Preventing deforestation is as crucial to curbing climate change as reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Yet an astonishing 3 million+ acres of forest—the equivalent of 50 soccer fields per minute— are destroyed every year. A report released by the World Resources Institute analyzes a potential solution to rampant deforestation: securing land rights for indigenous communities.
Millions of communities around the world depend on forests for their livelihoods and basic needs but lack the legal rights to manage them. The WRI report, Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change, offers compelling evidence that securing land rights for indigenous communities leads to healthier forests and lower CO2 emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. While governments currently claim ownership of most of the world’s forests, local communities who live in them have the most incentive to protect them. Indeed, the report shows that deforestation rates in areas where communities have strong land rights are considerably lower than in areas where they do not.
These findings strongly support the Rainforest Alliance’s work with forest communities around the world to develop the sustainable harvest of timber and non-timber goods (such as Brazil nuts)—an approach that keeps ecosystems intact while strengthening local economies. Through our community forestry projects in Cameroon, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru, we have improved the livelihoods of thousands of people and conserved millions of acres of forests that filter water, stabilize soil, absorb carbon dioxide, and provide habitat for wildlife.