonging to communities; even less is registered in a government cadaster or documented with an official certificate or title. As a result, most community land is vulnerable to being taken by governments, corporations, or well-connected local elites for development, such as commercial agriculture or mining.

When communities or their organizations take steps to protect their land, many face threats. At least 200 environmental defenders were killed in 2021 alone; more than 40% were Indigenous people.

WRI aims to raise awareness of the value of community lands and elevate the voices of the people who call them home.

Globally and through our international offices in Africa, Asia and Latin America, WRI conducts research and develops tools to help communities as well as their organizations and allies protect their lands. WRI documents the contributions of and threats to community land; helps people map, secure, monitor and defend their homes and resources; and promotes participatory policies and mechanisms that include communities in all decisions that affect them.

Cover image by Dreamstime Agency |


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