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Indigenous peoples and local communities in locally-led adaptation

  • Published at 03:05 pm March 2nd, 2021

Increasing recognition of indigenous and local communities in tackling climate change is a ray of hope  

The most emphasized word of locally-led adaptation is ‘led’. This notion acknowledges the crucial role of local communities to take effectual actions on the ground and tackle climate change persistently. These unrecognized leaders and frontline agents of climate change adaptation include indigenous peoples and local communities. Their lifestyle, culture, society, traditions vary from group to group within a country, however, the diversity accounts for sustainable management and preservation of their landscapes and seascapes. Despite having contributed the least to climate change and leading a ‘low carbon’ way of life, Indigenous peoples and local communities are disproportionately affected since they often live closer to the climate-vulnerable ecosystems; highly dependent on the natural resources; and low socio-economic conditions.

On a positive note, indigenous peoples and local communities’ sustainable lifestyles, and traditional knowledge are coming to spotlight and gaining impetus to tackle climate change. The global recognition of their rights and contribution to the environment and sustainable development are also rising in the realms of science, policy and advocacy. Recently, theInternational Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) organized its very first Gobeshona Global conference to showcase the knowledge, research and practices on locally-led adaptation from different regions of the world. 

Several key sessions in GCC highlighted the urgency to incorporate traditional knowledge into project implementation and planning stages to enhance actions for locally-led adaptation. The session titled ‘A new global initiative for action research’, hosted by Adaptation Research Alliance (ARA) stressed co-production of knowledge between practitioners (such as indigenous and local communities) and researchers to build sustainable relationships and fight climate change more strategically. 

“The global recognition of their rights and contribution to the environment and sustainable development are also rising in the realms of science, policy and advocacy”

The new research alliance also aims to collaborate with diverse stakeholders and scale up adaptation actions by researching on the ground to harness the synergy between traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and science. While the session on ‘Capacity Building for Promoting Local Adaptation Innovation through regional collaboration, hosted by Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) stated the increasing need to acknowledge and integrate indigenous practice and local knowledge with traditional science/research to have a more fruitful adaptation intervention. This was reflected in one of their research projects in India and Bhutan where local communities used their traditional knowledge to reuse crops residue to enhance soil function and reduce emissions for climate-adaptive agricultural waste strategy. 

The session hosted by ICCCAD and WWF, ‘People Protecting Landscapes and Seascapes’ highlighted that indigenous people and local communities led ecosystem management and their sustainable conservation of biological diversity are consistent with Nature-based Solutions in addressing the adverse effects of climate change. The session stressed on the reciprocal relationships between the local communities and nature. It also highlighted how traditional and indigenous knowledge practised by the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) are inevitably nature-based and contribute to both climate change adaptation and mitigation. 

Another session hosted by Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), shared how indigenous youths are leading the way forward to integrate traditional knowledge into research practices. Indigenous peoples traditional knowledge and practices also contribute to deepen our knowledge on the current ecosystem, and can lead to a paradigm shift on nature-based development approach and economic feasibility.

“It is anticipated that we are entering the epoch of Anthropocene where human actions are predominant in the biosphere and planetary systems”

It is anticipated that we are entering the epoch of Anthropocene where human actions are predominant in the biosphere and planetary systems. It not only implies the advancement of the human race but also entails transformative changes to reduce the negative impacts on atmosphere, nature and climate. Indigenous people and local communities are already ahead of the game in terms of managing and sustaining invaluable nature and adapting to changes in climate. 

Thus, the time has come to recognize their contributions, learn from their sustainable practices and involve the local communities to collectively address the impacts of climate change. These inclusive actions in collaboration with national, regional and global levels actors can enable the pathways to protect nature and biodiversity; take an intersectional approach to include indigenous women, youth, elders, people with disabilities, etc to pave the way towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals; and enhance economic prosperity. 

It is also prime time for the civil societies, scientific and political communities to work with local communities, IPLC leaders and diplomats to advocate for local knowledge and locally-led adaptation in the upcoming United Nations Climate Change conference, COP 26. It’s time to work together for our planet. 

Afsara Binte Mirza is working at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) as a Junior Research Officer. 

Ali Mohammad Rezaie works as the Research Coordinator at ICCCAD.