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Projects in Africa

Aims and objectives

IWGIA's work towards empowering indigenous peoples in Africa is done at two levels:

  • On the regional level, IWGIA lobbies the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights to promote and protect the human rights of indigenous peoples in Africa.
  • At the local level, IWGIA supports indigenous organizations with institutional support and project funds.


IWGIA has supported local projects in Africa since the middle of the 1990's, the first project being support for the First People of the Kalahari, a San organization working for the recognition of the land rights/human rights of the San in Botswana.

IWGIA’s current project support is mainly concentrated on indigenous organizations in Kenya and Tanzania.

Focus on land rights, human rights and self-organization and empowerment

In Africa, IWGIA's project support focuses on:

  • Recognition of land rights for indigenous peoples
  • Protection and promotion of the human rights of indigenous peoples
  • Self-organization and empowerment

Recognition of land rights for indigenous peoples

Dispossession of traditional lands and territories is one of the major problems of indigenous peoples in Africa. Dominating development paradigms in Africa perceive the modes of production of indigenous peoples - such as pastoralism and hunting/gathering - as primitive, non-productive and not in line with the modernization aspirations of present day African states. Therefore many development policies are either directly or indirectly geared towards weakening/eradicating the modes of production of indigenous peoples.

In the name of national economic development, various policies are being put in place, which dispossess indigenous peoples of their lands and natural resources and which threaten to undermine their cultures and survival as distinct peoples. Activities that have been undertaken in the name of national development and that have at the same time undermined the land bases and livelihoods of indigenous peoples include establishment of national parks and game reserves, massive logging of forests, large infrastructure projects such as dam and pipeline constructions, mineral exploration, commercial hunting schemes, large scale agricultural projects etc.

The land base of indigenous peoples in Africa is also rapidly being threatened by land titling policies promoting individual land ownership, and by pressure from farming communities.

IWGIA supports the work carried out by local indigenous organizations to prevent further land loss and to try to re-claim land, which has been taken illegally. The activities supported have included community awareness-raising and mobilization on land rights issues, lobby activities towards decision makers at national level aimed at legislative and constitutional reforms, litigation and court cases, mapping and titling in order to get legal titles to land on a communal basis, public information etc.

Protection and promotion of the human rights of indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples in Africa are suffering from marginalization, discrimination and human rights abuses. Only few African states recognize and protect the basic collective rights of indigenous peoples in their constitutions or national legislation. Indigenous peoples suffer from weak political representation and from discrimination and negative stereotyping from mainstream society.

IWGIA supports activities aimed at enhancing the legal and constitutional rights of indigenous peoples, creating community awareness among indigenous peoples on human rights, improving public understanding of the problems and needs of indigenous peoples etc.

Indigenous women are in many cases facing particular problems as both belonging to marginalized groups and being subjected to culturally based forms of discrimination as women. Discrimination for instance relate to leadership positions, decision-making power, issues of land rights, rights and access to education, violence against women etc.

IWGIA seeks to address this in the project support – both as an integrated component in land rights and human rights projects and in specific projects such as training seminars for women.

Self-organization and empowerment

A major problem among indigenous peoples in Africa is a low level of self-organization and  lack of sufficient capacity to address the many serious, politically sensitive and complex problems they are facing. Capacity building and empowerment needs to be done both at local, national and regional levels.

IWGIA focuses presently on the local level by supporting capacity building of a number of local indigenous organizations.