Indigenous peoples manage or own at least one quarter of world's land surface

A new study sheds light on the large portion of the world's land that Indigenous peoples own and the implications of this ownership.

Tyler MacDonald | Jan 22, 2020

A new study reveals that Indigenous Peoples have use, management, and ownership rights over a minimum of the one quarter of the world's land surface. The data supports the push for the recognition of Indigenous rights to their waters and lands as both an ethical obligation as well as to meet both local and global conservation efforts.

"Understanding the extent of lands over which Indigenous Peoples retain traditional connection is critical for several conservation and climate agreements," said Stephen Garnett of Charles Darwin University in Australia, who led the international consortium that created the maps. "Not until we pulled together the best available published information on Indigenous lands did we really appreciate the extraordinary scale of Indigenous Peoples' ongoing influence," he said.

"We are not surprised this has never been done before," said Ian Leiper, also from Charles Darwin University. "It has taken three years to track down credible sources of data from around the world."

"In many countries Indigenous peoples are taking an active role in conservation," saidNeil Burgess of the United Nations Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge. "What this new research shows is the huge potential for further collaborative partnerships between indigenous people, conservation practitioners and governments. This should yield major benefits for conservation of ecologically valuable landscapes, ecosystems and genes for future generations."

But these partnerships must be created quickly to beat pressure for the development of Indigenous lands.

"Where I work in central Africa, Indigenous Peoples are synonymous with tropical rainforests in the best condition," saidJohn E.Fa, co-author on the study. "But change is happening fast. Empowering Indigenous Peoples will be key to conserving these forests."

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