Water


Following tradition: Top examples of indigenous knowledge preserving biodiversity, ecosystem services
Phys.org, 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 …

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Building peace around water, land and food: Policy and practice for preventing conflict
Ellie Roberts and Lynn Finnegan, Quaker United Nations Office, September 2013

Water and land are two of the key natural resources that shape billions of people’s livelihoods, food security, well-being and identity. While challenges around governing natural resources have been faced throughout history, climate change now lends an additional urgency to the need to develop appropriate policy and practice in order to prevent destructive conflict around water, land and food. This paper looks at some of the elements of peaceful and equitable natural resource management, focusing particularly on the need to strengthen peace-building skills among actors at all levels. It explores the international laws and guidelines that can help to prevent destructive conflict around water, land and food by promoting good approaches to natural resource management. It further presents initiatives that have implemented such approaches, drawing lessons from their experiences. Some of the case studies presented consider the strengths of community protocols that, especially when supported by national policy, can be used to ensure equitable management of plant genetic resources and provide a mechanism for managing conflicts constructively. Among the lessons learned, it is noted that an inclusive approach to natural resource management requires capacity building at various levels, with the consequent financial and time investment that this implies; ongoing efforts to bring in excluded groups are essential for food policy and practice around natural resources; while raising awareness of legal rights and responsibilities among communities, government representatives and private sector representatives leads to more legitimate and peaceful natural resource management. National support for community articulations of customary use and ownership of natural resources can provide a basis for dialogue between groups as well as help gain national recognition of customary law and practice. An annex includes a list of the international legal instruments relevant to natural resource management and prevention of conflict. Download the paper [pdf] …

Traditional Farm Practices Hold Promises for Philippines’ Sick Rivers
Voice of America news, 25 September 2013

CORDILLERA, PHILIPPINES: An estimated 80 percent of Asia’s rivers are considered “sick,” meaning they suffer from pollution and the uncoordinated development of water resources. As conservationists rethink strategies to save rivers, young researchers in Manila are finding promise in an age-old watershed preservation approach. The Ifugaos of the Cordillera region in northern Philippines are known as the builders of the area’s UNESCO heritage rice-terraces. Such mountainside farms have survived for more than 900 years, in part because locals have maintained nearby forests and protected the watersheds that sustain their fields. In the lowlands, expanding populations and industrial growth have stressed rivers and water basins, despite master development plans designed by top engineers. Asia Development Bank water expert Wouter Lincklaen Arriens says the old practices of local communities should play a bigger role in modern watershed management. Read the article …

Rio Conventions Pavilion at UNCCD COP11
17-26 September 2013 (Windhoek, Namibia)

Held in parallel with the eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and hosted by the Rio Conventions Secretariats and the Global Environment Facility, the Rio Conventions Pavilion meets under the overarching theme of “Shaping our Future: Rio+20 outcome follow-up and moving towards the post 2015 development agenda.” On 17 September 2013, the Indigenous and Local Community Sustainable Land Managers Day was held, organized by UNDP/Equator Initiative and other partners. The day included sessions on: reviving drylands – sustainable use of water in Sub-Saharan Africa; beyond the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – combating desertification, climate change and biodiversity loss post-2015; engaging with extractive industries – can it work; overcoming the challenges of desertification, land degradation and drought – best practices for sustainable land management and the strengthening of alternative livelihoods; and knowledge exchange for capacity building – networks and learning platforms. In the evening a reception was hosted by the World Indigenous Network (WIN), during which the Equator Initiative launched a book titled “Community-Based Sustainable Land Management: Best Practices in Drylands from the Equator Initiative.” Read the IISD Reporting Services’ report on the day … Visit the Rio Conventions Pavilion website …

Indigenous Cultures Team Up to Apply Ancient Wisdom to Today’s World
Andrew Howley, National Geographic Explorers Journal, 1 August 2013

LONDON, UK: While many urbanized cultures turn almost exclusively to the modern world for direction and inspiration, and feel that the future will bring new answers to our existing problems, indigenous cultures especially in more natural surroundings are increasingly pulling from both the modern and the ancient worlds, seeing the “ancient world” not as something to move away from, but as something that continues to offer perennially useful examples, guidance, and solutions to problems. In northwestern Canada, the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council is combining ancient values and beliefs about humanity’s relationship with nature, with scientific techniques for the surveillance and analysis of the health of the area’s waterways. The ninth biennial summit of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council was held from 2-4 August 2013 in Mayo, Yukon Territory, Canada, and served as an opportunity to learn about the diverse watershed, make important decisions about watershed protection, ensure continuing efforts to preserve and protect the Yukon River, and form a worldwide network of indigenous knowledge. Read the article … Visit the Summit website …

Tried and tested: learning from farmers on adaptation to climate change
Hannah Reid, Muyeye Chambwera, Laurel Murray, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), April 2013

The paper underscores how measures to increase climate change resilience must view food, energy, water and waste management systems as interconnected and mutually dependent. This holistic approach must also be applied to economic analysis for adaptation planning. Similarly, it is vital to use traditional knowledge and management skills, which can further support adaptation planning. The authors make three specific policy recommendations for achieving this. First, climate change should be tackled within an integrated environmental and development framework. A more holistic approach would address climate change adaptation and mitigation simultaneously, and also ensure complementarities between agendas that focus on climate change and those that focus on mainstream development. Economic assessments should also be more complete, and include a wide array of costs and benefits. Second, locally-led solutions and genuine community benefits should be kept central in international climate change agreements and scientific research. Policy makers must take into account traditional knowledge about seed varieties, livestock, crops and land management to enhance adaptive management capabilities. This requires a similarly large shift in high-level policy-making processes. Third, power imbalances should be challenged to ensure local people and their organisations are heard in policy making: Most policy-making processes in poor countries are organised along sectoral lines and are not geared up for strengthening local organisations and federations, building on local knowledge or empowering local people. A shift to more joined-up cross-sectoral policy making and institutional support is required. Lessons also need to be fed up from local and national levels to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – for example communities should be involved in national policy processes such as the National Adaptation Programmes of Action. Download the paper [pdf] …

Sri Lankan farmers urged to tap ancient irrigation systems amid erratic rains
Thomson Reuters Foundation, 2 July 2013

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA: While the problem of erratic rains may seem relatively new, research by Sri Lankan water experts shows that a workable solution to the vagaries of shifting rain patterns has been around for centuries in the form of ancient irrigation reservoirs, or “tanks” as they are known locally. Experts at the Colombo-based International Water Management Institute (IWMI) say these tanks – mainly located in the north and east – can be used to store excess water from floods, which is then released during dry spells. Nishadi Eriyagama, a water resources engineer at the IWMI, said farming regions in the dry zone have traditionally relied on reservoirs and irrigation for crop cultivation. “It has been the custom from ancient times to store excess rainfall in large and small irrigation ‘tanks’ to be used during the dry season,” she said. Read the article …

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