August 2013

Valuing Indigenous Knowledge for Climate Change Adaptation Planning in Fiji and Vanuatu
Karen Elizabeth McNamara and Shirleen Shomila Prasad, July 2013

Pacific Island communities are heavily reliant on natural resources to sustain their livelihoods and as a consequence they have developed an intimate understanding of their local environment. Communities have been using their knowledge of the land and sea to monitor changes in their local surroundings, use and manage resources, and adapt to local environmental changes and extreme weather events. Increasingly this knowledge is being recognized as a crucial ingredient in community-based climate change adaptation planning. This article explores how three communities in Fiji and three communities in Vanuatu have adapted to local environmental change or events. Some of the strategies used by locals have included: re-vegetating coastal foreshores with native species; using innovative water storage practices during times of drought; and employing food preservation strategies during times of cyclones or drought. The article seeks to build on discussions concerning the value and importance of indigenous knowledge in planning for resilient communities in the future. Read the guest article …

The UNU-IAS Traditional Knowledge Initiative, under the Traditional Knowledge Bulletin, is running a series of guest articles on topical issues in traditional knowledge. If you would like your research to be considered for inclusion in this series, please contact us at: tkbulletin(a)

Indigenous Languages of Queensland Preserved in Picture Dictionaries, 22 August 2013

QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA: With a considerable amount of effort and the willingness to accomplish a monumental task, the Desert Channels Queensland (DCQ) finally released the outcome of two years spent in recording and preserving the indigenous languages of Queensland. Dictionaries with pictures showing the staggering richness of the languages used by indigenous people in the Outback of Queensland, Australia were recently published. These “pictionaries” are just the start. The organization has already launched an all out campaign to put these reference materials in local schools as well as public libraries. Read the article …

How indigenous communities are driving sustainable tourism
The Guardian, 22 August 2013

APIA, SAMOA: Faced with the prospect of becoming just another piece of resort real estate, members of the tourism sector in Samoa are coming together to explore ways of enriching their guests’ experience while ensuring that the money they spend directly benefits villages and helps provide livelihoods and hope for local young people. They are discovering that while some capital investment is necessary, the real gains in yield come from valuing who they are, where they are and what makes them “exotic.” Whether they know or acknowledge it or not, they are part of a global renaissance within indigenous communities around the world who have not lost their kinship with the land and water that have sustained them through the millennia.This movement toward conscious travel is about rendering the existing mass tourism model obsolete and co-creating a visitor economy that lives in balance with the natural environment, delivers decent, respectful and enduring livelihoods to its employees, while developing an antidote to the plagues of commodification, diminishing returns, boom and bust. Read the article …

Overpopulation and grazing imperils nomadic lifestyle and wildlife in Ladakh
Shreya Dasgupta,, 23 August 2013

CALIFORNIA, USA: In a new study published in the journal Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice, researchers have documented how events such as the immigration of Tibetan refugees, the Indo-China war of 1962, as well as post-war development policies of the government, have brought about major transformations in the traditional patterns of movement and pasture-use of the Rupshu pastoralists, a group of nomads living in the high altitude of Ladakh in northern India, along with an increase in livestock numbers. These changes have, in turn, had an impact on the native wildlife of this region. It was not a planned study,” says Navinder Singh, associate professor in Wildlife Ecology at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and lead author of the study. “I lived with these pastoralists for four summers and two winters. While chatting with them, several issues started to emerge. There were concerns about warming of climate, that there wasn’t much grass left, and that wildlife was over-grazing. We felt that the behavior of these people needed to be known since it eventually affects the wildlife.” Read the article … Read the research article by N. Singh et al “No longer tracking greenery in high altitudes: Pastoral practices of Rupshu nomads and their implications for biodiversity conservation” Pastoralism Research, Policy and Practice 2013, 3:16

Custodian farmers of agricultural biodiversity: selected profiles from South and South East Asia
B. Sthapit, H. Lamers, R. Rao (eds.)
Bioversity International, 2013 | ISBN-13: 978-92-9043-933-2

This publication presents the proceedings of the Workshop on Custodian Farmers of Agricultural Biodiversity, held on 11-12 February 2013, in New Delhi, India. About 20 farmers from five countries (India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal and Thailand) participated in the workshop and shared their experience and motivations. The workshop also debated on the challenges faced by such farmers and discussed the ways to strengthen and/or support them so that they continue to use, conserve and promote agricultural biodiversity. The meeting produced recommendations to policy makers to support on-farm conservation efforts. Download the publication [pdf] …

National Workshop on Enhancing the Contribution of Custodian Farmers to the National Plant Genetic Resources System in Nepal
31 July 2013 – 2 August 2013 (Pokhara, Nepal)

Farmers from around Nepal, representatives from the Department of Agriculture, the National Genebank and international specialists in plant genetic resource conservation gathered in Pokhara to discuss strategies to strengthen the role of custodian farmers in on-farm conservation in Nepal. Building on dialogue started at a Custodian Farmers workshop in New Delhi earlier this year, this meeting helped establish connections among custodian farmers from different parts of Nepal and bring their perspectives to policymakers and scientists. One of the key themes was the consolidation of the custodian farmers’ role by connecting them through community-level institutions. An important element in this discussion was gender: men and women often have different responsibilities in a household, which translates in different roles as custodian farmers. About half of the farmers participating in the meeting were women; all-female discussion groups were carried out alongside mixed-gender discussion groups to encourage equal participation of men and women. In group discussions, farmers developed a vision for their communities and country, including how they see the role of custodian farmers in the conservation of agricultural biodiversity. In parallel discussions, government representatives and scientists explored options to increase support for on-farm conservation and strengthen the role of custodian farmers within the existing policy framework. Organized by LI-BIRD, Bioversity International and the Network for Agrobiodiversity Conservation in Nepal with the support of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, and the European Commission, the workshop is part of the activities of ‘Reinforcing the resilience of poor rural communities in the face of food insecurity, poverty and climate change through on-farm conservation of local agrobiodiversity’, a 3-year Bioversity International project in India, Nepal and Bolivia. Read the Bioversity International release … Download the workshop presentations …

Recognising indigenous rights
Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa release, 20 August 2013

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: An agreement to share benefits was signed on 19 August 2013 between indigenous San and Khoi khoi groups and the pharmaceutical company Cape Kingdom Nutraceuticals in South Africa, related to the processing of Buchu, a small shrub endemic to the Western Cape used for its essential oils. Acknowledging that the San and the Khoi’s medicinal plant knowledge predates that of any subsequent inhabitants of South Africa, the landmark deal confirms that they are “legally entitled to a fair and equitable share of the benefits that result from the commercial development of the buchu plant.” Under the benefit-sharing agreement, the Khoi and San communities will receive three percent of the profits related to Buchu products. In addition, Cape Kingdom Nutraceuticals commits to share its knowledge of the commercial use of the plant with the indigenous communities, in exchange for the San and Khoi endorsing the products. Read the article …

Matters concerning the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC)
WIPO Doc. WO/GA/43/14, August 2013

The report of the IGC that will be transmitted to the 2013 WIPO General Assembly, taking place from 23 September to 2 October 2013, has been published. The report provides an overview of the IGC sessions in 2013, as well as the four texts transmitted by the IGC, including: the consolidated document relating to intellectual property and genetic resources (Annex A); the protection of traditional knowledge: draft articles rev. 2 (Annex B); the protection of traditional cultural expressions: draft articles rev. 2 (Annex C); and the report of the proposals made by delegations regarding future work of the IGC, following the review and stocktaking conducted under agenda item 7, as at the close of the session on July 24, 2014 (Annex D). The WIPO General Assembly is expected to take stock of and consider the texts and progress made, and decide on convening a diplomatic conference. Download the report [pdf] … Visit the webpage of the 2013 WIPO General Assembly …

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