By Camille Cater

Achuar woman, Peru.

Spatial information on the extent of global Indigenous lands has never been charted, until now. A new article recently published in Nature Sustainability released a map of the total land owned or managed by Indigenous Peoples around the world using publicly available geospatial resources. The researchers found that Indigenous Peoples have tenure rights over approximately 38 million square kilometers across 87 countries on all inhabited continents. This equates to 25% of the world’s land surface, and these areas also represent 40% of all terrestrial protected areas worldwide.

This study contributes to the growing body of research that argues the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples and respect for their land rights could greatly improve global conservation efforts. This map allows the researchers to access the “extent to which Indigenous Peoples’ stewardship and global conservation values intersect” and “provide a first estimation of the overlap between Indigenous Peoples’ terrestrial lands and protected areas,” they said. Protecting Indigenous Peoples’ rights is not only ethical, but it’s also highly beneficial for the conservation of high-priority ecosystems.

Achuar territory in Peru.

Who are Indigenous Peoples? According to the study, Indigenous Peoples “define themselves as Indigenous, are descended from populations who inhabited a country before the time of conquest or colonization, and who retain at least some of their own social, economic, cultural, and political practices.” There are approximately 370 million people around the world who define themselves this way. That’s a population larger than that of the United States, dispersed across all corners of the globe. Indigenous Peoples have rights to or manage land “in nearly all mainland countries of the Americas, around the Arctic, throughout most of the forested lands of the south and Southeast Asia, across Africa particularly in rangelands and deserts but also forests, and throughout countries in Oceania,” the study found.

Although Indigenous Peoples constitute an incredibly diverse array of people, they do face some similar challenges. The authors of the study warn that many Indigenous groups around the world inhabiting natural areas are under threat from industries wanting to develop or extract resources from their land. That’s why co-author John E. Fa said that “empowering Indigenous Peoples” will be the key to conserving global ecosystems for a properly functioning planet.

Chipaota Community, Peru.

Rainforest Partnership is founded on the belief that working side by side with Indigenous communities will protect and regenerate tropical rainforests. For respect for both people and nature, Rainforest Partnership aligns with local communities to assist in establishing sustainable micro-economies to withstand powerful outside interests that might degrade the land and exacerbate climate change. Helping indigenous peoples protect their forests cuts carbon emissions from deforestation, helps the community, and offers long-term economic benefits. Rainforest Partnership has helped over 14,000 people across multiple communities in South American rainforests and is constantly seeking to expand their work to new communities. To learn more about Rainforest Partnership’s -current projects to protect communities and forests in the Amazon, please visit our website and consider giving a gift.