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Summer 2014 Newsletter
In this issue:

Program Updates

New Staff

Namati’s Community Land Protection Program is growing! In the past few months, we have welcomed four new staff members:
We also have several new staff working on community land protection in our Burma and Sierra Leone teams – see our staff list for details.

With our new staff we plan to expand our advocacy efforts and cultivate new partnerships across Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

New Developments

In recent months, Namati’s Community Land Protection Program has been reflecting on the long-term goals of our work, asking “Community land protection for what ends?” In response, we are expanding our Community Land Protection Process to encompass not only formal protection and documentation of community lands and natural resources, but also new practices that contribute to flourishing communities. We are adding new steps to the process as well as resources and training modules designed to support communities to plan and direct the course of their future growth and prosperity.
These additions include:

1. Adding “Community Visioning” to the Community Land Protection Process  

(see LEMU’s ‘Lesson from the Field’ below)

2. Five New Training Modules

  • Ecosystem regeneration and conservation of natural resources
  • Community land and natural resource valuation
  • Empowered, informed negotiation with potential investors
  • Rural planning for community-driven development
  • Responsible financial management of community funds

3. Three New Strategies to Ensure Successful Process Outcomes

  • A more comprehensive women’s empowerment strategy
  • Intergenerational transmission of traditional knowledge to promote flourishing cultural identity and stewardship of the local environment
  • Livelihood support, achieved by connecting the communities we work with to local NGOs with relevant skills and expertise

4. Revised Monitoring & Evaluation Tools and Longitudinal Impact Evaluation

Real time evaluation and analysis of the impacts of our community land protection efforts is central to Namati’s work. Our monthly data analysis allows us to continuously improve our work and ensure that our efforts match the challenges communities face. Namati is currently in the process of improving our monthly M&E forms to allow us gather a wider range of information and improve the specificity of our national and international advocacy efforts. Once field-tested for six months, we look forward to sharing these monthly M&E tools with any organization seeking to evaluate its community land protection efforts. Our aim is to create an integrated global M&E database that can, by identifying cross-national trends, allow advocates to more effectively support community land protection efforts. 
In addition, Namati is now collaborating with Arun Agrawal of the University of Michigan, Heather Huntington, a Land Tenure Research Specialist at Cloudburst Group, and Alexandra Hartman, a PhD Candidate in Political Science at Yale University on a longitudinal impact evaluation of the long-term results of community land protection efforts. The aim of this research is to gather evidence to support a deeper understanding of the results of community land protection efforts over time, and, if the impacts prove positive, to use the data to shift the global dialogue on tenure security more squarely towards integrated, governance-focused community land protection. Agrawal’s team finished collecting the baseline data from more than 2,000 respondents across the 90 participating communities in April and is now analyzing the information gathered.

5. Casebase: An Online Database of Case Law for Community Land Protection

Namati is in the process of developing a new online database of international and national case law on protecting community land and resources. The database is designed to support legal advocates and communities to craft better litigation strategies and successful legal arguments when seeking to protect their land and natural resource claims in court.  The Community Land and Resources Casebase will offer searchable records and analyses of international and national case law related to community land and resource dispossession. To ensure that the database is comprehensive, we are always seeking new cases; please send good case law from your nation to

6. ‘Lessons from the Field’

We are collaborating with our partner organizations to identify and share emerging ‘Lessons from the Field,’ short essays that detail specific challenges faced  - and solutions identified  - when supporting communities to protect their lands and resources.  See below for summaries of our first “Lessons from the Field” - full versions will be available on our website.

Scaling-Up at the Grassroots

Addressing Land Injustices in Burma

Namati and our local partner in Burma, the Civil and Political Rights Campaign Group, trained and now support a network of 30 community-based paralegals who help resolve a wide range of land-related injustices. These paralegals empower large groups of farmers to recover land grabbed years or even decades ago by the government or private firms.  In addition to client support, the paralegals rigorously track each case to build our understanding of how government is making decisions and implementing land laws. We aim to use this data to advocate for improvements in the law itself as well as ease farmers’ access to land-related government systems.

National Scale-up and Expansion across Mozambique, Uganda and Liberia


Namati and partner Centro Terra Viva (CTV) have expanded our community land protection work to include two new districts (Inharime and Zavala) in Inhambane Province and one new district (Palma) in Cabo Delgado Province. We are now working with 29 communities across six districts in Mozambique. CTV also led a training workshop on facilitating community land delimitation throughout the nation, attended by 26 paralegals from the Centre for Legal and Judicial Training in Maputo and 20 local officials from communities and district offices.


Namati and partner Land and Equity Movement in Uganda (LEMU) have expanded our work across six districts of northern Uganda (Oyam, Otuke, Amolatar, Kole, Apac, and Lira) to 32 active communities. LEMU has trained and is working closely with national District Environment Officers (DEOs) and Subcounty Environment Focal Persons to strengthen enforcement of regulations that protect wetlands and nearby community lands from encroachment. This partnership is now supporting community efforts to write by-laws that address environmental conservation and resolution of natural resource-related disputes. Over the past year, LEMU launched a new website, opened a Community Land Protection Program office in Lira, and built a strong and capable field team focused exclusively on community land protection.


In Liberia, Namati partner Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) also launched a new website, grew its staff, and increased its community land protection operations to three new counties: SDI is now working with 65 communities across River Gee, Maryland, Lofa and Rivercess counties.  In Lofa County, SDI trained the Liberian Land Commission and the USAID-funded Land Conflict Resolution Project on how best to support communities to complete the community land protection efforts detailed in Liberia’s new Land Rights Policy [pdf] (adopted in May 2013). In addition, SDI and Namati successfully launched a pilot “Early Warning System” in 21 communities across Rivercess County, supported by a grant from Humanity United. The Early Warning System provides immediate support to communities when they are approached by a potential investor seeking the use of community lands or resources. As part of this pilot, SDI maintains a hotline that community members can call to report visits by investors. When a call comes in, SDI staff provide immediate legal training, advice and support. All cases are tracked in a database so that SDI and Namati can identify trends in investment activity that can inform our policy advocacy efforts.

Learning & Collaboration

Africa Regional Community Land and Natural Resource Protection Symposium

From November 5 to 7, 2013, Namati and Natural Justice convened a three-day Africa Regional Community Land and Natural Resource Protection Symposium. At the symposium, front-line community land protection advocates from 20 organizations working in 11 African nations shared successful strategies and brainstormed solutions to common challenges.  This report details the symposium proceedings. The participants are now contributing to a joint publication, Protecting Community Lands and Resources: Case Studies of Front-Line Advocates’ Strategies and Best Practices, to be published in late 2014.

Collaboration with Thai Land Rights NGOs

In December 2013, American Jewish World Service invited Namati to share its community land protection work with grassroots land rights advocates from across Thailand. Namati is now working with the Thai NGOs to co-publish an article about community land protection in Thailand that will describe in detail the challenges facing communities and the advocacy efforts being championed by the Thai NGOs.

Policy Victories & Global Advocacy

Support for Customary Land Rights in Uganda's National Land Policy

After over a decade of consultation, Uganda officially adopted and launched its new National Land Policy in June 2014. Namati's partner, The Land and Equity Movement in Uganda (LEMU), contributed significantly to the development of the new policy and successfully ensured the inclusion of strong protections for customary land rights and tenure systems.  Highlights of the new National Land Policy with respect to community land rights include:
  • Amendments to the Land Act and other relevant laws to “reaffirm and strengthen the legitimacy of socially and culturally acceptable tenure systems as a means of preserving access rights to common property resources” (S.33)
  • Measures to: “document customary land tenure rules applicable to specific communities” and inventory “common property resources owned by communities and vest these resources in the communities to be managed under their customary law.” (S.40)
  • Measures to  “ensure that common property resources exclusively used by or available to particular communities are directly held and managed by them” and “facilitate communities and their traditional institutions to register and legalize their ownership over common property resources” (S.55)
  • Legislative and judicial support for “traditional institutions as mechanisms of first instance in respect of land rights allocation, land use regulation, and land dispute… under customary tenure.” (S.42)
Click here for the full text of the 2013 Uganda National Land Policy. Though this is a major policy victory, work continues. LEMU’s Executive Director, Judy Adoko, warns that implementation is still a serious challenge and that community lands are still at risk given significant pressure to demarcate land into individual freehold titles. 

Namati Strengthens Sierra Leone's Draft Land Policy

Namati Sierra Leone was invited by the Land Policy Development Unit of Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment to advise on the draft 2014 National Land Policy. Namati identified several key areas of the policy that require strengthening, including the addition of provisions that facilitate equitable investor-community partnerships rather than the “systematic acquisition of land” by government to redistribute to investors. Namati also recommended that the policy provide for decentralisation of community land and natural resource management to the village level. Both recommendations and a host of others have been included in the current draft of the policy, which has been submitted to Cabinet for approval.


Policy Development in Kenya and Liberia

In addition, Namati contributed significant pro-bono legal work to policy development in Kenya and Liberia. In Kenya, Namati provided substantial comments and suggested revisions to the draft Community Land Bill. In Liberia, Namati reviewed and suggested revisions to both the draft Local Government Act and the upcoming Land Rights Act. Stay tuned for updates once these laws are finalized and enacted.

Interlaken Conference and Global Call to Action

Namati co-chaired the “Community Empowerment and Legal Recognition” strategy sessions of the Interlaken Conference on Community Land and Natural Resource Rights held in September 2013 and is now participating in the Global Call to Action.

Championing Community Land at 2014 World Bank Conference

The slides from Namati's four presentations at the March 2014 World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty are available on our website:
  • "Legal Empowerment and the Land Rush"
  • "Upscaling the recognition of community land rights through legal empowerment: Lessons from the ground"
  • "'It takes a village' to protect a woman’s land: Working at community-level to secure women’s land rights in Sub-Saharan Africa"

Justice 2015 Campaign

Namati is part of a global civil society initiative to have legal empowerment and access to justice - including secure land tenure - emphasized in the United Nations’ post-2015 Millennium Development Goals. Visit to read and join over 220 organizations in endorsing the Justice 2015 Open Letter.

New Resources

1. Op-ed: Importance of including governance in community land mapping efforts

In this essay, Community Land Protection Program Director Rachael Knight argues that: "Providing a poorly governed, disempowered community with documentation for its land rights without ensuring intra-community mechanisms to hold leaders accountable to good governance may, in some instances, make land dealings even more unjust and quicken the pace of land alienation." The essay details how Namati addresses these concerns by combining mapping with iterative drafting of community by-laws, a process that supports community members to define and establish: governance of lands and natural resources; accountability measures for leaders; and intra-community mechanisms to protect the land rights of women and other vulnerable groups.

2. Weekly compendium of land rights news stories from around the world

Please write to us at  if you would like to receive our weekly news summaries.

3. Chapter: "Legal Empowerment and the Land Rush: Three Struggles"

Namati CEO Vivek Maru focuses on community rights to land and natural resources in a new book published by Harvard Law School, The International Rule of Law Movement – A Crisis of Legitimacy and the Way Forward. The chapter describes, by way of stories from Mozambique, Sierra Leone and India, three key moments in the interaction between land-based communities and industrial firms: proactive rights protection, negotiation, and post-facto enforcement.  It offers insights for how to scale up legal empowerment at each of those moments.

Lessons From The Field

Land and Equity Movement, Uganda
Community ‘Visioning’ for a Positive Land Protection Process
Until recently, LEMU began its community land protection work by first attempting to resolve all intra-community land conflicts. However, focusing on contentious internal land disputes tended to exacerbate internal discord and significantly impede the community land protection process. This Lesson from the Field describes how LEMU went back to the drawing board to develop an innovative solution: beginning all community land protection interventions with collective visioning exercises that build unity and momentum for community collaboration.

Collective Visioning is an exercise where community members are asked to ‘see’ the use and availability of communal resources in the past, in the present, and in the likely future (if nothing changes). From there, participants jointly discuss their desired future and then collectively brainstorm how to realize this future as a community, identifying concrete steps they must take.
Beginning the community land protection process with this activity has already proven to dramatically increase communities’ unity, co-operation, and participation rates – noticeably accelerating their progress through the community land protection process. LEMU now works to resolve underlying land conflicts much later in the process, once the by-laws have been drafted and adopted and local leadership strengthened. 

Download the report here
Sustainable Development Institute, Liberia
Supporting Participatory Decision Making in Negotiations

SDI has worked with the Duah community for over 3 years to document the community’s land and establish an inclusive local land governance system. In the spring of 2013, Duah faced a serious challenge: Clan elders agreed to a large land deal with a local palm oil investor without the involvement of the community or its new Land Governance Council. This Lesson from the Field describes how, with support from SDI, Duah community members held their leaders accountable to inclusive, participatory decision-making and successfully reversed the land deal.

Once they learned of the deal made by Clan elders, the community members of Duah challenged what they realized was an ill-conceived project that threatened to dispossess them of their community land. After contentious public meetings, the community successfully convinced their elders to cancel the deal. This victory not only protected the Duah’s land and livelihoods, it also helped legitimize the new participatory land governance system and address the issue of power-sharing between the community members and their leaders. 
Centro Terra Viva,
Protecting Women’s Land Rights Within Customary Law
The Constitution and Land Law of Mozambique allow communities to govern local lands and resources according to custom, so long as these customary rules do not contradict national laws, including those that establish equal rights to land for men and women. However, in some rural communities, rising land scarcity is causing “reinterpretations” of customary rules in order to dispossess widows from their lands.  
This Lesson from the Field describes how CTV works with communities to strengthen women’s land rights within customary systems, harmonizing local practices with national and human rights laws. 

Instead of working to ‘sensitize’ women about their rights or attempting to force superficial changes onto community practices, CTV works with community members and leaders to deepen awareness and appreciation of the positive benefits of women’s land tenure security. Over the course of many meetings, CTV supports community leaders, men and women to identify and discuss how women’s rights are being disadvantaged, create local by-laws that protect women’s land claims, and adopt systems to monitor and enforce these new rules.
CTV's approach helps communities revitalize customary rules that protect women. It also uses participatory discussions and community members’ own experiences, interests and ideas to address discrimination. In this way, women’s rights are protected without undermining or replacing a community’s culture and customary land governance systems. 

Join Us!

Namati’s Global Legal Empowerment Network continues to grow! The Network brings together a community of practitioners who share tools and techniques for advancing justice. There are now over 460 tools available to over 1,652 individual network members, with 326 organizations represented from 98 countries. Join the network to share tools, compare experiences and discuss pressing issues with practitioners and supporters of legal empowerment around the world.  Members also gain access to cutting-edge resources, strategies and research. 
We are tweeting! Follow @RKnightNamati and @Marena_B for community land rights tweets and @GlobalNamati and @VivekHMaru for everything Namati.
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