January 2011


New Study Suggests Global Pacts Like REDD Ignore Primary Causes of Destruction of Forests
IUFRO press release, 24 January 2011

NEW YORK, USA: Released by the Global Forest Expert Panel on the International Forest Regime, the report “Embracing Complexity: Meeting the Challenges of International Forest Governance” suggests that global initiatives too often ignore local needs and fail to address the fact that deforestation is usually caused by economic pressures outside the forest sector. The report, along with a policy brief, will be presented to the ninth session of the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF). held from 24 January to 4 February 2011, as part of the launch of the International Year of Forests. The Expert Panel was constituted under the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, and is coordinated and led by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).

The report suggests the need for a dramatic shift away from “top-down” efforts to protect forests, and for placing a greater focus on supporting regional and national efforts to address the forces putting forests at risk. The authors also call for forest governance to move from a focus on forests towards the concept of “forests+”, which embraces inter-sectoral and inter-institutional complexity. Several sections address issues related to indigenous peoples and forest-related traditional knowledge, including Chapter 2 which maps the core actors and issues in international forest governance, Chapter 4 on discourses, actors and instruments, and Chapter 5 on forests and sustainability. The authors note that the potential effects of REDD funding on the economic and social pillars of sustainability are of particular concern. Noting cases of violations of the human rights of indigenous individuals who refuse to leave territories proposed as carbon sinks, the UNPFII has argued that proposed REDD mechanisms will lead to the further exclusion of indigenous people from their forests and to the criminalization of their traditional livelihoods. “Land grabs” for carbon are already occurring in many countries without consultation with local forest users. Read the press release … Download the report [pdf] … Download the policy brief [pdf] …

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The Global Diversity of Taro: Ethnobotany and Conservation
V. Ramanatha Rao, P.J. Matthews, P.B. Eyzaguirre, D. Hunter (eds.)
Bioversity International (2010) | ISBN-13: 978-92-9043-867-0

This book explores the diversity of taros and their uses as well as the status of taro genetic resources in all the major geographic regions where it is grown. It begins with a consideration of taro’s history as a food and then travels from Ghana, through Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Cuba, finally finishing up in the Pacific Region. The authors assess the uses and role of taro in food cultures around the world and the status and potential of taro genetic resources in taro improvement. They present research on the distribution of genetic diversity and adaptation of taro in each of the areas visited, and provide a brief review of new technologies and complementary approaches to develop and conserve taro genetic resources for diversified uses. The book highlights the synergies between science and thousands of years of farmer knowledge of taro genetic resource management, and the enormous potential of taro.

While new market opportunities and taro’s versatility are responsible for its growing popularity in markets, diseases and climate change also pose ever greater threats to its production and distribution. The current outbreak and spread of the devastating taro leaf blight in West Africa clearly highlights this vulnerability. By taking a global approach to the crop, the authors highlight ways to address new outbreaks of pathogens such as taro leaf blight. Diversity in cultivars is also important in coping and adapting to climate change especially when genetic diversity science and farmer knowledge can be brought together. Download the book [pdf] …

Community Champions: Adapting to Climate Challenges
H. Reid, S. Huq, L. Murray (eds)
IIED (December 2010) | ISBN: 978-1-84369-799-2

This publication contains abstracts from papers presented at the fourth International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change, held from 21-27 February 2010 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Conference was structured around plenary and technical sessions on a variety of subject areas such as agriculture, water resources, and ecosystems to cross-cutting issues of policy, funding, and strengthening institutions. Nearly a hundred projects were showcased, demonstrating the sheer variety and innovation of current community-based projects, several of which addressed the potential of traditional farming practices and coping mechanisms. Download the publication [pdf] …

Guaraní Effort to Strengthen Culture Through Tourism
IPS, 24 January 2011

PUERTO IGUAZÚ, ARGENTINA: Since recovering part of their territory in 2005, an indigenous Guaraní community in the northeastern Argentine province of Misiones is working to maintain and expand a cultural tourism initiative. People in the Yryapú community are learning computer skills and foreign languages, even as they delve deeper into their own culture. The 75 families that live in the middle of a dense jungle coveted by tourism companies have the support of the MATE Project (Argentine Model for Tourism and Employment of Native Peoples), financed by the provincial Misiones government and the Canada International Development Agency. Young people study ways to maintain their culture while adapting to the new realities, which includes using computers. At the Mbyá Guaraní Clemência González Intercultural Bilingual School, or “School of the Jungle,” the indigenous peoples live their education by sharing experiences with the instructors. They study ideas of natural and cultural heritage and learn from conferences and videos about the customs and traditions of their people. Read the article …

Native Craftswomen Harness Their Skills
IPS, 21 January 2011

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: The Grupo de Artesanos Nativos de Baja California is one illustration of how Amerindian groups in Mexico are using their craftmaking skills and traditions to defend their cultures and earn incomes to improve their living conditions. And in the town of El Tajín in the southeastern state of Veracruz, Totonaca Indians joined together in 2006 to perfect their work and improve the marketing and sales of their products, and thus boost their family incomes. The Cerámica project consists of four family-run pottery workshops where 25 people – mainly women – work. Both the Grupo de Artesanos Nativos de Baja California and the Cerámica de El Tajín are keeping alive artistic traditions passed down from generation to generation, and use raw materials available in their communities. From the ancestral knowledge and the hands of the Baja California artisans emerge baskets, pottery, bows and arrows, belts, sashes, bags, purses, necklaces, frames, and decorative ornaments, while the Totonaca ceramicists make serving dishes, pots, candlesticks, planters, jars, pitchers and many other products. Read the article …

Safeguarding Local Food Biodiversity in Africa
Serena Milano, Slow Food, 21 January 2011

DAKAR, SENEGAL: In this article, Serena Milano presents various examples, including traditional rice cultivation in Guinea-Bissau and sustainable production techniques of the Dogon, an African people living on Mali’s Bandiagara Escarpment between Mopti and Timbuktu, to conclude how encouraging the consumption of local products though education, promotion, and added value is a decisive step toward strengthening the economy of the communities and improving people’s health and quality of life. The production and preparation of local food gives strength and cohesion to the community and consolidates and improves social relations, thanks to the associated collaboration, the daily exchange of goods, work, and knowledge, the cementing of solidarity between different groups and generations, and the bonding that occurs through feasts, rituals, and food provided for the elderly or pregnant women. On the other hand, replacing traditional agriculture based on local diversity by monoculture crops destined for export reduces biodiversity, threatens local economies and undermines the autonomy and cultural identity of communities. Read the article …

Storm in an Andean teacup
The Economist, 20 January 2011

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: Tourists who visit Bolivia’s La Paz or Peru’s Cusco are routinely given welcome cups of coca tea to mitigate altitude sickness. For centuries, people who live in the high Andes have chewed coca leaves, whose alkaloids act as a mild stimulant. In 2009, Bolivia, where the new constitution protects coca as part of the country’s cultural heritage, proposed an amendment to the UN convention on narcotics that would remove the obligation to prohibit traditional uses of coca. Other South American countries agree. Coca however is also the source plant for the illegal narcotic cocaine. The USA have opposed the amendment proposed by Bolivia and Bolivia is considering pulling out of the convention. Read the article … Read an article by AFP, 20 January 2011 …

Traditional knowledge and Red Cross disaster preparedness in the Pacific
Australian Red Cross, November 2010

This report recommends that Australian Red Cross and Pacific national societies consider combining traditional knowledge when organizing the Pacific Disaster Management Partnership, and demonstrates that existing disaster preparedness techniques could be more effective if used together with traditional knowledge. Specific areas of TK such as early warning systems, land usage, and water and housing management are of particular use in disaster preparedness. By combining traditional and scientific knowledge, the impact of natural disasters on local communities could be lessened significantly. Download the report [pdf] … Download flyer of launch event [pdf] … Read an Islands Business article on the report and the launch …

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