Who Owns the World’s Land? – Global State of Indigenous, Afro-descendant and Local Community Land Rights Recognition from 2015-2020

June 2023
Chloe Ginsburg and David Kroeker-Maus (Rights and Resources Initiative)

This update of Rights and Resources Initiative’s (RRI) previous assessments of the state of land ownership globally includes comprehensively and collaboratively researched data for the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region, updated since the first edition came out in 2015. RRI is a global Coalition of 21 Partners and more than 150 rightsholders organizations and their allies dedicated to advancing the forestland and resource rights of Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendant Peoples, local communities, and the women within these communities. While headlines and key messages are pitched at the global level, legislative developments in Kenya and Liberia are highlighted as outcomes of sustained advocacy and civil society engagement on land rights and tenure security. For SSA as a whole, the total area owned by Indigenous Peoples, Afro- descendant Peoples, and local communities is reported to have increased from 128.08 million Ha in 2015 to 165.49 million Ha, equivalent to an increase from 7.42% to 9.59% of the total SSA land area. The data covers only 23 countries in SSA, and the authors note that most of the increase came in Kenya and Liberia, as a result of the passing of the 2016 Community Land Act in Kenya and the 2018 Land Rights Act in Liberia. This may be indicative of how more secure tenure rights for local and indigenous peoples across the continent can be achieved by continued civil society engagement with governments to achieve policy, legal and regulatory reforms. The authors note, however, the shrinking of civic space that has occurred in many countries as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as an area to be watched. Also noted is a new law recognizing the rights of Indigenous Pygmy peoples in the DRC, adopted in 2022 and whose impact has yet to be seen. The detailed endnotes spanning 33 pages of the report contain invaluable references to data sources on the 23 SSA countries covered in the research.