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] …

Sustaining and Enhancing Forests Through Traditional Resource Management (volume 2)
Gabriel Bachange Enchaw et al, Tebtebba Foundation, 2013 | ISBN: 978-197-0186-17-4

A follow-up to an earlier compilation of case studies published in 2010, this second volume of the book Indigenous Peoples, Forests and REDD Plus: Sustaining and Enhancing Forests Through Traditional Resource Management includes six case studies. These were written by the Center of Research and Development in Upland Areas (CERDA), Vietnam; Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), Nepal; Center for Indigenous Peoples’ Cultures of Peru (Chirapaq), Peru; Asamblea Mixe para el Desarrollo Sostenible A.C. (ASAM-DES), Mexico; Lelewal Foundation, Cameroon; and in the Philippines, by the state-run University of the Philippines Baguio, in partnership with Tebtebba. These six case studies reveal the secrets of indigenous peoples in protecting, conserving and managing their forestlands. The findings, conclusions and recommendations of the case studies all point to one thing—policy makers and development planners need to rethink or reorient their mindsets and framework towards forest management. All the case studies share something in common. They highlight how indigenous peoples regard themselves as stewards and caretakers of their forests and lands. As such, they view the land as “Mother,” which cannot be sold or traded. As responsible stewards, indigenous peoples also regard their forests and lands as sacred. The various studies cite specially designated sacred sites, which must remain untouched. These sites include areas with pristine springs, important herbs, centuries-old mother trees, and important wildlife sanctuary. And as part of their responsibility and accountability, indigenous peoples always consider the needs and interests of future generations. Indigenous governance, traditional knowledge and management systems of forests and lands are thus based on this precept. All the case studies also highlight the vital role of women in forest management or in sustainable farming. Further information, including link to publication …

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Milkweed Editions, 2013 | ISBN: 978-1-57131-335-5

Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist and mother, Kimmerer shows how other living beings—asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass—offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In a rich braid of reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgement and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. Further information …

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 …

What came out of Warsaw on REDD? Part 1: The REDD decisions
REDD Monitor, 25 November 2013

WARSAW, POLAND: UNFCCC negotiators in Warsaw came to seven decisions relating to REDD, addressing: REDD+ finance; coordination of finance; national forest monitoring systems; summary of information on safeguards; forest reference emission levels; measuring, reporting and verification of forest-related emissions; and drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. Read the article, including links to the full text of the decisions …

The Warsaw Framework for REDD Plus: The decision on REDD finance
REDD Monitor, 29 November 2013

This post looks at the Warsaw decision on REDD finance (work programme on results-based finance to progress the full implementation of the activities referred to in decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 70). Read the post …

The Warsaw Framework for REDD Plus: The decision on coordination of REDD finance
REDD Monitor, 4 December 2013

This post looks at the decision on coordination of REDD finance (Coordination of support for the implementation of activities in relation to mitigation actions in the forest sector by developing countries, including institutional arrangements). Read the post …

The Warsaw Framework for REDD Plus: The decision on national forest monitoring systems
REDD Monitor, 10 December 2013

This post looks at the decision on modalities for national forest monitoring systems. The text states that national forest monitoring systems should “enable the assessment of different types of forest in the country, including natural forest, as defined by the Party.” Read the post …

Guest Post: A pathetic REDD package
REDD Monitor, 3 December 2013

In this post, Simone Lovera, Global Forest Coalition, describes the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ as “the weakest text any international forest-related body has ever adopted.” Read the post …

Two very different views on the Warsaw REDD deal from Indigenous Peoples organisations
REDD Monitor, 7 December 2013

This post comments on two very different reactions to the Warsaw Framework for REDD from two indigenous peoples organizations. The first, from the Indigenous Peoples Biocultural Climate Change Assessment Initiative (IPCCA) is critical. The second, from the Tebtebba Foundation, is optimistic. Read the post, including links to the releases by IPCCA and Tebtebba …

REDD+ Learning Session 18: The Warsaw REDD+ Framework – COP 19 Results
WWF Forest and Climate Programme, December 2013

In this webinar, archived from a session that took place on 5 December 2013, Josefina Brana-Varela, Policy Director of WWF’s global Forest and Climate Programme; Hermine Kleymann, Program Officer for REDD Policy at WWF-Germany; and John O. Niles, Director for Climate and Forests with WWF-US, discuss REDD+ outcomes from the recent UNFCCC COP19 climate change talks in Warsaw, Poland and outline potential next steps. Follow the webinar …

Forest traditions make business sense for indigenous people
Thomson Reuters Foundation, 18 November 2013

LONDON, UK: For centuries, indigenous communities in the Philippines have kept the country’s rainforests safe from over-use, thanks to their deep and spiritual respect for nature’s limits. But in the last decade, economic interests seen as good for development – ranging from mining to palm oil cultivation – have overshadowed indigenous people’s way of life, often with devastating effects on the forest. That has led to a gradual recognition at international level of the important role local communities play in forest conservation. Researchers are finding that, where indigenous people have strong land rights, forests are being preserved. “Whatever the forests can give, that’s only what they take,” says Ruth Canlas, facilitator for the Philippines branch of the Philippines-based Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange of South and Southeast Asia, a network of NGOs and community-based groups that helps indigenous communities market forest goods from resources other than wood, including honey, medicinal plants and rattan for crafts. With the help of such organisations, indigenous people are banding together to form community forest enterprises, which combine products from multiple groups to expand production and marketing opportunities. This enables local people to earn more, allowing them to continue managing and making a living from their forests – and reducing the chance they will be forced off their land to seek work in urban areas. Read the article …

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