Indigenous knowledge and stewardship can mitigate climate change and preserve culture | Land Portal

Land and Climate Conversations

From Nov. 6-18, the world gathers in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), to discuss the global climate change agenda. While we are hopeful that these high-level conversations will result in meaningful progress toward addressing the climate crisis, they may largely exclude the voices of local civil society and grassroots organizations – many of whom represent communities most directly impacted by the adverse effects of climate change.

To elevate the voices of our local partners, Landesa spoke with a few of our partners about climate change themes in their work. This Q&A is one installment in a three-part series on the links between land rights, climate change, and crosscutting themes of gender equity, youth empowerment, and rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

As stewards of the earth’s land, forests, and biodiversity, Indigenous Peoples and local communities are unparalleled. Though they comprise just 5 percent of the world’s population, Indigenous Peoples protect 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity as well as vast amounts of carbon in the forests, grasslands, and marine ecosystems where they have lived for centuries.

The Global Alliance of Territorial Communities (GATC) is an international alliance of organizations representing Indigenous Peoples and local communities united in defense of the earth. The alliance represents 35 million people living in forest territories across 24 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, spanning more than 958 million hectares of land.


Responses by Maria Cristina Feliciano from GATC


What kinds of social, cultural, and economic impacts are communities experiencing as a result of climate change? Are Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities experiencing these impacts more than others, and if so, how?

The effects of climate change that indigenous communities are suffering from are: tropical storms, floods, landslides, temperature increase. This causes production losses and seasonal instability and unpredictability. It also causes economic losses and the proliferation of diseases.  

The communities themselves face dispossession of their lands and territories, discrimination, deforestation and loss of biodiversity.

The communities are suffering a lot. Today the mountains have become cattle pastures and they have dried up. The rivers have been polluted and there are no more fish.  The cattle frontier has destroyed the forests.


What are the main constraints that limit communities’ ability to adapt to climate change and thrive? Are there barriers to Indigenous Peoples more specifically?

More follow-up is needed on the issue of climate change.  Women are learning about the issue of climate change in an empirical way, with endogenous knowledge, finding their own explanations. The main constraints that limit the communities' ability to adapt to climate change are their dependence on the production of basic grains and some perennial crops, which poses great risks to the communities' food security. Therefore, there is a need to look for alternatives to diversify production, such as handicrafts, backyard crops, medicinal plants, ornamental plants, non-timber products, animal oils and bone work, among other things. Diversification of production could promote the implementation of new technologies and guarantee the economic and social development of the communities in the long term.

Why is it vital that Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities be engaged in conservation efforts? Why is it important for efforts to combat climate change be inclusive and gender equitable?

The life of indigenous peoples and local communities is linked to Mother Nature. We all depend on the riches that Mother Nature offers. Life is present in plants, water, earth, air, fire, space and subsoil. Human beings, and Indigenous Peoples in particular, have always coexisted with these elements. There is a harmonious interrelationship that perpetuates life from the moment we are born until we die, forever contributing to the fertility of the earth.   

We Indigenous Peoples have a way of life and traditional knowledge, which can help mitigate climate change. We protect many of the most biodiverse ecosystems of our planet. Our contributions must be recognized and respected. It is important that efforts to combat climate change are equitable because we human beings live on this planet. Both men and women work the land but we depend on mother earth for production. So both women and men must understand, analyse and look for ways to solve the different problems that climate change is creating.

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