Clouded titles to land in remote rural areas of the Global South have recently prevented increases in agricultural productivity and payments for environmental services (PES), so making land tenure more secure has become a priority for policymakers. The historical dynamics surrounding land tenure transitions suggest a strategy for reform. Colonial regimes stripped indigenous peoples of most rights to land. Newly independent states restored these rights for some smallholders through land reforms. Later, neo-liberal regimes made secure titles more expensive, and, in so doing, made insecure land tenure more pervasive. Spots of secure land tenure did emerge when indigenous groups, with outside support, resisted efforts by powerful outsiders to expropriate indigenous homelands. Because insecure land tenure persists in most forested rural areas, a focus on afforestation in deforested areas, where earlier episodes of reform secured smallholder land tenure, offers a promising direction for future PES and REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) efforts.


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