Conservation Wildlife Conservation

Why Working With Indigenous Peoples is Important for Conservation

Over generations of interaction with the environment, experimentation and communication, indigenous peoples (IP) have established a comprehensive body of knowledge about the natural environment and how to interact with it without disturbing its processes (Afreen, 2007; Altieri, 1990). Their social organisation, traditions, and farming techniques have been refined to be optimally efficient while guaranteeing sustainable cultivation (Cairns, 2015). Indigenous knowledge (IK) has historically been dismissed due to ignorance and politics (Lwoga et al, 2013), but it is increasingly being acknowledged that local communities hold invaluable knowledge, skills, and resources that are integral to their way of life, and can aid conservation efforts (Afreen, 2007). Most of Earth’s major biodiversity areas overlap with IP-occupied areas (Sobrevila, 2008), and 40% of all lands listed as ‘managed for conservation’ are indigenous (Garnett et al, 2018). Due to this, IP can achieve conservation objectives through local monitoring (Alcorn, 2010). It has become indisputable that viable ecological policies must involve local communities (Cunha and Almeida, 2000); IP’s participation in conservation initiatives results in more comprehensive and cost-effective biodiversity management (Sobrevila, 2008). Nepstad et al (2006) found that IP-monitored conservation areas were performing better than government-monitored ones (at a fraction of the cost).

Modern technologies for commodity production are not sustainable, and IK systems may help to combat this (DeWalt, 1994). Many IP have an ecocentric, spiritual view of the environment; appreciating the interconnectedness of plants, animals, and soils. They have become resourceful with limited natural tools (DeWalt, 1994), and this sustainable resource management is “often encoded in proverbs, myths, rituals, and ceremonies” (Williams, 1991), which can be easily translated into modern ecological language (Verlinden and Dayot, 2005), meaning traditional indigenous values can be understood and applied to current projects. One sustainable technique IP employ is agroforestry; growing the maximum number of crops while using minimum forest space e.g. the growth of small plants and shrubs underneath coffee trees (Rainforest Partnership, 2020).

The indigenous group Capitania de Alto y Bajo Isoco (CABI) have an alliance with Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which was established in 1991 (Arambiza and Painter, 2006). CABI encompasses 9000 people across 25 communities in Bolivia. This alliance focuses on conserving biodiversity in the region while considering land use for IP. These two groups do not have the same goal but recognise the importance of working together. This recognition has created a trusting relationship, resulting in important achievements in conserving biodiversity and defending the rights of IP. Among these accomplishments was the creation of a National Park in 1995, which is Bolivia’s largest protected area and the world’s largest protected area of dry tropical forest. This has reduced deforestation caused by agriculture and the destruction of habitat of key species, while still allowing for equitable economic growth for IP. CABI are now an award-winning group for their “tenacious and innovative defence of indigenous cultures and biological diversity” (Chape et al, 2008). It can be argued that the explicit recognition of their differing perspectives and priorities allowed them to more easily deal with disagreements and remain committed to the initiative.

Another of these alliances is between the Kayapo IP of Para, Brazil and the International Conservation of Brazil which began in 1992 and could result in 13 million hectares of protected forest in the Amazon (Zimmerman et al, 2000). This provides the Kayapo community with economic alternatives to logging to protect a local population of mahogany trees, including a long-term trade between the Kayapo people and The Body Shop, UK for brazil nut oil. The project also provided healthcare to the community, after a period of three years of not even basic healthcare (Schwartzmann and Zimmerman, 2005). Alcorn (2010) talks of the agreement between the Seri tribe of the Gulf of California and the Mexican government; in 1975 the Mexican government gave the Seri tribe property of several areas of territory surrounding Tiburon Island. Three years later, all of this land became a protected nature reserve. Tiburon Island remains one of the most intact examples of Sonoran Desert habitat and contains an abundance of species that are rare or extinct on mainland.

One barrier to the approach of involving IP is that it can be time-consuming to establish a trusting, long-lasting relationship. This means it can be costly. However, after the involved parties have learned to understand one another, research can be conducted more efficiently than other approaches (Verlinden and Dayot, 2005). Costs are eventually lower than those of conventional methods because IK is so specific to the region worked in (Gobin et al, 2000). The biggest hurdle, according to Verlinden and Dayot (2005), is the scepticism of scientists. If both groups do not commit to understand one another’s perspectives, conflict is likely.

A recurring theme in successful collaborations is the acceptance of differing viewpoints and priorities; conservation and the living conditions of IP can both benefit from dedicated partnerships that employ the strengths of each (Sanderson and Redford, 2003). Conservation efforts cannot rely on one knowledge system, but must amalgamate different ones (Afreen, 2007). Armesto et al (2001) states that both community-based initiatives and government incentives are necessary to avoid conflict when working together for conservation goals. The complicated conservation issues we face require equally complex solutions, that will only present themselves if we trust multiple knowledge systems – including IK (Kaniki and Mphahlele, 2002). A mixture of ideals and a resistance to prejudice and intolerance is therefore crucial for progress. Conservation initiatives that have not included IP have failed to come to fruition and undermined IP ability to protect the land they know better than anyone (Alcorn, 1993 and Soussan et al, 1991). Incorporating IK ensures that projects are ecologically, as well as economically and socially sound (Uprety and Asselin, 2012). It has also been shown that IP who have been given the rights to their lands have been better conserved than lands that have not, suggesting that respecting the rights of IP results in the conservation of biodiversity (Sobrevila, 2008). This is further illustrated by WWF’s ongoing collaboration with IP of Colombia; empowering IP to manage their own territories has resulted in increased sustainability and reduced conflict during projects (Miliani, 2010).

It seems that a sustainable future and successful conservation must include active participation from IP. Without this, major conservation initiatives will fail (Sobrevila, 2008). According to Cunha and Almeida (2000), Radcliffe et al (2016), and Balee (1989), the conservation of biodiversity and environmental education is preserved and enhanced by IP. In the words of Durning (1992), “indigenous peoples possess, in their ecological knowledge, an asset of incalculable value: a map to the biological diversity of the Earth on which all life depends”.

References

  1. Afreen, S. (2007) Towards Effective Conservation and Use of Natural Resources – Learning From Indigenous Sustainable Practices. The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability [online]. 3 (2) [Accessed 31 January 2020].
  2. Alcorn, J. (2010) Indigenous Peoples and Conservation. Macarthur Foundation Conservation White Paper Series [online]. [Accessed 03 February 2020].Afreen, S. (2007) Towards Effective Conservation and Use of Natural Resources – Learning From Indigenous Sustainable Practices. The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability [online]. 3 (2) [Accessed 31 January 2020].
  3. Alcorn, J. (1993) Indigenous Peoples and Conservation. Conservation Biology [online]. 7 (2), pp. 424-426. [Accessed 04 February 2020].
  4. Altieri, M.A. (1990) Agroecology. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  5. Arambiza, E. and Painter, M. (2006) Biodiversity Conservation and the Quality of Life of Indigenous People in the Bolivian Chaco. Human Organization [online]. 65 (1), pp. 20-34. [Accessed 02 February 2020].Afreen, S. (2007) Towards Effective Conservation and Use of Natural Resources – Learning From Indigenous Sustainable Practices. The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability [online]. 3 (2) [Accessed 31 January 2020].
  6. Alcorn, J. (2010) Indigenous Peoples and Conservation. Macarthur Foundation Conservation White Paper Series [online]. [Accessed 03 February 2020].Afreen, S. (2007) Towards Effective Conservation and Use of Natural Resources – Learning From Indigenous Sustainable Practices. The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability [online]. 3 (2) [Accessed 31 January 2020].
  7. Alcorn, J. (1993) Indigenous Peoples and Conservation. Conservation Biology [online]. 7 (2), pp. 424-426. [Accessed 04 February 2020].
  8. Altieri, M.A. (1990) Agroecology. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  9. Armesto, J.J., Smith-Ramirez, C. and Rozzi, R. (2001) Conservation Strategies For Biodiversity and Indigenous People in Chilean Forest Ecosystems. Royal Society of New Zealand [online]. 31 (4), pp. 865-877. [Accessed 03 February 2020].
  10. Balee, W.A. (1989) The Culture of Amazonian Forests. Advances in Economic Botany [online]. 7, pp. 1-21. [Accessed 02 February 2020].
  11. Cairns, M.F., ed. (2015) Shifting Cultivation and Environmental Change. New York: Routledge.
  12. Chape, S, Spalding, M.D. and Jenkins, M. (2008) The World’s Protected Areas: Status, Values and Prospects in the 21st Century. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press.
  13. Cunha, M.C and Almeida, M.W.B. (2000) Indigenous People, Traditional People, and Conservation in the Amazon. Daedalus [online]. 129 (2), pp. 315-338. [Accessed 02 February 2020].
  14. DeWalt, B. (1994) Using Indigenous Knowledge to Improve Agriculture and Natural Resource Management. Human Organization [online]. 53 (2), pp. 123-131. [Accessed 03 February 2020].
  15. Durning, A.T. (1992) Guardians of the Land: Indigenous Peoples and the Health of the Earth. Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute.
  16. Garnett, S.T., Burgess, N.D., Fa, J.E., Fernández-llamazares, A., Molnár, Z., Robinson, C.J., Watson, J.E.M., Zander, K., Austin, B., Brondizio, E.S., Collier, N.F., Duncan, T., Ellis, E.C., Geyle, H., Jackson, M., Jonas, H., Malmer, P., McGowan, B., Sivongxay, A. and Leiper, I. (2018) A Spatial Overview of the Global Importance of Indigenous Lands For Conservation. Nature Sustainability [online]. 1, pp. 369-374. [Accessed 02 February 2020].
  17. Gobin, A., Campling, P., Deckers, J. and Feyen, J. (2000) Integrated Toposequence Analyses to Combine Local and Scientific Knowledge Systems. Geoderma [online]. 97 (1), pp. 103-123. [Accessed 02 February 2020].
  18. Kaniki, A.M. and Mphahlele, M.E.K. (2002) Indigenous Knowledge For the Benefit of All: Can Knowledge Management Principles Be Used Effectively?. South African Journal of Libraries and Information Science [online]. 68 (1) [Accessed 02 February 2020].
  19. Lwoga, E.T., Ngulube, P. and Stilwell, C. (2010) Managing Indigenous Knowledge For Sustainable Agricultural Development in Developing Countries: Knowledge Management Approaches in the Social Context. The International Information & Library Review [online]. 42 (3), pp. 174-185. [Accessed 31 January 2020].
  20. Miliani, K. (2010) WWF Colombia: In the Field. [online]. [Accessed 02 February 2020].
  21. Nepstad, D., Schwartzman, S., Bamberger, B., Santilli, M., Ray, D., Schlesinger, P., Lefebvre, P., Alencar, A., Prinz, E., Fiske, G. and Rolla, A. (2006) Inhibition of Amazon Deforestation and Fire by Parks and Indigenous Lands. Conservation Biology: The Journal of the Society for Conservation Biology [online]. 20 (1), pp. 65-73. [Accessed 03 February 2020].
  22. Radcliffe, C, Parissi, C. and Raman, A. (2016) Valuing Indigenous Knowledge in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea: A Model For Agricultural and Environmental Education. Australian Journal of Environmental Education [online]. 32 (3), pp. 243-259. [Accessed 02 February 2020].
  23. Rainforest Partnership (2019) Rainforest Partnership. Available from: https://rainforestpartnership.org/the-role-of-indigenous-communities-in-conservation/ [Accessed 02 February 2020].
  24. Sanderson, S.E. and Redford, K.H. (2003) Contested Relationships Between Biodiversity Conservation and Poverty Alleviation. Oryx [online]. 37 (4), pp. 389-390. [Accessed 02 February 2020].
  25. Schwartzman, S. and Zimmerman, B. (2005) Conservation Alliances with Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon. Conservation Biology [online]. 19 (3), pp. 721-726. [Accessed 03 February 2020].
  26. Sobrevila, C. (2008) The Role of Indigenous Peoples in Biodiversity Conservation: The Natural But Often Forgotten Partners. The World Bank[online]. [Accessed 31 January 2020].
  27. Soussan, J., Gevers, E., Ghimire, K. and O’Keefe, P. (1991) Planning For Sustainability: Access to Fuelwood in Dhanusha District, Nepal. World Development [online]. 19 (10), pp. 1299-1314. [Accessed 03 February 2020].
  28. Uprety, Y. and Asselin, H. (2012) Indigenous Knowledge For Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Change Adaptation. [online]. [Accessed 03 February 2020].
  29. Verlinden, A. and Dayot, B. (2005) A Comparison Between Indigenous Environmental Knowledge and a Conventional Vegetation Analysis in North Central Namibia. Journal of Arid Environments [online]. 62 (1), pp. 143-175. [Accessed 02 February 2020].
  30. Williams, L.D. and Muchena, O.N. (1991) Utilizing Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Agricultural Education to Promote Sustainable Agriculture. Journal of Agricultural Education [online]. 32 (4), pp. 52-57. [Accessed 04 February 2020].
  31. Zimmerman, B., Peres, C.A., Malcolm, J.R. and Turner, T. (2000) Conservation and Development Alliances with the Kayapó of South-eastern Amazonia, a Tropical Forest Indigenous People. Environmental Conservation [online]. 28 (1), pp. 10-22. [Accessed 03 February 2020].

You Might Also Like...

3 Comments

  • Reply
    Chris Taylor
    May 15, 2020 at 3:29 pm

    I didn’t think I needed many more reasons to travel to Mexico but visiting the Seri people on Tiburon might now be one. Thank you for the article.

    Chris.

  • Reply
    ปั้มไลค์
    May 31, 2020 at 12:53 am

    Like!! Really appreciate you sharing this blog post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

  • Reply
    waterfallmagazine.com
    July 22, 2020 at 7:53 pm

    https://waterfallmagazine.com
    Cool blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog jump out.

    Please let me know where you got your theme.
    Appreciate it

Leave a Reply