Secure Land Rights to Address Climate Change

Roughly 25% of global emissions come from land use, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Climate change is putting high pressure on land and increasing the vulnerability of communities who rely on it for their livelihoods.

The impacts of increasingly unpredictable climates and natural disasters on land use, land productivity, land degradation and wildlife habitat destruction are undeniable. This calls for urgent holistic land management solutions and responses that restore ecosystems, build resilience, reduce emissions and strengthen land rights. If done right, sustainable and inclusive land management and land governance can be a powerful tool for tackling climate change.

With secure land rights, efforts to mitigate climate change and adapt to its consequences are more effective

Photo: Cynthia Matonhodze / Oxfam

Land is under growing human pressure, climate change is making it worse

Current patterns of land use, spurred by agricultural and energy policies, are driving global emissions and exacerbating deforestation and ecosystem degradation, with large-scale monoculture and livestock production among the main sources along with extractive industries. Economic dependence on expansion of natural resource exploitation boosts unequal land use and irresponsible land governance in addition to worsening climate change.

Secure land rights for indigenous peoples is a mitigation strategy

The collective natural resources governed by indigenous peoples and local communities are biodiversity hotspots that maintain the ecological balance of our planet and help regulate the climate that enables global food production.
IPCC research has shown that Indigenous Peoples and local communities manage at least 17 percent, or 293,061 million metric tons (Mt) of the total carbon stored in the forestlands of assessed countries.

Many global commitments to prevent further climate change are land-based

Our future depends on our capacity to stabilize the climate and limit global warming to 1.5 C°. To compensate the damage of emissions that cannot be reduced, carbon sequestration from the atmosphere needs to happen in alternative ways.
The most likely means of achieving carbon sequestration at scale will be via land-based solutions, such as afforestation, bio energy with carbon capture and storage.

Land-based solutions to carbon sequestration must take into account community rights to free, prior and informed consent. Land-based solutions can lead to an explosion in demand for land, threatening the right to land and food of many, especially of people and communities whose livelihoods depend on land.

Climate mitigation in agriculture and forestry should not be at the expense of small-scale producers and indigenous peoples

The use of land for agriculture, while supporting food availability for a growing population worldwide, is an important contributor to net greenhouse gas emissions, as well as loss of natural ecosystems and declining biodiversity. According to the IPCC report on Land and Climate, ‘agriculture, forestry and other land use activities’ represents 23% of total net anthropogenic emissions of GHGs.

Agricultural practices that include local and indigenous knowledge can contribute to overcoming the combined challenges of climate change, food insecurity, biodiversity loss, desertification and land degradation.
Climate mitigation initiatives should not be undertaken at the expense of the food security and livelihoods of poor people in developing countries. Initiatives which aim to reduce emissions, but not necessarily through locally rooted solutions, can take a toll on food security and livelihoods of small-scale farmers and fisherfolk, and on the use of indigenous farming technologies and knowledge.

Climate action in agriculture should focus on helping small-scale food producers, especially in developing countries, adapt to climate change while stopping expansion of large-scale industrial agriculture, which should be held accountable to reduce carbon emissions.

"Climate change is both a cause and a consequence of land inequality, reducing agricultural productivity in parts of the world and forcing many off the land altogether. While large-scale, environmentally damaging monocultures contribute to climate change, more sustainable land use practices of small-scale farmers and indigenous peoples are threatened by evictions, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and excessive pressure on water and other natural resources."

More at Land Coalition

Photo: Kimlong Meng / Oxfam Novib

Subsaharan Africa And South Asia

Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions or ASSAR is a five-year research project that aims to deepen understandings of climate vulnerability and adaptation in semi-arid regions to inform and influence climate change adaptation practice and policy. It aims to embed proactive, widespread adaptation in development activities and advance adaptive livelihoods for vulnerable groups in dry lands by building capacity and closing knowledge gaps. The project will be implemented in four regions (Eastern, Southern and Western Africa and South Asia).


Cacao del Peru Norte SAC, now known as Tamshi SAC, is a Peruvian cacao plantation operating despite vigorous evidence of environmental and social misconduct. After a historical ruling in July 2019, where the company was condemned to pay a 4.67 million USD fine and prison sentences where given to the former CEO and managers of the plantation for illegal trafficking of timber forest products, the company appealed.

Despite a strong response by civil society, including from Oxfam in Peru, through a powerful campaign involving media coverage, social media campaigns, civil society statements, and tapping influencers and journalists to demand justice, the second court revoked the first ruling. The case has now reached the Supreme Court in Lima.


An adaptive territorial management model of development combines the management of natural resources, institutions and strengths found in each locality, with the reality of climate change. It begins by understanding the local manifestations and effects of climate change as well as the adaptations required by each culture and social group. This multidimensional approach is rooted in equitable and sustainable land use, supports diversified production for food security and strengthens community organization and grassroots participation to engage with local institutions in order to enable effective land management and adapt to local conditions, including the effects of climate change.


Through its program on small holder agriculture, Oxfam India focuses on addressing the identity of women as farmers, strengthening the economic leadership of women farmers, ensuring their land rights, and making public investments in agriculture accessible to small farmers, especially women farmers. Oxfam India is working to bridge this gap and is supporting the AAROH Campaign in Uttar Pradesh to bring social and legal recognition to women farmers.