Many of the forests that people occupy are state property and can be sold or leased without consulting the inhabitants (Image: Picture Contact BV/Alamy)
Many indigenous peoples have lived in the same place for centuries, but they do not have legal tenure. Forest peoples, who live in the rainforests of South America, Africa and south-east Asia, are particularly vulnerable. Their forests are often sold or leased to companies or foreign countries for farming, logging or mining. The local people are usually evicted.
The sheer scale of the problem is highlighted in a report from the Forest Peoples Programme in the UK. The FPP estimates that roughly 1.3 billion people – more than one-seventh of the global population – are directly dependent on forests.
At least 350 million could lose their homes in land grabs, says Sophie Chao of the FPP, because their rights to the land are not recognised under national law.
Many of the forests that people occupy are state property and can be sold or leased without consulting the inhabitants.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization's guidelines encourage governments to recognise and protect indigenous peoples' rights to their land. FAO director general José Graziano da Silva calls the agreement a "historic breakthrough".