Increasingly tough climatic conditions and limited rights to land and other basic resources risk jeopardizing the lives and livelihoods of many indigenous groups, FAO noted today on the eve of the International Day for the World’s Indigenous Peoples. These groups hold the keys to our long term survival, because they represent alternative economic and social systems, guard globally important agricultural heritage systems and preserve biodiversity.
Indigenous peoples are among the first to suffer from increasingly harsh and erratic weather conditions, and a generalized lack of empowerment to claim goods and services to which other population groups have greater access. - Regina Laub, FAO focal point for Indigenous PeoplesA number of indigenous groups make their living within vulnerable environments - in mountainous areas, in the Arctic, in jungles or in dry lands - and are thus often the first to discern and suffer the effects of climate change.
However, the indigenous are not just victims of global warming; they also have a critical role to play in supporting global adaptation to climate change. In Peru, for example, during the last planting season only those potatoes planted in the traditional way survived the unprecedented extreme frost temperature.
Indigenous communities are often the custodians of unique knowledge and skills and the genetic and biological diversity in plant and animal production that may be vital in adapting to climate change. Approximately 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity is found within indigenous peoples’ territories.
Currently there are an estimated 370 million indigenous peoples representing at least 5,000 different indigenous groups in more than 70 countries. The Amazon basin alone is home to about 400 different indigenous groups. Defending the recovery of ancestral lands, the self-determination of indigenous peoples and their human rights is at the core of their claims.
Indigenous peoples are often among the most marginalized, showing higher levels of poverty and vulnerability than other population groups in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Only a few countries have recognized ancestral and customary rights to land, a cornerstone of the livelihoods of indigenous peoples. Lack of political will and the lack of legal recognition of indigenous rights in national legal frameworks and tenure regimes, different forms of discrimination and inappropriate policies towards indigenous peoples are limiting indigenous peoples’ land rights.
As a result of violent conflicts, increased competition, degradation of natural resources and negative effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, land tenure insecurity is growing in Sub-Saharan Africa. This has led to increased vulnerability of rural communities and a high incidence of extreme poverty and hunger:
energy :: Africa :: biomass :: bioenergy :: agriculture :: land rights :: biodiversity :: indigenous peoples :: sustainability :: climate change ::
FAO has developed activities for improving tenure security of the rural poor including indigenous groups in sub-Saharan Africa by giving disadvantaged groups greater control over decisions, particularly over natural resources, improving the legal capacities of rural poor communities to secure land rights. Better awareness and access to legal information, and creating rural institutions and simplified procedures for securing land and resources tenure are other objectives of FAO’s activities. FAO has documented good practices in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa as well as in the Pacific.
Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)
Throughout history, human beings have domesticated plants and animals and shaped harsh and remote environments to guarantee their survival. Generations of farmers and herders have, for more than 12 thousand years, developed ingenious farming systems to overcome extreme climatic conditions, geographic isolation and scarcity of natural resources.
This patient work has resulted in magnificent reservoirs of globally significant agricultural biodiversity and valuable cultural inheritance, but also in sites of great aesthetic beauty. However, many of these systems are now under severe threats from global development challenges, including climate change, rural impoverishment, exodus towards urban areas and exclusion of local economies from international markets, and are at risk of disappearing forever.
In 2002 FAO initiated a wide programme on conservation and adaptive management of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage systems (GIAHS) aiming to establish the basis for the global recognition, conservation and sustainable management of such systems and their associated landscapes, biodiversity, knowledge systems and cultures.
During the preparatory phase (2002-2006), the GIAHS initiative has identified pilot sites in Peru, Chile, China, the Philippines, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. For the next seven years (2007-2014), the pilot systems will implement dynamic conservation management approaches aimed at helping the national and local stakeholders to protect and sustainably conserve the systems and their components.
The lessons learned will serve as basis for creating a World Agriculture Heritage category, in collaboration with other institutions, like UNESCO and the World Heritage Convention, to guarantee the sustainability of these globally important traditional agricultural systems.
Picture: Pygmy woman from the Ituri forest, Democratic Republic of Congo.
9 August - International Day of the World's Indigenous People
FAO: Indigenous peoples threatened by climate change - World day highlights fundamental role of indigenous peoples in food security - August 8, 2008.
FAO: Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS).