This event explored the vital contributions made by indigenous peoples and local communities to the protection of biodiversity.
Ahead of the UN Summit on Biodiversity – aimed at accelerating action on biodiversity for sustainable development – this event explored the vital contributions made by indigenous peoples and local communities to the protection of biodiversity.
The event brought together experts from the UN and representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities who discussed new research into these contributions, their importance, and what can be done to support them.
Joji Carino, co-lead author of Local Biodiversity Outlooks 2
Debbie Gowensmith, co-founder of Kua’aina Ulu ‘Auamo, Hawaii
Miguel Guimaraes, FECONAU, Peru
Peter Kitelo, Cheptikale Indigenous Peoples Development Programme, Kenya
Tonio Sadik, Assembly of First Nations, Canada
John Scott, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
The world is facing unprecedented challenges from biodiversity loss and climate change, and one million species are at risk of extinction.
Some of the world’s most biodiverse areas are found within the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples and local communities.
More than a quarter of the global land area is traditionally owned, managed, used, or occupied by indigenous peoples, and has been for millennia.
Ahead of the UN Biodiversity Summit, more than 50 indigenous and community authors have contributed to a new report, providing their perspectives on what should be done to bend the curve of biodiversity loss and change our direction of travel. This report, the 2nd edition of Local Biodiversity Outlooks (LBO-2), is a landmark collaborative piece of research and analysis, and acts as a sister publication to the 5th edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook.
Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the UN Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said:
“LBO-2 embodies an optimism that the destruction of Nature and the dramatic loss of biodiversity and cultural diversity can be successfully reversed, by embracing the values, and building on the collective and local actions of the World’s indigenous peoples and local communities.”
The LBO-2 publication assesses progress against all 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets which expressed global ambitions between 2011 and 2020. It finds that the contributions of indigenous peoples and local communities have too often been neglected and marginalised, signifying global underachievement in meeting a majority of these goals.
In a statement, the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity said, “In order to bend the curve of biodiversity loss, we need to bend the curve of inequality and ensure the equitable sharing of benefits and costs. To achieve the vision 2050, there is a need for a paradigm shift in terms of values at the core of society that influence their behaviour for a transformation towards a responsible and sustainable society.”
The authors of this publication argue that future global biodiversity goals must embed the vital role of indigenous peoples and local communities in protecting biological and cultural diversity.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment Report on the state of the world’s biodiversity stated that “nature managed by indigenous peoples and local communities is under increasing pressure…but declining less rapidly than in other areas of the world.”
Increasingly, these ‘islands’ of great biological and cultural diversity found on indigenous and local community lands are being surrounded by declining resilience in vast tracts of the earth. This difference in biodiversity directly corelates with the value systems through which societies view nature.
“Indigenous peoples don’t see nature as separate from people,” said Lakpa Nuri Sherpa of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and member of International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB).
“We interact with nature every day, and we think carefully how we manage our resources – we have spiritual and sacred relationships with our natural resources, which means we must manage our lands in a sustainable way so we can pass it on to the next generation.
“For this reason, we must continue to fight for the rights to our lands, territories and resources – if we don’t have rights, if we are attacked, we cannot protect our forests – they take the resources from our lands, but we care for these lands.
“Without security for our collective land rights, the land can be exploited, nature loses out, and there’s nothing to pass on to the next generation,” he said.
This link to security of tenure is threaded through the findings in LBO-2, highlighting that protecting biodiversity at all scales must embed indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ own territories and systems of governance and management.
The LBO-2 reveals local solutions to the pressing global challenges, developed, implemented and sustained by indigenous peoples and communities.
“Indigenous peoples’ values and knowledge provide insights for reciprocal human-nature relationships amidst the crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change,” said Joji Cariño, (Philippines) of Forest Peoples Programme, representing Centres of Distinction on Indigenous and Local Knowledge and a Member of IIFB.
“Biodiversity needs the voices of indigenous peoples,” she said. “Putting the cultures and rights of IPLCs at the heart of the 2050 biodiversity strategy would deliver sustainable livelihoods and wellbeing, and positive outcomes for biodiversity and climate.”
LBO-2 is released during crucial negotiations towards a post-2020 global biodiversity framework, and the findings presented here are of fundamental importance to the outcome of those negotiations. The authors demonstrate through grounded cases that effective conservation and restoration of our natural world happens through a mosaic of locally tested and proven systems of sustainable use. And this contributes to resilience, where locally grounded food systems can provide sustainable and nutritious food for our families and communities in good times and bad times. But support for these solutions is needed.
“In order for the 2050 vision to be successful, the contribution of all sectors must be taken into account,” said Ramiro Batzin, Co-Coordinator of the IIFB. “In our case, it must be in line with indigenous worldviews that place emphasis on the intrinsic relationship between human beings, Mother Nature and the universe, and the essential link that exists between nature and culture.”
The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 (GBO5), published by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), offers an authoritative overview of the state of nature. It is a final report card on progress against 20 global biodiversity goals agreed to in 2010 with a 2020 deadline, and offers lessons learned for getting on track.
Local Biodiversity Outlooks (LBO-2) presents the perspectives and experiences of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) on the current social-ecological crisis, and their contributions to the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 and to the renewal of nature and cultures. The first edition (LBO-1) was produced in 2016 as a complement to the fourth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-4) and has become a key source of evidence about the actions and contributions of IPLCs towards achieving the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Following up on the publication of the first global assessment of nature and biodiversity in 2019, which suggested that IPLC lands are ‘islands of nature in a sea of decline’, this publication points to the reasons for these slower rates of decline and provides powerful recommendations about how to support these local efforts and to re-think our global relationships with our planet.
The 2nd edition of Local Biodiversity Outlooks also addresses transformation towards a more reciprocal and balanced relationships between humans and nature. Outlining 6 key transitions underpinning such a journey, the report provides concrete and real steps that can be taken towards meeting biodiversity goals and our global commitments on climate change and on sustainable development.
Note to media outlets
Panellists and experts from this session are available for interview. Images are available on request. Please contact: Tom Dixon, Communications Manager, Forest Peoples Programme (firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 7876 397915)
Polina Shulbaeva, Centre for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North
Indigenous monitoring has made it possible to document an increase in the distribution of alien species across the Arctic and Siberia. One such species is the silk moth—one of the most dangerous insect pests—which is currently moving northwards. Silkworms are difficult to find and indigenous people are playing a critical role by alerting officials to new sightings.
Caterpillars of the silk moth destroy coniferous forests, and hundreds of thousands of hectares of Russian forests have already been destroyed over a short period.[i] In affected areas, there are no more birds and no food left for animals (including reindeer). The infected trees have to be cut down, and the profits from this go to the timber companies, many of which are Chinese. Traditional community lifestyles, land use and spiritual practices are impacted because the communities can no longer use these areas.
All of Siberia is facing an unprecedented invasion of silk moths and millions of hectares of valuable coniferous plantations and forests have already been destroyed. Silkworms have now been documented as far north as Yakutia (latitude 62°N), where the temperature ranges from +38°C to –64°C. Scientists have confirmed the findings of indigenous peoples that the spread of silk moths is due to the increasing occurrence of hot, dry weather, which is favourable to silk moth reproduction and which has also resulted in fires over huge areas of the Siberian taiga. The main driver of silk moth invasion is climate change and the lack of transboundary control (for example, in relation to the timber trade).
Jorge Andreve and Onel Masardule, Foundation for the Promotion of Indigenous Knowledge, Guna Indigenous Peoples
In recent decades, waste, especially plastic waste, has been accumulating in every corner of Panama’s Guna Yala region. Waste pollution has been recognised as one of the greatest threats to the biological diversity of the Caribbean.
The Guna people accept our responsibilities for the generation of waste and have given ourselves the task of finding simple, rapid, low-cost measures to deal with it. The highest Guna political-administrative authority, the Guna General Congress, has committed to numerous actions on this issue. The most important is the ‘Zero Waste: recycling routes in Guna Yala’ project, which aims to create a centre for the collection and sale of recyclable material and a landfill site for the disposal of non-recyclable waste. Novel solutions need to be found, given the absence of appropriate sites for landfill in the region, and more broadly the lack of industrial development.
The Foundation for the Promotion of Indigenous Knowledge has also been studying the situation, and potential solutions, in various parts of the region. Some of the findings are as follows:
The waste recorded consisted of 70 per cent organic material, 20 per cent plastics, seven per cent paper and cardboard, and three per cent glass.
Much of the organic waste is currently dumped on land or at sea, where it causes changes in the ecology of the coasts, including eutrophication and an increase in algae. However, this waste offers an opportunity to produce compost for fertiliser.
Plastic waste is the most serious pollution problem, mainly due to its long persistence in the environment. The study recommends placing low density plastic crushing plants in the communities, and, if possible, machines for converting it to plastic fibres. This could reduce the remaining plastic waste by half, which would benefit the marine environment and decrease the spread of infectious diseases in coastal systems.
Public awareness is an important part of the solution. It is also important to change the current linear approach to the economy—based on acquisition, consumption and abandonment—towards a more circular approach incorporating re-use and recycling. However, because the Guna Yala coast is subject to macro- and micro-currents from the Caribbean, waste originating in other countries is constantly washed up, and waste management plans must take this into account. Only then will we really reduce the impacts of waste on the natural environment and people of Guna Yala.
The ‘Adopt a Coastline’ initiative is changing the attitudes and behaviour of local children through fostering and mentoring youth stewards to conserve and protect the marine and coastal assets in Antigua and Barbuda. The ‘Youth Stewardship’ programme is restoring and preserving Antigua’s coastlines through a grassroots campaign that includes beach clean-ups, community action and education, public awareness-raising via social media, and citizen science. The programme has become a nationally significant movement and has widened public understanding of the fragility of the island’s marine and coastal habitats and the impacts of pollution (especially from plastics).
Several beach clean-ups were organised in areas where birds, fish and turtles nest and feed, to introduce people to these pristine places where wildlife is struggling to survive. As a result, known turtle nesting sites are now kept clean, and articles collected are made into usable items such as artefacts and crafts for sale. For example, old tyres dumped on Falmouth Beach have been made into bins, and signs to ensure the beach is kept clean has been constructed from recycled wood.
Additional benefits achieved include:
Increased commitment to the protection of natural resources;
Engaged and educated communities, especially young people;
Long-term sustainability, with local community ownership and buy-in at all levels.
Private individuals and businesses are now donating money, time and resources to beach cleaning and maintenance programs. The Antigua Barbuda Marine Association has introduced a ‘Zero Waste Cup’ initiative to the Antigua and Barbuda Sailing Week, which has resulted in the diversion of 38,375 plastic cups from landfill.
The vision of the project is to reach more communities and sites, to train more youth stewards, and to create a viable means of support for their activities through further product development, social media output, and sponsorship from businesses and property owners.
The South Rupununi District Council (SRDC), the representative institution of the mostly Wapichan indigenous people in Guyana, established a monitoring programme in 2013 focusing partly on mining activities. The SRDC monitors use handheld GPS sets, smartphones and drones to gather data, and report back to the village councils and the SRDC.
One focus of the monitoring programme has been unlawful mining on the Marudi Mountain, which is sacred to the Wapichan and is also a major watershed. Many creeks are polluted, which directly impacts the fragile ecosystems and local communities. For example, sampling by the Wapichan, with support from WWF, has revealed that local women in one village have mercury contamination levels above the recommended WHO safety limits.
Reports produced by the monitoring programme and advocacy by the SRDC have moved the Guyanese Government to introduce stronger enforcement of mining regulations in Marudi so that there is less illegal mining in the area, and the Cabinet has ruled that there will be no mining in waterways below the 4th parallel. The efforts of the SRDC and its monitoring programme have led to the creation of a government task force to work with the SRDC to collectively address the issues affecting Wapichan territory. The model is now being introduced in other regions where there are environmental problems.
Brenda Asuncion, Kevin K.J. Chang, Miwa Tamanaha; Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo
Loko iʻa are advanced, extensive forms of aquaculture unique to Hawaiʻi. While techniques of herding or trapping adult fish in shallow tidal areas, in estuaries and along their inland migration can be found around the globe, Hawaiians have developed fishponds that are technologically unique, advancing the cultivation practice of mahi iʻa (fish farmer).
Loko iʻa take advantage of natural coastal ecology and tidal cycles, enhancing nearshore areas to efficiently provide algae to feed and fatten herbivorous fish. Additionally, where high surf, storms and other weather phenomena can influence and interrupt fishing practices, or when ocean fishing may not yield sufficient supply, fishponds provide a regular supply of fish.
The variety of loko iʻa designs and construction methods demonstrates an unparalleled understanding of engineering, hydrology, ecology, biology and agriculture. Loko iʻa practice is the result of over a thousand years of generational knowledge, experimentation and adaptation, and reflects a deep indigenous understanding of the environmental, ecological and social processes specific to our islands.
Loko iʻa were essential components of traditional food systems in Hawaiʻi, providing food security and community resilience. Their revitalisation goes hand in hand with the revitalisation of Hawaiian language, arts, architecture and diet.
Today, most loko iʻa sites are highly degraded. Barriers to restoration include altered watersheds and diversion of water; invasive species; permitting processes that are not well designed to accommodate loko iʻa restoration; and the loss and scattering of generational knowledge of managing and caring for loko iʻa. Yet, loko iʻa remain important components of the ahupua‘a (traditional land division) and still have the potential to contribute to a healthy and robust food system.
Collaboration and the collective movement of Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa
Over past decades, Hawaiian communities and kiaʻi loko (fishpond guardians) worked to restore loko iʻa around the islands and reclaim the knowledge and practice of loko iʻa culture. Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa, a network of loko iʻa and kiaʻi loko from six Hawaiian Islands, was formed in 2004, meeting annually and opportunistically to strengthen working relationships and share experience and expertise.
Most recently, our network of committed and skilled site-based caretakers leveraged its collective influence to streamline the permitting processes in collaboration with the State of Hawaiʻi, and has generally improved co-management relationships with government and private entities. Sharing and social cohesion are key components of loko iʻa culture because of the scale of physical labor needed for construction and maintenance. The surrounding community comes to help and, in return, shares in the abundance produced from the pond. Today, loko iʻa serve as kīpuka (oases or receptacles) for the renewal of traditional practices and values in contemporary ways. They are thus celebrated for their past and future potential to contribute to the needs of their ahupuaʻa and our broader community in Hawaiʻi.
Preston Hardison, Tulalip Natural Resources Treaty Rights Office
The Pacific salmon is a cultural keystone species for many indigenous peoples of the West Coast of Canada and the United States. Salmon are our relatives, central to our histories, identities, stories, expressions, culture and economies. We honour them every year with the first salmon ceremony, through which we communicate with the salmon people in order to renew our relations.
The tribes of Washington State possess inherent rights to salmon stocks, and these rights were re-affirmed by the United States Supreme Court in 1989. The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission was established for tribes to manage salmon harvesting, allocation, conservation and restoration. Tribal representatives sit on the bi-national US–Canada Pacific Salmon Commission and other salmon technical advisory and management boards.
Nearly US$1 billion has been spent in the last 20 years on salmon recovery. However, despite this, most salmon stocks are listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened or endangered, and salmon are in decline in three quarters of the state.[i] The loss of salmon is having many ripple effects, from the loss of marine nutrient delivery to upper watersheds to the endangerment of killer whales that rely on them.
Our fishing rights are a critical precondition for sustainable salmon fisheries, and the recognition of these rights in Washington has contributed to salmon co-management in which we have legally mandated equal standing with federal and state agencies. But this is not sufficient if underlying causes of decline, some of them far from us, are not addressed. Some causes are local: hydroelectric dams; agrochemical pollution from farms and dairies; the failure to maintain culverts and fish passage; flooding that destroys spawning grounds; and the discharge of pollutants, nutrients, pharmaceuticals and stormwater into coastal waters by cities. Others are distant: streams and oceans are warming; rainfall patterns are changing; carbon in the atmosphere is causing acidification; and there are atmospheric changes that span many jurisdictions. Some of these causes of decline cannot be mitigated by actions taken at a particular site.
We are addressing this in multiple ways. The Tulalip Tribes led in establishing the Sustainable Lands Strategy, a coalition of tribes and farmers that works to develop win-win solutions that benefit farmers and salmon. In 2014, tribes led the way for dismantling the Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River, the largest dam removal in US history, and they are working to remove others. The Tulalip Tribes are also developing a version of the ecosystem management decision-support system that provides scenario building and decision support for restoration and regulations based on differing levels of analysis.
However, recovery work is based on local symptomatic treatment of the impacts, rather than addressing large-scale underlying causes. The latter will not be resolved without transformative change that matches the scale of the impacts that endanger our brother salmon. Because of the nature of the life cycle of the salmon, which runs from mountains to the north Pacific Ocean, salmon problems cannot be solved without involving multiple jurisdictions. While we take all the necessary actions at the local level, a whole-of-context approach to problem-solving is needed to achieve fisheries sustainability.
Tagal means prohibition in the Dusun language, and has been practised by the indigenous peoples of Sabah for many generations. It involves shared responsibilities and management, not only for rivers but also for other natural resources. This traditional concept has been adopted by the Sabah Fisheries Department and about 400 river co-management systems have now implemented the tagal concept.
One participating community is the Dusun community in Kampung Melangkap. Located at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu, their territories are rich in terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity. The high value they place on the rivers is clearly reflected in the village adat (customary rules), which include written by-laws and other rules for protecting and managing rivers.
The tagal system was formalised in Melangkap in 1986 and since then the community has seen an increase in fish numbers and in the number of endemic species. Bombon committees of elected villagers were set up to manage tagal areas (bombon is a Dusun word referring to an area where strict rules are applied). Some common rules apply to tagal areas:
Tagal sungai: part of the river may be demarcated as an area where access by others is prohibited; for example, the lubuk (deep pool).
Fish poisoning, blast fishing and the use of harmful fishing equipment are prohibited.
Entry by outsiders without the community’s prior permission is prohibited.
Penalties are issued to those who violate the tagal rules and regulations.
In the past, there was a three-year no-take period followed by an open season, but the current bombon committee has decided to tagal the river with no harvest at all, due to benefits from ecotourism, which relies on fish as a major attraction.
The tagal system is now linked to the Melangkap community protocol, which includes strict adat rules and defines free, prior and informed consent processes for activities by external actors that may affect the community and their territories. Thus, the Melangkap community has one of the most comprehensive access and benefit-sharing models, which complements the Sabah Biodiversity Enactment 2000 and Malaysia’s Access to Biological Resources and Benefit Sharing Bill 2017. To date, the Melangkap Protocol has been used successfully by the community to negotiate the avoidance of a sacred site during planning of road infrastructure; to limit externally driven tourism development to communal land; and to establish a benefit-sharing system for the community’s ecotourism project.
Monte veciñal en man común (community common lands) is a legal mechanism in Galicia, Spain, recognising communal land tenure. It is based on traditional customary systems that recognised community rights and obligations under the ancient feudal tenure system. During the mid-20th century, these systems were undermined in favour of commercial forestry and mining, resulting in severe environmental degradation and restricted community access to their lands. The legal designation has allowed many communities to regain control of their lands and start to restore the degraded environment since the 1970s. This land tenure designation now covers more than 700,000 hectares in Galicia and involves almost 3,000 local communities.[i]
On example is the Froxán Common,[ii] which is an area of common land covering 100 hectares (one square kilometre) under the care of families in Froxán (or Frojám), a village in the municipality of Lousame. The area was recognised as monte veciñal en man común in 1977, after the entire Froxán community signed a petition to the Civil Governor demanding devolution of their common lands.
The Froxán community commenced restoration in the 1990s, and initially these efforts included filling in abandoned mine pits and shafts that had been created by mining companies. Since 2002, when the community regained full management over their lands, they have also been working to restore natural habitats, eradicate exotic invasive species, and restore a degraded wetland. A management plan for the wetland was selected in 2018 as one of four pilot case studies of initiatives for climate change adaptation. The community collectively self-manages its own water supply system, and the wetland restoration is perceived as critical to regulation of hydrological systems in the context of a new pattern of prolonged droughts. One positive outcome is that natural springs immediately downhill from the area, from which water is collected, are being restored.