Land Tenure Rights for Subsistence Commons

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David Bollier:

"Legal recognition for land used by subsistence commoners could help save tens of thousands of commons that people have relied upon for generations. These lands – an estimated 8.54 million hectares – are increasing being seized by investors as part of a massive land grab in the global South. Fortunately, there are some efforts to formally recognize customary rights to land use, which, if implemented, could help commoners resist the investor-oriented terms of national laws and international treaties. Liz Alden Wiley, a land reform expert and specialist based in Africa, and others are pushing for legal reforms that do not require property rights in land to be fungible, based on individual ownership, or formally registered in order for land to be recognized as real property – measures that have been adopted by some African and Latin America states.

Wiley has written: [1] “In light of the fact that most allocations to investors are in the form of renewable medium-term leases of up to 99 years, it may be expected that loss of common properties will remove these lands from meaningful access, use and livelihood benefit for at least one generation and potentially up to four generations.” This is a recipe for decades of famine, poverty, political turmoil and additional forms of fossil-fuel-intensive “development.”

More Information


* Memorandum: Reinventing Law for the Commons. A Strategy Memo for the Heinrich Böll Foundation. By David Bollier. Commons Strategies Group, 2015

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