Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Global Environmental Change
Erik Gómez-Baggethun, Esteve Corbera, and Victoria Reyes-García (guest eds)
Ecology and Society special feature 18(4), 2013

This special feature of Ecology and Society addresses two main research themes. The first one concerns the resilience of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and the conditions that might explain its loss or persistence in the face of global change. The second theme relates to new findings regarding the way in which TEK strengthens community resilience to respond to the multiple stressors of global environmental change. Those themes are analyzed using case studies from Africa, Asia, America and Europe. Theoretical insights and empirical findings from the studies suggest that despite the generalized worldwide trend of TEK erosion, substantial pockets of TEK persist in both developing and developed countries. A common trend on the studies presented is hybridization, where traditional knowledge, practices, and beliefs are merged with novel forms of knowledge and technologies to create new knowledge systems. The findings also reinforce previous hypotheses pointing at the importance of TEK systems as reservoirs of experiential knowledge that can provide important insights for the design of adaptation and mitigation strategies to cope with global environmental change. Based on the results from papers in this feature, the guest editorial also discusses policy directions that might help to promote maintenance and restoration of living TEK systems as sources of social-ecological resilience. Read the issue [open access] …


Following tradition: Top examples of indigenous knowledge preserving biodiversity, ecosystem services, 9 December 2013

ANTALYA, TURKEY: With the planet losing species 100 to 1,000 times faster than the natural extinction rate, international experts assembling for high-level global biodiversity meetings say knowledge co-production with indigenous peoples has growing importance. Building synergies between science and traditional knowledge forms one focus of delegates meeting in Antalya, Turkey, from 9-14 December, charged with determining a conceptual framework and initial work program for the UN’s new Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Available from almost every world region, lessons for ecosystem and natural resource management in indigenous and local knowledge include: the rice-fish co-culture, a farming technique for over 1,200 years in south China, which was recently designated a “globally-important agricultural heritage system” by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization; indigenous fire management techniques developed thousands of years ago, used to protect large landscapes in Australia, Indonesia, Japan and Venezuela; animal herd management in the Arctic, where remote satellite sensing, meteorology and modelling are complemented with the indigenous knowledge of Sami and Nenets reindeer herders to co-produce datasets; rotational farming, traditional cropping strategies and access to seeds, which have proved essential for adaptation and survival; sophisticated rainwater harvesting techniques; and sustainable management of marine resources, as practiced by many Pacific island communities, which traditionally involves the use of area and time-based restrictions to facilitate marine resource recovery. Read the release … Read a related article on Reuters … Follow the IISD Reporting Services coverage of IPBES-2 …

Working with Indigenous and Local Knowledge Systems for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – An Analysis of Selected Case Studies from WWF Projects Worldwide as a Contribution to IPBES-2
WWF, 2013

The case studies assembled in this publication illustrate how indigenous and local knowledge is applied in biodiversity monitoring and management of protected areas all over the world, testifying to the potential of their inclusion in building synergies among diverse knowledge systems. To inform the IPBES process, an outline of principles for engagement with indigenous and local knowledge-holders is suggested, inspired by relevant examples from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Furthermore, WWF presents its experiences with methodologies for participatory biodiversity assessments that are characterized by a strong sense of ownership by indigenous and local knowledge-holders. In order to build synergies among knowledge systems for the benefit of biodiversity conservation, these tools enable knowledge collaborators to jointly formulate research questions, choose data gathering methods, and work together in interpreting the results in order to draw policy-relevant conclusions for the management of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Download the report [pdf] …

Slow Food and FAO launch “Quinoa in the Kitchen”
FAO release, 3 December 2013

ROME, ITALY: The Slow Food movement and FAO officially launched the book, “Quinoa in the Kitchen,” to continue to promote awareness about the super-food’s potential, as the International Year of Quinoa 2013 draws to a close. The book gives an overview of quinoa’s roots in the history and culture of the central Andean high plateau, geographically extending across the borders of Peru and Bolivia, which together account for the vast majority of quinoa production in the world. Since quinoa is still new to many beyond the Andes, the book includes a selection of quinoa recipes created by some of the world’s top chefs. Read the release … Download the book [pdf] …

2014 Senior Indigenous Fellow
OHCHR Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Section, November 2013

The Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Section (IPMS) of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is seeking an indigenous person to fill the position of “Senior Fellow” for a duration of four months (2 June – 30 September 2014). The candidate must be indigenous, and have: a university degree preferably in law, political sciences, international relations or any other disciplines related to human rights; basic understanding of international human rights instruments and mechanisms; and minimum of four years of working experience in the field of indigenous peoples’ rights. S/he should be fluent in English, while other language skills including Spanish, French or Russian are highly desirable. The candidate selected will not receive a salary but will be entitled to a monthly stipend that will cover basic living expenses in Geneva, as well as return ticket and basic health insurance. Interested candidates should submit their applications by fax (+41 22 917 90 08) with a cover letter indicating “Application to the 2014 Senior Indigenous Fellowship” or by post at: Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Section, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNOG-OHCHR, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland. Scanned applications can also be sent to: fellowship(at) The deadline is 17 January 2014. Download the call [doc] … Further information on the OHCHR fellowship programme …

Documenting traditional foodways of Kenya
Bioversity International release, 26 November 2013

NAIROBI, KENYA: A Bioversity International initiative sought to document traditional foodways in two contrasting communities in Kenya – Isukha and East Pokot, one agricultural, one pastoral. Foodways are where food, culture and tradition intersect. The partners of the initiative aims not only to better understand and preserve the unique food cultures of these communities, but also to recognize their valuable skills, practices and the agricultural biodiversity that the communities use and conserve in their landscapes. The result: four publications filled with photos and information collected by schoolchildren who were given and trained to use digital cameras; edited and put together with the help of school teachers, community leaders and researchers involved in the project. The first two books describe the way food is grown, collected, prepared and eaten in the Isukha and East Pokot communities, including the cultural aspects associated with them. The third, presents a collection of photographs taken by primary school children from the two communities. Finally, the Practical Guide provides useful information for those who might want to replicate this methodology elsewhere, be it for foodways or other indigenous knowledge and practices. Read the release, including links to the four publications …

Skies through indigenous eyes
SciDev.Net, 12 November 2013

LONDON, UK: Since ancient times, the indigenous people of Brazil have developed their own knowledge and understanding of astronomy. As well as leaving behind a rich cultural legacy, the valuable knowledge they have gleaned has proved useful in deciding when to plant crops, when to harvest and how to predict seasonal changes. As life moves into the twenty-first century, there is a danger that this ancestral wisdom may soon be lost. In an effort to stop this happening, Germano Bruno Afonso, a Brazilian physicist, has devoted his life to the pursuit of ethnoastronomy by creating planetariums with which he hopes to safeguard and share the information he has collected from diverse indigenous communities across Brazil. In this audio slideshow, Luisa Massarani picks up his story. Watch the slideshow …

Next Page »