December 2013


World Heritage no. 69: Agricultural landscapes
UNESCO World Heritage Centre, October 2013

Agricultural landscapes are a testimony to humanity’s long interaction with the land, often unique examples of people and nature co-existing and influencing each other. They demonstrate a rich cultural and landscape diversity, sustainable land-use systems and in some cases people’s daily struggle for survival under extreme climatic and environmental conditions. The 19th-century coffee plantations in Cuba; Stari Grad Plain in Croatia, where grapes and olives have been harvested since ancient Greek times; Konso Cultural Landscape in Ethiopia, where fortified settlements embody a living cultural tradition stretching back twenty-one generations and adapted to a harsh environment; and the subak water management system in Bali (Indonesia), where the spiritual, human and natural worlds are brought together in a philosophy that has shaped the landscape while ensuring prolific rice production – all of these are exceptional examples of an enduring and harmonious interaction. The issue also presents the new World Heritage sites inscribed during the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee, Phnom Penh (Cambodia) in June 2013. Read the issue …

Indigenous peoples’ rights to lands, territories, and resources
Birgitte Feiring, International Land Coalition, 2013 | ISBN: 978-92-95093-90-4

Published as a contribution to the debate towards the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, this study assesses the global and regional instruments, mechanisms and initiatives in regard to indigenous rights to lands, territories and resources. It contains a review of regional situations of indigenous people in Asia, Africa and Latin America, showing how the situation of indigenous peoples varies across regions and countries; and also offers an analysis on how indigenous peoples’ land rights are related to three key thematic areas: women’s rights and access to land and resources; community conserved areas; and climate change and REDD+.

The study concludes with a summary of key trends and challenges, including the non-recognition of tenure rights, and further identifies key opportunities, including strong or emerging indigenous peoples’ organizations, and progressive legislation and policy developments. The study confirms what was suspected: indigenous peoples entertain special relationships with their lands, territories and resources, as these are central to their world view, their cultures, livelihoods, spirituality, identity, and their continued existence as distinct peoples. Read the ILC press release … Download the study [pdf] …

Indigenous Burning as Conservation Practice: Neotropical Savanna Recovery amid Agribusiness Deforestation in Central Brazil
James R. Welch et al
PLoS One, December 2013, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081226

This study, conducted by researchers from Indiana University in the US and Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, has found that indigenous use of fire for hunting is an unlikely contributor to long-term carbon emissions, but it is an effective environmental management and recovery tool against agribusiness-related deforestation.

International efforts to address climate change by reducing tropical deforestation increasingly rely on indigenous reserves as conservation units and indigenous peoples as strategic partners. Considered win-win situations where global conservation measures also contribute to cultural preservation, such alliances also frame indigenous peoples in diverse ecological settings with the responsibility to offset global carbon budgets through fire suppression based on the presumed positive value of non-alteration of tropical landscapes. Anthropogenic fire associated with indigenous ceremonial and collective hunting practices in the Neotropical savannas (cerrado) of Central Brazil is routinely represented in public and scientific conservation discourse as a cause of deforestation and increased CO2 emissions despite a lack of supporting evidence. In this study, researchers evaluated this claim for the Xavante people of Pimentel Barbosa Indigenous Reserve, Brazil, using multi-temporal spatial analyses to compare land cover change under indigenous and agribusiness management over the last four decades (1973–2010) and quantifying the contemporary Xavante burning regime contributing to observed patterns based on a four year sample at the end of this sequence (2007–2010). The overall proportion of deforested land remained stable inside the reserve (0.6%) but increased sharply outside (1.5% to 26.0%). Vegetation recovery occurred where reserve boundary adjustments transferred lands previously deforested by agribusiness to indigenous management. Periodic traditional burning by the Xavante had a large spatial distribution but repeated burning in consecutive years was restricted. The results suggest a need to reassess overreaching conservation narratives about the purported destructiveness of indigenous anthropogenic fire in the cerrado. The real challenge to conservation in the fire-adapted cerrado biome is the long-term sustainability of indigenous lands and other tropical conservation islands increasingly subsumed by agribusiness expansion rather than the localized subsistence practices of indigenous and other traditional peoples. Read the article …

Rain Forest Warriors: How Indigenous Tribes Protect the Amazon
National Geographic, 22 December 2013

LONDON, UK: Deforestation stops at the borders of the lands of indigenous tribes, where a massive green island is comprised of ten legally ratified indigenous territories totaling 35 million acres (14 million hectares). For those who want to protect the Amazon, there’s a lesson here. How do relatively few indigenous people manage to keep the chainsaws and bulldozers at bay over a vast area of pristine forest? Legal protections are part of the answer: Threatened by ranchers, loggers, and gold miners on their borders, the Kayapo fought for and won official recognition of their lands in the 1980s and 1990s. (Their southern neighbors were already living in a smaller protected area, the Xingu Indigenous Park, established in the 1960s.) But this region of the southeastern Amazon is like the Wild West, a territory lacking proper governance. Violent conflict over land, illegal logging and gold mining, fraudulent land deals, and other corruption are rampant. Laws are not protection enough. Some native tribes have staged protests, pressured the government, and fought on the ground to secure their rights. Read the article …

Healthy eating: nutritious indigenous foods you may never have heard of
The Guardian, 23 December 2013

LONDON, UK: The proliferation of the western diet, which is high in refined sugars, fats, processed grains and meat, has been blamed for a rise in global obesity and diet-related illnesses. As awareness of healthy eating has grown in the west, sales of once obscure grains such as quinoa have skyrocketed. Amid growing concern that unhealthy eating habits are crowding out healthier traditional crops, Food Tank: The Food Thinktank has compiled a list of indigenous fruits and vegetables that should be championed, including amaranth, cowpea, pamir mulberry and bunya nut. Read the article …

Indigenous rangers protecting turtles
ABC Rural, 24 December 2013

QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA: There is little known about the flat back turtles that nest on the beaches of north Queensland, or the threats they face. But a group of indigenous rangers is working to protect the creatures by patrolling the beaches and the ocean. Mixing traditional knowledge and modern science, the rangers are making sure the extraordinary species will survive into the future, and be around for the next generation. Read the article …

Pollination and Land Degradation: Top Priorities for New Intergovernmental Body
IPBES Press Release, 14 December 2013

ANTALYA, TURKEY: The second meeting of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), held from 9-14 December 2013, in Antalya, Turkey, concluded with the adoption of the Antalya Consensus, a set of decisions detailing: the Platform’s work programme, for 2014-2018, including fast track, thematic, regional and sub-regional assessments and activities for building capacities; a conceptual framework that considers different knowledge systems; and rules and procedures for the Platform on, inter alia, the nomination of future Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP) members and procedures for the preparation of the Platform’s deliverables, and relationship with the UN. The meeting agreed to develop a set of assessments on pollination and food production, land degradation and invasive species meant to support the science behind policy making. It also established a task force on indigenous and local knowledge systems led by the MEP in consultation with the Bureau, and adopted its terms of reference; and requested the MEP and the Bureau to develop draft procedures for and approaches to working with indigenous and local knowledge systems, and to establish in 2014 a roster and network of experts and a participatory mechanism for working with various knowledge systems. Read the IPBES press release … Read the IISD RS daily and summary reports of the meeting …

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