Many forms of inequality—wealth, income, political power—are strongly linked to the ownership and control of land, forests, and other natural resources, like minerals and fossil fuels. The ownership and control of these resources has much to do with who benefits from and pays for farming, mining, drilling, logging, and other activities. Ownership and control is also a major factor in the quality of governance—and the very question of who has the right to belong in a particular place.
Global capitalism is driving an ever-growing demand for resources. But the worldwide appetite for commodities—from the palm oil in food and cosmetics to precious metals that make smartphones work and fossil fuels that power entire economies—can conflict with people’s demand for economic opportunity, human rights, and dignity. Sometimes this conflict tips over into violence and, thanks to climate change and other environmental threats, puts the planet at risk.
Control over land and its resources is especially vital to the livelihood and cultural integrity of indigenous peoples and other traditional rural communities. Securing land rights and tenure in natural resource-rich areas is critical to ensuring that people are less vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination. It is also a successful way to mitigate the impact of climate change, as these communities have been very effective stewards of forests that help to regulate the climate. Indeed, the responsible, sustainable management of forests and other rural lands is key to ensuring that greenhouse gas levels don’t do irreversible damage.
As the planet transitions from fossil fuels to renewables, more sustainable land use systems can help. Low-income rural communities—which often lie in the path of agribusiness, forestry companies, and extractive industries—are central to those efforts, and they need strong protections. Realizing those protections depends on realizing more effective governance, greater community rights over resources, and reductions in the corruption, tax evasion, and illicit financial flows that rob societies—especially poor ones—worldwide.
What we don’t fund
We know nonprofit staff’s time is valuable, so we discourage using it to submit proposals that don’t fall within funding guidelines. In this spirit, we aim to be transparent about what our grant making does not support.
We do not fund initiatives that primarily focus on water resources and agriculture, or adaptation to climate change.