Namati’s Community Land Protection Program supports communities to use national land laws to protect their customary and indigenous lands. Our integrated approach combines the legal and technical work of mapping and documentation with the local governance work of resolving land conflicts, ensuring intra-community equity, and strengthening mechanisms for accountable and participatory management of land and natural resources.
We work in partnership with national and local organizations to implement community land protection programs and research impacts. We also support governments to enact and implement legislation that protects community land rights and advocate for increased global protections for community land and natural resource rights.
Explore our publications, updates, and galleries at: http://namati.org/protecting-community-lands/
There are five parts to the community land protection approach that we use and promote. You can view a diagram of this process here or download it as a PDF: Namati Community Land Protection Process.pdf (933.2 KB)
1. Lay the groundwork, which includes:
- A participatory process of defining the ‘community’
- A “Visioning” exercise to help community members to plan for the future and understand the benefits of seeking formal documentation of their land rights.
- A basic valuation exercise to help communities understand the real value of their lands and natural resources, based on the replacement cost of what they currently harvest and use.
- Legal education on all relevant laws and policies, such as national constitutions, laws related to land, relevant inheritance laws, and environmental laws.
- The creation of a “Coordinating Committee” responsible for ensuring widespread participation in all community land protection activities as well as spreading information about all project efforts throughout the community.
- Election & training of Community Land Mobilizers to lead their community through the community land protection process.
2. Harmonize Boundaries and Document Lands, which includes:
- Participatory map-making.
- Negotiation of boundaries with neighbors and land conflict resolution.
- Marking and recording locations of boundaries using a combination of: Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or written agreements between communities, planted boundary trees or other locally-valid markers, and location coordinates (taken by GPS or survey).
3. Strengthen Community Governance of Lands and Natural Resources, which includes:
- Discussion and adoption of by-laws for community land administration and natural resources management. This is a three- to nine-month, time-intensive process that involves full community participation in the preparation of three successive drafts of local by-laws, then adoption by community-wide vote.
- Checking that local rules do not conflict with national laws.
- Integration of financial management into local rules.
- Creation of a zoning plan to link local rules to the landscape.
- Design and election of a representative “Land Governing Council” composed of existing customary leaders as well as representatives from all stakeholder groups in the community, especially women, youth and members of marginalized groups.
- Building relationships with existing leadership structures and local government officials to support enforcement of the community’s by-laws.
4. Pursue Legal Recognition: If desired, complete national legal procedures to formally document lands and register as community land (if national legal framework supports registration).
5. Prepare to Prosper, which includes training and tools on the following subjects, as requested by communities:
- Revisiting the shared community vision to translate it into a clear Community Action Plan
- Connection to livelihood support programs and resources, to ensure that communities can earn a sustainable income from their lands and natural resources;
- Identification of ecosystem regeneration opportunities, to ensure a thriving natural environment and promote permaculture/sustainable agriculture;
- Preparation of strategies and community priorities for negotiations with potential investors who might approach them seeking land;
In our experience supporting communities to document their lands, we have found that while these steps may be reordered and adapted to the local context, each step is necessary to ensure successful protection and promote community-driven development and prosperity.