Secure forest ownership is probably the most powerful stake a community can hold. It provides a stable platform upon which to develop a regime of sustainable management. Failure in state law to give legal weight to customary tenure, and to support the communal ownership of properties held in common, has been the single most influential factor in defining the relationship of people to forests in the past century. Had state law recognised common properties as group-owned lands, the foundation for locally-based forest management could have been nurtured and become a viable regime for retaining and sustaining forests in its own right.
A trend is underway to make customary rights in land legal, and this includes the right of people to own land in common. Through this measure communities are finding their tenure over local forest commons better secured. At the same time, forest strategies and legislation are being reformed, including new consideration of the role of civil society in forest management.