Vueti Navakavu: A success story from Fiji

Vueti Navakavu, an LMMA and registered ICCA on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, is a community conserved marine area. Designated in 2002 to address the decline of fish populations observed by the communities in their traditional fishing ground (locally known as qoliqoli and covering an area of 19.1 km²), this area is managed by the Yavusa Navakaavu clan to improve the management and protection of their marine area. Its aim is to conserve a healthy ecosystem that can support abundant and diverse marine life as a source of food and income. Following the creation of the Qoliqoli Committee and several consultations with the wider community, a system of community fish wardens was introduced to stop illegal fishing, and a no-take area constituting 20 per cent of the total area was created. Following the establishment of the reserve, the condition of the coral reefs has stabilised and fish catches and invertebrate populations have increased. This in turn has reduced the time and effort required for catching fish and increased the income of the fishermen in the local community.

Traditional knowledge and customary sustainable practices to conserve the endangered red panda in Ilam, Nepal

The indigenous peoples of Ilam, East Nepal include the Kirant (encompassing the Rai and Limbu peoples), Lepcha, Tamang, Sherpa, Sunuwar, Gurung, Magar and Thangmi. East Nepal is the historical domain of Kirant, with Kirant kingship running from 600 BC in Kathmandu. Kirant kings have ruled for over 1,000 years, using customary practices.

The indigenous peoples of Ilam are making important contributions towards conserving the endangered red panda (Ailurus fulgens) through their traditional knowledge and customary sustainable practices. Under the Nepal National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (1973), the red panda is recognised as a protected priority species, designated as vulnerable in 1994 and as endangered in 2004 because of habitat loss.1 People do not hunt red pandas because religion and customary systems have prohibited it, even before they were known to be endangered.

“Tamang culture has a “Choho” traditional institution of Tamang, to help take care of the forest, red panda habitat, historical areas and resources; and the head Lama (Buddhist) plays a valuable role in decision-making for the use and protection of red panda habitats. “ 2

Indigenous peoples know that red pandas in the wild rely mostly on bamboo for food (90 per cent), followed by fruits (three per cent), insects (2 per cent), crops (1 per cent) and other sources (3 per cent). Communities have observed that the existing bamboo forests in the areas are experiencing poor growth. They are damaged by wildfire, drought and the disappearance of water sources in the boreal forest, and other disturbances such as over-collection of non-timber forest products, local development including road construction, and human encroachment. Consequently, the indigenous communities have increased actions to protect the bamboo forest ecosystem inside the boreal forest through controlling wild fires and restoring water sources. As two community members explained: “We make a fire break line and check it for further burning. People keep a rotation to watch the fire and inform everyone to control the fire. They are also protecting water sources with planting and restoring natural ponds that can help to preserve the bamboo forest for red pandas.”

Traditional practices and institutions for conserving the red panda: the “Kipatiya Pratha” of the Kirant

The Kipatiya Pratha is the customary system of the Kirant. It is a local authorised body which uses traditional governance practices for conservation and sustainable management, for the use of natural resources and for the protection of biodiversity and the habitats of red pandas.

Kirant priests (Phedangba and Nuwagire), elders, women and traditional healers play important roles in collective decision-making to declare the forest patches that should be protected, ensuring that water sources and bamboo forests provide a good habitat for red pandas. In the Kipatiya Pratha, the individual obeys the collective decision to care for the red panda’s habitat (Pudekudo ko Basthan) and natural resources. If any member of the society tries to disobey the decision or misuse it, he or she will be punished. Kipatiya Pratha maintains a good governance system for red panda habitat conservation, controlling poaching, hunting, fire control, use of resources; and it has its own punishment tradition. If somebody acts in a way that disobeys tradition or hunts the red panda, then they call him or her into a meeting and inform the person not to do this, because it is important for society. If the person continues hunting or disobeying, or ignores the decision, then they will receive further punishment, such as a fine or becoming a social outcast (the person will not be allowed into any kinds of social functions). It is these social norms and values that create a good governance system.

Control of invasive pond apple infestations by indigenous rangers in a World Heritage Area, North-east Queensland, Australia

The Pond Apple (Annona glabra) is an invasive plant that is listed as a Weed of National Significance”3 in Australia. It originated in America and West Africa and was introduced to Australia in about 1912. It behaves like a mangrove, thriving in brackish and fresh water, and produces dense growth which crowds out native vegetation. It now extends from far northern New South Wales along most of the Queensland and Northern Territory coastlines. It transforms coastal wetlands, replacing native mangrove forest, paperbark tree swamp and nationally-endangered coastal littoral forest species 2, and forming mono-cultural thickets.

The traditional owners of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji (EKY) Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) in Queensland manage over 200,00 ha of Bubu (Land/Country), either solely or in collaboration with local or national government. Invasive species represent a particular challenge to the implementation of their management plan. The pond apple is one of over 125 species of introduced weeds (IAS) that are present in the IPA. Since 2014, the Jabalbina Yalanji Rangers of the IPA have collaborated with non-profit groups 3 and the local government to complete pond apple surveys and carry out control and follow-up monitoring of pond apple infestations in different parts of the EKY territory. Jabalbina rangers, Traditional Owners and indigenous students have been trained to identify/detect and control pond apple, including hand-pulling very small seedlings and using basal barking for larger trees, which involves spraying a small amount of herbicide directly onto the bark at the base of the tree. Indigenous communities are generally against the use of chemical controls on weeds, but, after seeing the successful effects of using glyphosate on pond apple, they are more accepting of herbicide use.

Many of the smaller infestations along rivers and creeks now under control, but there is still the major challenge of eradicating pond apple from low-lying areas to which access is restricted by tides, melaleuca (tea trees) and mangrove swamps, and which are home to saltwater crocodiles. Jabalbina Rangers will conduct follow-up monitoring and control trips during 2016 and 2017 and possibly beyond, with the hope of removing pond apple from EKY Bubu (Land / Country) altogether.

“None of us really saw the pond apple work as a hard thing to do. It was enjoyable, really, camping out on our Bubu and getting rid of this weed. We’re excited to get rid of pond apple from our Bubu”4


The traditional land use system of the Lua (La-weu) peoples in northern Thailand

The traditional land use system of the Lua (La-weu) peoples in northern Thailand includes different categories of conservation forests whose management and use is guided by various rules and agreements. They range from sacred forests, which can only be used for performing rituals, to forests where no trees are cut, and the only forms of harvest are gathering of timber and food. The Lua also practise rotational farming or shifting cultivation in areas which are unsuitable for rice paddy farming; each area is used for one year according to what is agreed in community meetings. The main crop is rice but many other plants are also grown in the fields. Land is cleared and dried for two months and then burned, but before burning, fire-break lines are cut near the fire protection forests to prevent spreading. When cutting the trees, the community members leave the stumps at a height of 60-100 cm and, after harvesting, trees sprout again from these stumps. This allows the forest to regenerate quickly. Land is left fallow for at least nine years. As a local leader explained:

If you farm like this, the soil will remain healthy and the rice is good”.5

Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan, Indonesia: indigenous Dayak try to save forest, river and lake habitats under threat from palm oil expansion

Protecting forests and food resources from degradation due to land use change is an important issue in Kapuas Hulu district, West Kalimantan. Although it is home to two big national parks (Danau Sentarum and Betung Kerihun National Parks), at least five oil palm plantation companies are active in the area. Due to oil palm expansion, the area has lost several significant ecosystems such as forest, river or lake ecosystems. These ecosystems are customarily managed by indigenous peoples (Dayak) or Malay descendants that have lived in the area for centuries.

Seberuang sub-district has the biggest intact forest in the area (some of it protected) and is therefore key to preventing further degradation from oil palm plantations, which are growing significantly in this district.

Alongside three neighbouring villages, Bati village has rejected plans for oil palm expansion in the area. The villagers heard about an oil palm company seeking a survey permit in their area. Concerned that this would threaten forests vital to them, the communities found themselves in a race against time to prevent the oil palm expansion. In March 2015, letters were sent to the District Head (Bupati) of Kapuas Hulu rejecting the proposed expansion plan. As a young man from Bati village explained:

We have seen the impacts of oil palm in neighbouring areas that are devastating. We are concerned that our culture will disappear with the arrival of oil palm plantations.”

Dayak communities in other parts of Kapuas Hulu have already been affected by oil palm expansion. Since the start of the operation of Golden Agri Resources’ (GAR) subsidiary PT KPC in 2007, unclear processes of land acquisition and non-compliance with social and environmental standards have caused protests and demonstrations and resulted in major rifts in almost all the affected communities. Following an international campaign, GAR developed a Forest Conservation Policy related to the zoning of High Carbon Stocks (HCS) forests as a tool to achieve “zero deforestation” in palm oil production. The site of PT KPC’s operations was selected as a pilot area.

Several of the affected communities undertook participatory mapping exercises and action research to develop community land use plans. This allowed them to identify how much land each family will need to sustain their ways of life, and to take an informed decision on whether to lease or sell their land for oil palm development. As the head of custom of the hamlet of Kenabak Hulu said:

We need to explain where our customary lands and forests are, which are ours, because of certain conditions and events of the past. For example sacred sites and untouchable areas are guarded by us and we make the decision to look after such areas collectively and make them a sacred site. When we do this we also invite the neighbouring villages to witness the agreement and make the area a customary forest. This is because it is not just our own beliefs [that matter] but these need to be transferred with our traditional knowledge and culture to the coming generations. This is how we came up with an agreement about which areas should not be used commercially or cultivated”2

Several villages rejected the proposed palm oil expansion plans (including Kenabak Hulu) and the lands of these communities were excised from the concession area. Because of this as much as 90 per cent of the HCS forests identified in GAR’s provisional concession ended up outside the company’s permit and jurisdiction. The communities emphasised that it has been they who have maintained these forests up to now and who value them and can look after them in the future. Nevertheless, their customary rights to these lands are still not recognised by district and national governments.

Children of the water: Plan de Vida (Life Plan) of the Misak people, Colombia

We, the Misak, are located in the Southwest of the Republic of Colombia, and have a population of approximately 25,000 inhabitants, with ancestral and autonomous authorities managing and regulating the territory.

We created the “Plan de Vida” (Plan of Life), which is a political strategy to ensure the existence of community life and spirituality linked to Mother Nature and countervailing the country’s own laws and regulations. The “Plan de Vida” is Mother Earth’s path to a comprehensive life with the mission of preserving moors, water resources and wetlands, all of which are alive and enjoy their own natural rights with no economic attributions. But we humans cannot see them as living beings. The Plan of Life is ancient and was passed on through oral tradition until it was systemised in 1992.

We, the Misak People, based on our Plan de Vida, protect life in our territory. We safeguard the moors, which are sacred places, and plant trees to safeguard water sources, manage watersheds and riverbanks and avoid their contamination. Similarly, we restrict research activity and the collection of resources within our territories. We, the Misak, are a people consisting physically of individuals, but we have a collective mind and conscience. This collectiveness gives us the necessary measures to protect Mother Earth and its biological diversity. We, the Misak, we have lived with Mother Nature wisely without looking at economic, commercial or industrial benefits, with the conviction that exercising the right to live is not only a human right but also the fundamental right of our Mother Earth. Only then can we live well. We are not against what the Western world call “development”. But we are against dispossession, a model of extractive development, mining, or any kind of human action that threatens the life of our Mother. We support a minga2 for the life of our Mother; we want to work as brothers with all the peoples who work to protect environmental rights. We want to unify our physical and spiritual strengths to protect a sustainable life. This is the only way to stop the illness of the economic and political models that fail to ensure the life of the planet and humanity.