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Territories of Life

2021 Report

About this report
What are territories of life?

Executive summary

As negotiations intensify ahead of the UN biodiversity and climate conferences in late 2021, the time is now to recognise Indigenous peoples and local communities as central to sustaining the diversity of life on Earth. One of the biggest opportunities to catalyse transformative changes from local to global levels is to support Indigenous peoples and local communities to secure their human rights, and particularly their rights to self-determined governance systems, cultures and collective lands and territories. Although there are no panaceas, this is arguably a key missing link in efforts to address the biodiversity and climate crises and ensure a safe, healthy and sustainable planet for all.

Territories of life and their custodians

  • The Christmas Village in Romania

    Homoródkarácsonyfalva village (hear pronunciation; English: Christmas village; Romanian: Crăciunel) is nestled in the valley of the Homorod stream, in the scenic foothills of the eastern rim of the Carpathian Mountains, South-Eastern Transylvania, Romania. The community identifies as Szekler (székelyek), a subgroup of the Hungarian-speaking people and an ethnic minority in Romania. It is an area with […]

  • The Integral Territory of the Wampis Nation in the Peruvian Amazon

    In November 2015, the Wampis constituted their autonomous territorial government – the Gobierno Territorial Autónomo de la Nación Wampís (GTANW) – with the aim of governing and protecting their ancestral territory of more than 1.3 million hectares in the northern Peruvian Amazon, according to their own development priorities. As the first autonomous Indigenous government in […]

  • The Living Forest of the Midday People in the Ecuadorian Amazon

    We, the Sarayaku people, also known as the Midday People, identify ourselves as Kichwa Indigenous people. We have approximately 1,500 inhabitants, organised into seven communal centres: Kali Kali, Sarayakillu, Chuntayaku, Shiwakucha, Puma, Kushillu Urku and Mawka Llakta. We live within a territory of 135,000 hectares, rich in biodiversity: Sacha (forest), Yaku (rivers), waterfalls, black lagoons, […]

  • Inuit and tuktuit on Baffin Island in Arctic Canada

    Three late Inuit elders, Abraham Etungat of Kinngait, Lucassie Nutaraluk of Iqaluit, and Etuangat Aksayuk of Pangnirtung, all told similar stories about tuktuit (caribou) from when they were young children living along different parts of the coast of Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island) in the 1910s and 1920s: “When I was a young boy and tuktuit were […]

  • The territory of life of the Manobo people in Mindanao, the Philippines

    In the Philippines, an estimated 85 per cent of its remaining forests and 96 out of 128 of its key biodiversity areas overlap with Indigenous territories.[1] This is a strong indication that Indigenous peoples and their communities are central actors in protecting and conserving the Philippines’ remaining forests and in sustaining diverse life across the […]

  • A territory of life in Madagascar

    It is said that the Fokonolona, or local community, of Tsiafajavona descends from the five sons of the King called Andriampenitra. The community’s territory of life is partially overlapped with the 8,130 hectare, high-altitude protected area of Manjakatompo-Ankaratra, identified as a Key Biodiversity Area.

  • An Oran sacred grove in Rajasthan, India

    Orans are sacred forests situated in the arid and semi-arid regions across western India. Considered divine domains, Orans are places where land, water, and jungle peacefully cohabitate. They are community assets that lie at the centre of rural life, a land resource for all to share equally, and for all to protect under a communally enforced […]

  • A territory of life in northern Tanzania conserved by the Maasai of Engaresero

    Largely occupied by the Indigenous Maasai People, this spectacular territory of life is adjacent to Oldonyo-Lengai, the Mountain of God, an active volcanic mountain in the country. Named after Lake Natron, the world’s most critical breeding site for lesser flamingos, the territory is home to diverse groups of flora and fauna and forms an important […]

  • Nature-culture stewardship of the Tsumba people in the Western Himalaya, Nepal

    Tsum Valley is four days’ walking distance from the nearest road, one of the most remote areas in the Western Himalaya of Nepal. Tsum Valley is the traditional homeland of the Tsumba Indigenous peoples, who speak a unique Tsumke or Tsumba, a dialect influenced by Tibetan language. The Valley was declared by its inhabitants as “Shyagya”, a […]

  • The continuous effort to conserve territories of life in Iran

    The Chahdegal Balouch peoples’ territory of life is a powerful example of an interconnected social-ecological system in desert and semi-desert landscapes. They migrate seasonally and have a strong affinity with their camel herds as well as the construction of vegetation-based wind shields to protect them from desert sandstorms. Through intentional conservation of their territory, both […]

  • A sacred pond protects the community in Gampa, Guinea

    The Manon peoples of the forest and mountainous region of the Republic of Guinea proudly practice their customs, preserving their local ancestral memory and traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. Manon society considers this their cultural and environmental heritage, linking the past, present and future. The Yogbouo Pond of Gampa is […]

  • Community conservation and environmental education are leading the way to cultural revival in China

    This Indigenous community revitalized the governance of its territory of life by establishing an environmental education base. Focussing on the value of its biocultural diversity and the active conservation of the critically endangered white-headed langur, Qunan community obtained governmental recognition and appreciation from the national public as an ICCA.

  • Community mobilisation for the environment brings the good life back to the village in Senegal

    Kawawana means “Our heritage to be preserved together“. It is the fruit of the efforts of a few local fishermen from the Diola people of Lower Casamance. They united in an association, self-mobilising the communities of their eight villages and bringing together nearly 12,000 people, without any external financial support, and established the reconstruction of […]

  • The communal forest of the 48 Cantons of Totonicapán in Guatemala

    The Communal Forest of the 48 Cantons of Totonicapán is a powerful territory of life in Guatemala. Its Indigenous governance system is based on a worldview of equity, inclusion and sustainability principles, which for five centuries has supported the Maya K’iché people of Totonicapán. Thanks to this system, which prevails in a large part of […]

  • The Bambuti-Babuluko Indigenous guardians of the “fertile forests”, Democratic Republic of Congo

    In the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, this community of Indigenous Bambuti-Babuluko peoples self-recognized in 2013 as APAC-territory of life. The guardians of Kisimbosa defend 5572 ha of tropical forest, where also the chimpanzees have regained their space.

  • The Salween Peace Park in Burma/Myanmar

    The Salween Peace Park was founded by the Indigenous Karen people to protect and bring peace to this bastion of biodiversity and Karen culture after over 70 years of conflict. The Park is a result of grassroots efforts by the Karen people living in 348 villages within it to practice democracy and self-determination, protect themselves and the environment from destructive investment, and develop their own vision for a just, peaceful, and sustainable future.

  • A vital conservation tradition for the recognition of territories of life in North Kalimantan, Indonesia

    When the late Customary Chief of Bahau Hulu, Anye Apuy,[1] visited the small village of Batu Puteh in Kinabatangan, Sabah (East Malaysia), the local leaders told him: “They took the forest from us. Do not let them do that to you, if you still have forest in your village. Forest is life.” That was not […]

National and regional analyses

Read the national analyses of the status of territories of life in Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Madagascar, and the Philippines, and the regional analysis for East and Southern Africa.


A global spatial analysis

The estimated extent of territories and areas conserved by Indigenous peoples and local communities

This global analysis is the first of its kind to analyse the estimated extent and conservation values of territories and areas conserved by Indigenous peoples and local communities (abbreviated as ICCAs—territories of life). The analysis provides technical and scientific evidence to strengthen key aspects of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and its implementation. It illustrates that fulfilling the Convention on Biological Diversity’s 2050 vision of “living in harmony with nature” can only be achieved through a human rights-based approach that respects Indigenous peoples and local communities as rights-holders and holds governments, conservation organisations and private actors accountable as duty-bearers.