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A Common Right in India

Mansa Ram is a local village leader from the Kayarakhet Village, in India. He remembers a time when the forest on his community's land was lush and everyone had equal, common rights over it.

Photos: Jason Taylor/ILC

Mansa Ram, village leader

"No one person could own this land, because we all had common rights to it. When we had common rights, we felt free."

- says Mansa Ram

But after India became independent, everything changed.

The land where the community lived and the forests that they cultivated were taken away by the government.

If their animals crossed over, they would get fined.

The trees were cut down as the Forest Department contracted the forests out to companies for timber and charcoal.


Without someone to take care of it, the land started to degrade.


But the community had no intention to sit back and watch.


"If we wanted to get the rights to our land back, we had to start protecting it."

- says Mansa Ram

Three local communities got together and came up with a plan. Everyone from the communities got involved in protecting the land, using their traditional Lathi (stick) system and building walls to demarcate the area.

After some time, the communities felt comfortable enough to ask for their land rights back and the Forest Department eventually let them keep 90% of all produce generated.


"Now everyone can see that we are protecting this common land. We have gained respect and the honour for protecting the forest."

Mansa Ram

Each year, the world loses forest cover the size of the United Kingdom.

ILC member, The Foundation for Ecological Security has been working with governments, research organisations, social movements and communities, like Kayarakhet village, across India to help them restore and secure their land.


What these local communities in India did to protect and restore 350 hectares of land may seem like a miracle, but it's only the last in a long list of successful stories that show how indigenous peoples and local communities are healing our Planet and ecosystems.

When the land rights of local communities are secure, ecosystems heal.


This story is part of the Land Rights Now campaign in solidarity with the struggles of Indigenous Peoples and local communities seeking to secure their land and territorial rights.