Resource information

Date of publication: 
January 2012

Significant progress has been made over the past decade or so in the development of policy and legislation that support the recognition of customary rights to land, with important legal rulings in Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, South Sudan, and South Africa. At the same time, the strengthening of communities’ traditional rights to use resources has progressed through community forest reserves and community conservation areas. However, many commons remain highly vulnerable, with land being removed by governments for national parks and large tracts appropriated for commercial agricultural investment on a regular basis. In particular this is true of the rangelands, where external interest in land for agriculture, and in its resources for other commercial ventures such as tourism, has grown. Even the most progressive policies and legislation still fail to provide adequate protection to many rangeland users and, most commonly, to the poorest and least powerful. At the same time, customary institutions that would have provided adequate protection in the past have been weakened due to both internal and external influences. This is the situation faced by many members of the International Land Coalition (ILC) working with rural communities who are highly vulnerable to land and resource appropriation and loss. In an attempt to address this, in October 2010 ILC brought a group of its members together in Addis Ababa to develop a learning initiative that will explore this topic through 2011–2012.1 The aim of this initiative is to identify ways in which the security of customary land users over their common property resources (including land) can be strengthened. In particular, it will focus on multi-use landscapes or territories such as rangelands, where the vulnerability of land and resource users is particularly high. As a first step in the development of the learning initiative, this scoping paper explores past and present experiences of land and resource tenure in rangelands (predominantly in Africa, where the bulk of the rangelands are located). It discusses the limitations of many of the tools and systems used to date, and identifies alternatives that have potential for providing greater security of tenure to rangeland users in the future. The further exploration of these alternatives will be the task of those taking part in the learning initiative over the next year. This document is a Working Document, and feedback, input and suggestions are welcomed by the author.

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