Community-Based Land Governance Systems

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Liz Alden Wily:

"These are lands which communities own in common and then allocate rights to members. Lands for homesteads are usually allocated to families.

Off-farm lands are held by members collectively. Rules apply. Many are tried and tested ‘customs’. Others are new, introduced to meet new conditions. Rules get tougher as populations, land shortage, and threats rise. Boundaries become more precise.

Each generation is stricter than the last about who can use what and how, less tolerant of leaders who make deals behind their back, and more demanding to be consulted.

Customs that don’t fit citizen rights diminish, such as denying widows the right to remain on the land. Those who break the rules are not beaten but set to work clearing the road or cleaning the water tank." (



"Globally, between two and three billion people acquire and uphold rights through these regimes.

Over half the world’s land mass is subject to such norms. Formal recognition has soared in recent decades, but still covering only one fifth of community lands [1].

These operate in all regions. One million villages in China and another one million in India govern both farms and common properties.

Vast tracts of Latin America have been transferred to communities, most to those who define themselves as Indigenous Peoples.

Seventy four per cent of the landmass of Australia, 40 per cent of Canada, significant proportions of forests in Eastern Europe, Sweden, Italy and Switzerland are also legally community property.

Cast your eye over national level data at to see multiple other examples." (

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