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Research Report

Tenure Rights and Beyond: Community Access to Forest Resources in Latin America

Anne M. Larson
Peter Cronkleton
Deborah Barry
Pablo Pacheco
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2008
Pages: 104
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-6)

    A substantial portion of the world’s forests, between 79% (White and Martin 2002) and 84% (FAO 2006), is public property under the formal ownership of the state. But an important shift has begun to occur since the late 1970s in Latin America, and more recently in Africa and Asia, such that in developing countries at least 22% of all forests are owned (14%) or held in reserve (8%) for communities (White and Martin 2002). This trend has been particularly remarkable in Latin America, where 149 million ha were transferred to communities between 1985 and 2002 in four countries alone (Bolivia,...

  2. (pp. 7-12)

    Land reform has been a central development issue in Latin America for the past 50 years, and since the middle of the twentieth century (and even earlier in Mexico) the majority of the countries in the region have designed and implemented some type of agrarian reform (see de Janvry 1981). In countries with available public land, however, it has often been easier to avoid the political complexities of land redistribution by distributing so-called uninhabited or ‘empty’ lands in these agricultural frontiers through the promotion of colonization programmes. Forests were sometimes seen as unowned or state-owned wastelands (IDB 1977), and colonists...

  3. (pp. 13-24)

    Important statutory changes with regard to forest tenure have been enacted in each of the four countries studied. This section summarizes those changes with particular emphasis on, but not limited to, the tenure changes most relevant to our case studies and thus provides an introduction to the cases (see Table 2 for a summary).

    One of the most striking aspects of the forest reform, which differentiates it from the agrarian reforms of the past, is that the new statutory right to forests is based on a combination of livelihoods, conservation, indigenous rights and agrarian rights justifications and objectives (Pacheco et...

  4. (pp. 25-52)

    What tenure rights do communities have in practice that they did not have before? What have they lost? And why do they not always have all the rights implied by the statutory change? This section discusses the implementation of the statutory rights presented above. Each country or case is described in turn. A series of issues are taken into account, though not necessarily with the same degree of emphasis. The goal is to present the most important variables shaping the characteristics and outcomes of the process in each context. Each case study begins with a brief introduction, a description of...

  5. (pp. 53-70)

    Communities may benefit from forests in a number of ways. These include access to subsistence goods (fuelwood, building materials, medicines, leaves, roots etc.), goods for sale (timber, NTFPs, reforestation incentives and payments for environmental services), income from employment in both formal and informal sectors, and indirect benefits such as spiritual sites, territorial identity and environmental services (FAO/DFID 2001). Obtaining rights to land and forests can also have other important intangible benefits such as empowerment. Though the study identified a number of these benefits at a variety of sites, this section primarily analyzes the degree to which new tenure rights have...

  6. (pp. 71-78)

    The case studies demonstrate that a number of communities have, in fact, gained important new tenure rights and that some of them have also been able to increase livelihood benefits derived from forest resources. In a few cases, the experiences with community enterprises demonstrate pioneering, cutting-edge efforts at promoting sustainable development alternatives and new opportunities for communities, particularly in remote areas often seen as ungovernable and entrenched in poverty and conflict.

    Nevertheless, the process of turning statutory rights into property rights in practice and, then, property rights into benefits confronts a series of obstacles that often attenuate these new rights....

  7. (pp. 79-81)

    The case studies demonstrate that important new tenure rights have been granted to forest-based communities and that, in some cases, improvements have been substantial with regard to tenure security over land and forest resources and to livelihoods benefits from those resources. At the same time, these new rights are shaped by a variety of conflicts and demands on forest resources, and their full potential is attenuated by the loss of rights incurred in the process of putting statutory rights into practice, or constructing the property rules, and by the difficulties associated with regulatory frameworks, credit and markets for forest products....