Customary & Community Lands

Cadasta partners with indigenous groups, communities, pastoralists, and other customary groups to document, map, and analyze community land and natural resources to assert and defend their land claims.

Customary and community land tenure is a set of rules and customs that govern the use of and access to land and other natural resources. Studies estimate that over 50 percent of land in Sub-Saharan Africa is governed by customary practices. However, most governments do not recognize customary land tenure or community land ownership, with even less having the community and customary boundaries mapped. Many communities and indigenous groups around the world rely on community and customary lands for their livelihood, food, and cultural and  religious practices. The insecurity of community and customary land tenure makes these communities and indigenous groups susceptible to evictions, land grabs, land disputes, and resource extraction.

When documenting community lands, Cadasta trainers take a bottom-up approach by using participatory mapping techniques that include all stakeholders, including women, elderly, and youth, as well as various interest groups, such as farmers, herders, and forest dwellers.


With Cadasta’s Technology, Tools, and Services

Local communities can document, map, and manage their land claims and advocate for strengthened land rights.

Indigenous groups can map their community boundaries and defend their claims to resources such as water, forests, and spiritual sites.

Governments can overcome the constraints and challenges imposed by conventional land administration systems to gain a more detailed understanding of community and customary lands.

Cadasta in the Field

Fundação Iniciativa para Terras Comunitárias

In Mozambique, Cadasta partnered with Fundação Iniciativa para Terras Comunitárias (iTC-F)  to strengthen community land governance by building a methodology to track the devolution of land rights occurring throughout Mozambique. Cadasta and iTC-F worked together to identify and train community facilitators to lead participatory mapping exercises within rural communities. Once trained, these facilitators worked directly with rural communities to map and document community-held land and resources. By involving communities in the mapping and documentation process, the project is improving land governance and empowering communities to make informed decisions for land-based investments.

Universidad Javeriana

In Colombia, the Ethnic and Indigenous Lands Observatory at the Universidad Javeriana works with Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities to document, claim, and self-manage their land rights. In the first phase of the project, the University utilized Cadasta’s platform to identify community-held lands for 148 communities across Colombia and track the progress of formal government recognition. In the second phase, Cadasta is partnering with Universidad Javeriana and the Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN) to formalize community land rights for 50 communities and assist more than 200 communities in advancing their rights. The data collected and stored on Cadasta’s platform will be used to develop the information and materials needed to apply for formal government recognition of their community land rights.

Daemeter Training


In the Indian state of Odisha, Cadasta is partnering with the Indian nonprofit, Pradan, to map, document, and advocate for community forest rights. Pradan works with local communities in Odisha state that are eligible to apply for government recognition of rights to forest reserves through the Recognition of Forest Rights Act of 2006 and the Community Forest Resource Rights (CFRR). To do so, Pradan is using Cadasta to map and demarcate agreed-upon forest boundaries to develop a system of protection for the community forest areas. This approach was piloted in one community area with documented individual farms and properties. Pradan now hopes to expand the project throughout the state.


Namati partnered with Cadasta in 2016 to support their Community Land Protection Program which helps communities map and protect their customary land claims in accordance with national land laws. By partnering with Cadasta, Namati was able to utilize the Cadasta platform, cloud-based system which makes it easier to keep its partners data in an organized and secure system that can be shared with a collaborative team. With the Cadasta Platform, Namati was able to directly capture and record evidence of community land and resource rights and better map and share data relating to property rights.