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Business as usual? The role of large-scale land acquisition in carbon offset projects and deforestation-free supply chains

11 July 2023
Christoph Kubitza

In the wake of global climate action, large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs) for renewable energy and carbon offset projects will increase the pressure on land. In addition, deforestation-free value chains that are also intended to reduce carbon emissions will require changes in the conduct of LSLAs. This session assessed the scope of these investments and policies and reviewed their livelihood and environmental impacts in the Global South.


Key takeaways

New Country Portfolio for Argentina

27 July 2022

The Land Portal published a new country portfolio for Argentina as part of our Country Insights initiative.  The initiative seeks to expand knowledge about how countries govern their land, the challenges they face, and the innovative solutions they find to manage land tenure issues. Each portfolio comes with a detailed description of the land governance context and a collection of related blogs, news, publications, statistical datasets and more.


Governance of forests and its impact on the persistence and re-emergence of forest patches: An archetype approach

01 July 2022
Mr. Frank Mintah

Studies in forestry have predominantly focused on the degradation of forests, with significant policy attention across the global and national levels. Despite reported increases in deforestation in tropical forests (Wimberly et al. 2022) , there is scattered evidence of forest resurgence around the world (Chazdon et al. 2020) . Yet, there are limited empirical studies to explain the governance factors influencing such forms of transition.

The power of storytelling

18 May 2022
Lilian Lee


The Land Portal advocates for more and better open land data, but more and better have never been our end objectives. Data must be used; it needs a purpose. One of the ways we practice what we preach is through our data stories. 

A Story about Maize: Tracing a value chain from land-use to supermarket shelf

13 May 2022
Daniel Hayward


Maize is a key global cash crop, produced in every continent except Antarctica. As a flex crop, it has multiple uses including for direct human consumption, as an ingredient for animal feed, as a key component in processed foods, or in ethanol production. According to figures from FAOSTAT, global production increased from 0.2 to 1.2 billion tons between 1961 and 2020.

Indigenous peoples and local communities can save our forests: but governments must put them on the map

21 March 2022
Anna Locke
Mr. Malcolm Childress
Mr. Peter Veit
Ward Anseeuw

A new study, published ahead of the International Day of Forests, warns that the Amazon is now nearing its tipping point; its ability to recover from disruption, such as droughts or fires, is rapidly reducing, increasing the risk of dieback of the Amazon rainforest and potentially releasing up to 90 billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 

Securing and protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) can help safeguard our tropical forests, allow the natural world to recover its resilience and protect us against climate change. At COP26, countries and major donors pledged $1.7bn to support IPLC forest tenure rights, recognising the crucial role IPLCs play in protecting forests and biodiversity. 

Yet, unmapped and undocumented, many long-standing IPLC stewards of vulnerable lands are often legally invisible even to their own governments. According to the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), IPLCs customarily hold and use more than 50% of the world’s land, but only legally own 10% of the world’s land; another 8% of the world’s land is designated for their use.

This lack of legal recognition can make such communities insecure about their ability to stay on their land, and prey to land grabs by those seeking gains from mining, logging or opportunities from carbon credits.     

The pledges and promises of COP26 now need to be followed up with deeds. Urgent action is needed by governments to respond to IPLC demands for legal recognition, protection and enforcement of rights, and support IPLC aspirations for sovereignty, control of natural resources, and pursuit of human and cultural well-being.

A pathway to scaling up recognition of IPLC rights  

Most of the forest-containing countries of the world have some sort of legal basis through which IPLC rights can be recognised, but too few are actually using these laws to provide recognition to IPLC groups and territories. In many cases, to do so would contravene powerful vested interests in timber, resource extraction, and even interests in the conservation sector in some places. 

The world needs a better pathway to scale up recognition of IPLC rights, one which demands action and holds governments to account. We already have tools that we can use to strengthen accountability and raise the political costs of inaction: improved “rules of the game” for carbon credits based on forest conservation which recognise IPLCs; bi-lateral and multilateral assistance linked to actions to recognise and enforce IPLC rights; moratoria on forest products from non-compliant countries; and supporting organised pressure from IPLC groups. 

This process will also require more transparent information about IPLCs specific needs, about where and how progress is being made, and about the outcomes and impacts of improved recognition of rights.


Ensuring IPLCs are at the centre of decisions over their future

New efforts are being made to capture and disseminate information on IPLCs’ specific needs and concerns. A forthcoming study of five IPLC communities (campesino, Indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombian communities) in Colombia, by the Javeriana University with the International Land Coalition and Prindex, assessed the perceived tenure security of people within those communities – one of the only direct measures of tenure security for IPLC groups collected to date. When asked how worried they were about losing their land or property (one measure of perceived tenure insecurity), the percentage of people who said they were worried was meaningfully higher than the national average (urban and rural) in Colombia; almost 80% of respondents said they were worried or very worried about losing land compared to the average across all of Colombia in 2018 of 24%.

The $1.7bn on the table is a great step forward for recognition of IPLC rights, but plans on how to allocate this money need to be made and followed up on, based on the principle that IPLCs themselves should be the central recipients and decision-makers about the investments. The challenge is now to turn these pledged sums into specific commitments that catalyse the pathway to scaling up rights recognition and best help halt, and reverse, forest loss.  

IPLC leadership, financial contributors, governments and the commercial interests in forest need shared information about whose rights are to be clarified and protected, and where securing tenure would have the greatest environmental benefits. 

Part of the challenge for allocating these funds effectively to scale up IPLC rights is that ILPCs are not one homogenous group of people, and do not represent homogenous use of lands. Globally – and even nationally – they encompass multiple approaches to land use, govern themselves with different types of internal organisation and cultural practices, and have varying types of relationships with state authorities and forest management agencies. 

In some cases, IPLC-held lands also host non-IPLC groups or overlap with potentially competing uses like mining or wildlife protection. As different communities face different pressures and incentives in the way they use their land, the same allocation of money could have very different outcomes.

The study in Colombia revealed that different communities living close by had very different concerns and experiences with their tenure security. For instance, members of the campesino community were worried about losing their home due to lack of money or resources. But this was not an important reason for the other communities. Findings from the Global Comparative Study of Forest Tenure Reform in Peru reinforce this: analysis of 25 Indigenous communities over 40 years in the Peruvian Amazon shows that communities experience far-ranging degrees of deforestation, reforestation and natural forest regeneration, economic activities (for example mining, logging or ecotourism) and world views about nature. 

To hold governments, donors, carbon markets and forest users accountable, and get the best returns on investments for forest rights recognition, we need to know which communities are demanding rights help, the kind of assistance they require, and where and how scaling up IPLC rights will best protect forests and other vulnerable lands.

We also need to be able to track whether funds are having their desired impact – strengthening tenure security and improving forest and land cover to mitigate climate change, restore biodiversity and enhance ecosystems. Monitoring where the money is going and how it is spent is an important start but ultimately, we need to go beyond that to ensure that it is spent in the most effective way possible. 


Combining commitments, knowledge and data to achieve progress at scale

While we don’t have all the data and know-how we need to support an accountability framework to monitor the $1.7bn immediately, some data that could help us predict these outcomes and channel the funding to the right people is already out there, sitting in silos while our window for action closes.

In addition to gathering new data, we need to work better with what we’ve got – this means a commitment to open data, ramping up collaboration, making the most of new technologies and longstanding participatory data collection methods – and importantly, putting IPLCs at the heart of decision making, planning and monitoring.

That’s why Prindex, Landmark and the Land and Carbon Lab are coming together to explore ways of integrating our different datasets and technological know-how to scale up the mapping IPLC lands, assess their tenure security, and monitor the impact on forest and land cover.

So far, Landmark has just a quarter of the world’s IPLC lands mapped on the platform – making more visible who those groups are and where they live – and is scaling up their coverage around the world.

The Land and Carbon Lab uses remote sensing data to monitor forest loss and is now working with Google Earth to expand the depth and breadth of that data to track all forms of land cover, land use and land-use change globally, plus the associated carbon stocks and flows.

Prindex assesses people’s sense of insecurity, which can be used to predict and influence land use behaviour, with an approach that can be tailored to different tenure forms and systems. 

Combined, these data points can provide a clearer picture to plan how to support IPLC-led plans for allocating the new funding and monitor the impact it is having. Our hope is to create national datasets, regional and global maps, working with IPLC groups all over the world to think through how best to do this.

We can achieve progress at scale: we have the know-how and expertise, particularly within IPLC groups, and we’ve already made a good start at collecting data. Let’s work together to hold governments accountable to implement and enforce their own laws, scale up and accelerate action for recognition of IPLC territories so we have our coalitions and plans in place before COP27. Without this, the forest resources and the forest peoples who protect them may not be able to play the role in climate mitigation and adaptation on which so much depends.



Meet the people our leaders should be listening to at COP26

29 October 2021
Anna Diski
Helle Abelvik-Lawson

World leaders are failing ordinary people on climate change. From Fairbourne in Wales to China and Japan; the Amazon and Congo rainforests to the Pacific Islands – here are some of the people our leaders should be listening to at the COP26 global climate talks.

World leaders are meeting this week at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow to agree stronger pledges to stop the world warming to dangerous levels.

Deforestation in Cambodia: A story of land concessions, migration and resource exploitation

24 September 2021
Daniel Hayward
Jean-Christophe Diepart

Since the turn of the century, 27,000 km2 of land in Cambodia has been deforested. This is 14.8% of total land area in the country. It also represents 26.4% of forest cover as existed in 2000.

An acceleration in deforestaton is seen from the early 2000s to 2010. For the land‐grab aficionado, the trend runs parallel to the ‘global land rush’ and mirrors the evolution of agricultural commodites prices.

How do we channel the ESG investment boom towards low-income countries?

15 September 2021
Joseph Feyertag
Judith Tyson

Private financial flows that are tracked against certain Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria reached record highs in 2020. But this boom may not be having a material impact, especially in low-income countries (LICs) which are most in need of it. Identifying and managing unknown financial risks can help re-balance the risk-reward ratio for sustainable investors.