Nations have the sovereign right to control the use of resources within their borders: their forests and agricultural lands. In some cases the rights have been passed down to local governments or communities. However, these rights are balanced by international concerns regarding land degradation and subsequent transboundary impacts including declines in the beneficial functions performed by forests, land and soil. As a consequence, references to land management concerns in treaties and international agreements are becoming more frequent.

There are a variety of forest and rural land management regimes in Africa. Some lands are nationalized, some still are in the hands of traditional users, and some are being returned to communities. In nearly all cases the legal system is a mixture of colonial laws and more recent regulations. African governments are responding to internal and external calls for action by creating national resource agencies, and by undertaking action programmes aimed at forest and land conservation. Implementation is a key issue.