Indigenous leaders and allies call for the recognition and protection of indigenous peoples land use systems in forest management

The panelists of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) session “Indigenous peoples landscape approaches to forest conservation: Good practices and challenges for food security and livelihoods” in the Global Landscape Forum in Peru, Lima reaffirmed the findings of the AIPP research by sharing their experiences from Peru, Brazil, Tanzania and Myanmar. Mr. Lakpa Nuri Sherpa of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) facilitated the panel comprised of the representatives of CHIRAPAQ, Peru; PINGO-Forum; Promotion of Indigenous and Nature Together (POINT), Myanmar; the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); and the Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN). The session was organized on 6 Dec. 2014 during the UNFCCC COP20 in Lima, Peru. More than 35 participants attended the session.

 Indigenous peoples traditional livelihoods; particularly shifting cultivation has been branded as a driver of deforestation and is seen as technologically primitive, economically inefficient and ecologically harmful practice by most of the governments in Asia. The recent research conducted by Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) in partnership with International Work Group for Indigenous Peoples Affairs (IWGIA) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has confirmed what indigenous leaders have long been advocating that shifting cultivation is not a driver of deforestation. The study also confirmed that shifting cultivation is ecologically sound and still plays an important role in providing livelihood and food security in many indigenous communities.The research by AIPP found that land scarcity is making shifting cultivation difficult to sustain sufficiently long fallow cycles. However, it is often not so much caused by increasing population, but by outright dispossession of indigenous peoples’ territories for plantation or resource extraction. 

Ms. Tarcila Rivera Zea, President of CHIRAPAQ shared the experience of CHIRAPAQ on how the indigenous peoples of Vilcas Huamán Province, Ayacucho Region, Peru were able to conserve and recover 115 types of native potatoes, 80 types of maize, 40 varieties of beans, and 4 types of quinoa through their traditional knowledge and practices. Indigenous women are playing significant role in seeds selection and storage. Ms. Tarcila emphasized that the seeds conservation and storage and itssubsequent productions are intimately linked to the cultural life of the communities as well as on food security.

Mr. Lars Løvold, special advisor of the Rainforest Foundation Norway, apprised the participants about the misconceptions and negative myths on shifting cultivation and shared that in reality shifting cultivation is highly productive per labor unit, has high product diversity, provides food security, maintains biodiversity and may enrich forests.It is extremely diverse in terms of the number of food, vegetable and fruits.For example, theYanomami indigenous peoples of the Amazon Forest grow 16 types of bananas and 9 types of manioc. They get more than 160 wild edible plants in the forests. Baniwa peoples of Upper Rio Negro grow 75 types of chilli. Kaiabi indigenous peoples of Xingu have 27 crops of 149 varities and 22 types of groundnuts. However, the privation of lands, detrimental government policies, increasing population and changing lifestyles are posing challenges to it. He recommended integrating agro-forestry system in the livelihood system of indigenous peoples. Mr. Lars recommended government to respect indigenous peoples customary and collective land rights including their rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and called on to stop demonizing shifting cultivators.  

Mr. Edward Porokwa, CEO of the PINGO-Forum shared the challenges that pastoralism is facing in Tanzania. Pastoralism employs multiple techniques and is ensuring food security in the communities. However, it is negatively perceived. The land grabbing and the government policies have reduced their lands for mobility. This is increasing the poverty in the communities. Ms. Naw Ei Ei Min, Executive Director of POINT shared the experience of the loss of traditional lands due to land grabbing in Myanmar. She also highlighted the challenges that shifting cultivators are facing in the country. She recommended for research and documentation on shifting cultivation and land tenure for sustainable shifting cultivators, among others. Ms. Susan M. Braatz, representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shared FAO’s priority area of work with indigenous peoples. Ms. Susan gave an overview of the “The Voluntary Guidelines on Tenure and Indigenous Peoples” specifically on what it entails for indigenous peoples.

The session provided a good opportunity to share the experiences of indigenous peoples land use from different regions of the world. There are ongoing discussions on land use in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). So it is important that indigenous leaders sustain their advocacy work in the international meetings of the UNFCCC to ensure that the decisions on land use respect, promote, protect and fulfill the right of indigenous peoples to their land, territories and resources; and their right to continue and adapt traditional livelihoods systems in the changing scenario.



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