Addressing drought through revival of a historic reservoir: Barnes Hill Community, Antigua and Barbuda

Sharing information about plants at Barnes Hill. Credit: Timothy Payne.

Leonard Philip, Barnes Hill Community Development Organization

The people of Barnes Hill community are working together to restore their community reservoir, which was built in the 1890s to provide the village with fresh water in times of drought but had fallen into disuse and disrepair. Water shortages during a recent four-year drought led to serious impacts, not only on plants and animals but also on human health and sanitation. The village nurse documented illnesses at the clinic that were directly related to a lack of water for basic needs. The drought and the need for water brought the people together to seek solutions, and in 2015 this led to the formation of the Barnes Hill Community Development Organization.

Since the project began, the villagers have cleared out the mud and debris that had accumulated in the reservoir over many years, and have controlled invasive species, including coralita vines (Antigonon leptopus). Most of the original structure for the reservoir was still present and villagers are repairing the walls and other features, and will add a new roof. There is also a plan is to build a second reservoir, because the community has grown significantly since the original reservoir was built and it is not large enough now to supply the whole community during severe droughts. This expansion has been made possible because of a gift of land, which means that the site has grown from two to seven acres.

The restored reservoir
The restored reservoir

The BHCDO is also working more broadly to develop the area as a heritage site, with green spaces and historical trails. The vision is to revive and restore the community’s culture, environment and identity, and to build new sources of sustainable livelihoods, especially for women, through community-based tourism. A natural resource inventory is ongoing, archival information is being matched with features found on the site, and older members of the community are sharing their knowledge and experiences with youths to better connect them with the past. The BHCDO has written to the Cabinet proposing the creation of a new cultural and heritage site, which would provide legal protection for the site, and which would continue to be managed by the community.

Birds at Barnes Hill. Credit: Timothy Payne
Birds at Barnes Hill. Credit: Timothy Payne

The effective management of this site rests on strong partnerships based on the passion, commitment and connectedness of the people involved. This initiative has motivated other community groups to mount actions and find community solutions, based on respect for our local biodiversity and heritage and a vision of living in harmony with our natural environment.

Shipibo-Conibo people defend their territories from palm oil in the Peruvian Amazon

Federación de Comunidades Nativas del Ucayali y Afluentes and Forest Peoples Programme

The traditional lands of the Shipibo-Conibo indigenous community of Santa Clara de Uchunya in the Peruvian Amazon extend to more than 85,000 hectares. Historically, these lands have provided abundant game and fish, medicines, construction materials and clean water.

“We would go to our lands to eat paiche and all kinds of fish from the lake. My father would hunt there, my grandparents would hunt there. We walked freely there…”

Luisa Mori González, President of the Mothers Club and community leader

However, only 218 hectares have been formally titled. Since 2012 the palm oil company Plantaciones de Pucallpa S.A.C (now Ocho Sur P SAC) has illegally acquired and deforested about 7,000 hectares of the untitled lands to convert them to palm oil plantations. The environmental impact has been massive, with loss of lands and animals, as well as contamination from the spraying of agricultural chemicals. It has also brought violence, with armed groups of land traffickers clearing forests and those who protest facing death threats and intimidation. At the same time, this ongoing dispossession is fundamentally corroding the community’s way of life and ability to survive on their lands.

Despite threats, the community has made multiple efforts to hold the company to account. Plantaciones de Pucallpa was a member of the RSPO, and a formal complaint was made in 2015, which led to a ‘stop work’ order. The community also appealed to the company’s European financiers, the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investments Market, and various United Nations and regional human rights mechanisms, as well as launching a criminal case in Peru, which has resulted in a high level investigation led by the Special Prosecutor for Organised Crime.

In September 2019, leaders from Santa Clara de Uchunya and FECONAU with legal support from IDL took their land rights struggle before Peru’s highest court, the Constitutional Tribunal. Credit: FECONAU
In September 2019, leaders from Santa Clara de Uchunya and FECONAU with legal support from IDL took their land rights struggle before Peru’s highest court, the Constitutional Tribunal. Credit: FECONAU

Despite the RSPO ‘stop work’ order, suspension orders from the Ministry of Agriculture and Peruvian courts, and widespread condemnation from Peruvian forest and agricultural ministries, company operations continue. There is a general failure of enforcement, and the company has avoided suspending work, and large fines, by selling off its assets to new companies it has created and withdrawing from the RSPO and the London Stock Exchange.

The community has filed a ground-breaking constitutional lawsuit against the Peruvian Government for failing to process their land titling claim, which facilitated the company’s land grab. The case was heard by the Constitutional Tribunal in September 2019, with judgement pending at the time of writing.

In December 2019 the community secured a major victory when the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, Norway’s government pension fund, decided to divest from Alicorp, a consumer goods company which, investigations had shown, was buying palm oil derived from Ocho Sur’s plantation.

Getting REDD+ to work for IPLCs in Vietnam

Monitoring in process. Credit: CERDA.

Vu Thi Hien, Centre of Research and Development in Upland Areas, Vietnam, and Grace Balawag, Tebtebba Foundation, Philippines  

In a pilot project in north Vietnam, Tebtebba and the Centre of Research and Development in Upland Areas worked to test whether REDD+ financial incentive systems for carbon sequestration could be developed based on respect for the wishes, rights—including gender and ethnic equality and sensitivity—and traditional knowledge of IPLCs.

The project involved 137 communities comprising over 11,000 people. The communities established self-governing groups that then set up eight community co-operatives, gathered into two ethnic alliances. The communities gained legal status, including legal use rights over 5,386 hectares of natural forest for a period of 50 years. They also gained the right to work in partnership with the local government to implement state policies.

The heads of the co-operatives received training and resources for capacity building to ensure their full independence as forest owners, and farmer groups with technical teams were trained in carbon accounting and community-based forest monitoring. A map demarcating community forests was created by the communities, and local forestry experts were trained to monitor tree diversity, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, using tools that were developed based on both modern science and traditional knowledge and practices.

All of these steps were achieved according to a set of key principles, including:

  • Respect for rights related to land and forest use;
  • Promotion of community self-reliance, self-determination and ownership, as well as partnerships;
  • Promotion of collective work and collective rights, including in relation to customary laws and forest protection;
  • Promotion of traditional governance and traditional knowledge;
  • Holistic, horizontal, integrated capacity building;
  • Enhance gender and ethnic equality and sensitivity.
Monitoring in process. Credit: CERDA.
Monitoring in process. Credit: CERDA.

Overall, the project has been a success. The cooperatives and alliances are functioning well and, most importantly, the community forest area in the two provinces has been well protected. The forest has become greener, with more young and valuable tree species, more herbaceous plants, more clean, fresh water for domestic use and irrigation, more wildlife, and reduced risk of flooding. The cooperatives are increasingly engaged in state forestry policy processes and are generating income for the forest owners’ communities. As a result, the district governments in Thanh Hoa Province (in Central Vietnam) and Thai Nguyen Province (in northern Vietnam) have started to sign forest protection contracts with self-governing groups, primarily through the cooperatives, in recognition of their efficacy.

The local government and people greatly appreciate the success of the project. It has improved the local biosphere and improved sustainability by generating revenue for those involved. It has also provided legal status to local communities in a way that aims to respect their human rights, traditional knowledge, traditional forest monitoring systems and collective decision-making and ownership.

Good practice for collaborative environmental impact assessment: Raglan Nickel Mine, northern Quebec, Canada

The Raglan Nickel Mine has been in operation since 1997. In 2016 the company proposed to extend the life of the mine by over 20 years, to 2041. A committee was formed to review the environmental and social impacts of the extension, comprised of participants from the Inuit organisation Makivik Corporation, two Inuit communities located near the project (Salluit and Kangiqsujuaq), and the proponent. Its mandate was co-developed by their respective senior leaders.

Salluit, one of the Inuit communities located near Raglan Nickel Mine. Credit: Catherine Boivin.
Salluit, one of the Inuit communities located near Raglan Nickel Mine. Credit: Catherine Boivin.

The committee developed five recommendations for good practice:

  • Seek true dialogue to meaningfully engage.
  • Utilise indigenous knowledge and local knowledge.
  • Build internal capacity and provide resources to meaningfully engage in the EIA.
  • Allow the EIA to influence project design and decision-making process.
  • Strengthen circumpolar co-operation on transboundary EIAs.
A landscape in Alta, Norway. Gunn-Britt Retter, a member of the Saami Council, says “as Indigenous Peoples we see our history and eternity, while miners and developers see money or windmills.” Credit: Anne Henriette Nilut/Saami Council.
A landscape in Alta, Norway. Gunn-Britt Retter, a member of the Saami Council, says “as Indigenous Peoples we see our history and eternity, while miners and developers see money or windmills.” Credit: Anne Henriette Nilut/Saami Council.

Several models for meaningfully engaging indigenous peoples were identified, including indigenous-led and indigenous-knowledge-based impact assessments; issue-specific impact assessments (health, ethnological and cumulative impact assessments); and collaborative risk mitigation.

The joint review allowed the Inuit and the company to integrate cultural information, revise the project, co-develop risk mitigation strategies and monitoring measures, and jointly define levels of significance for each impact after mitigation. Eventually the Inuit decided to support the mine extension.

The project is also an example of a retrospective impact assessment, which looked at changes that had occurred during the existing project’s lifetime and compared them to predictions made prior to the project’s approval. It provides valuable insight into the ways that project management and monitoring should be changed.

For more information, see: Arctic Council, Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG), Arctic Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) project (2019) ‘Good Practices for Environmental Impact Assessment and Meaningful Engagement in the Arctic – Including Good Practice Recommendations’. Arctic Council.

Event: Launch of the 2nd edition of Local Biodiversity Outlooks

The 2nd edition of Local Biodiversity Outlooks, a landmark collaborative piece of research and analysis which acts as a companion publication to the Global Biodiversity Outlook, was launched on September 16th 2020 as part of the Special Virtual Sessions for SBSTTA-24 and SBI-3 organised by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Watch the event here.