Indigenous Peoples and Natural Resource Management: Contributions of And Challenges Faced by Indigenous Peoples

An AIPP side event on IUCN’s 6th Asia Regional Conservation Forum

10-12 August 2015

13 August 2015. Bangkok, Thailand. Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) hosted a side event on “Indigenous Peoples and Natural Resource Management: Contributions of and Challenges Faced by Indigenous Peoples” in a 3-day Asia Regional Conservation Forum organized by IUCN in Bangkok, Thailand.

The event started with the screening of the AIPP video “When Will We Go Home” on the forced eviction of 16 Karen families from Kangrachen National Park which took place in 2013. Mr Prawit Nikorn-uachai, a Karen leader, expounded on this issue and made an appeal to the Thai government to be more considerate of the indigenous communities living inside these forests that have been turned into national parks and conservation sites. “ We are not the destroyers of the forest. We have nurtured our natural environment through our ‘use and conserve’ practice which is part of our simple lifestyle and culture. The forest we manage, including our practice of shifting cultivation that provides us food security, are better conserved and enriched with biodiversity” said Mr. Prawit Nikorn-uachai.

 Ms. Joan Carling, AIPP Secretary General, cited the continuing challenges in countries like India, Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia where government initiatives such as mining, agro-industries, and other destructive projects are causing wide-scale adverse impacts on indigenous peoples’ sustainable resource management systems that are intrinsically linked to their right over their lands and resources. Ms. Carling said that most governments in Asia have policies prohibiting or restricting the practice of traditional livelihoods of indigenous peoples including shifting cultivation, and are not recognizing the right of indigenous peoples to their land and resources, despite their evidence-based contributions to the effective conservation of their natural environment.

Mr Godofredo Villapando, Executive Director of the Foundation for the Philippine Environment shared their work in supporting indigenous communities through ancestral land demarcation for legal recognition, protection and management of watershed which should entitle indigenous communities to benefit-sharing, and other projects supporting indigenous peoples’ resource management systems.

Some of the best practices cited included the cooperation among some local governments and agencies and the Inter Mountain People Education and Culture of Thailand (IMPECT) in community land mapping.

The interactive session after the panel presentation focused on remarks made by participants on their observations to the worsening condition of indigenous peoples; on the replication of good practices in other countries, as in the case of the benefit sharing models in the Philippines; and on community land mapping for legal recognition among others. Some of them also expressed their interest in collaborating with AIPP on indigenous peoples’ issues. Ms. Carling called for genuine partnership with conservation organizations based on the full recognition, acknowledgement and enhancement of the roles and contributions of indigenous peoples in conserving mother earth through their sustainable resource management systems.

The participants included Thai Government officials from the Water Resource Management and the Secretary of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Agriculture. AIPP publications for distribution were well received, especially Shifting Cultivation, Livelihood and Food Security which is a recent joint publication with UNFAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization).


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