Indigineous peoples: The answer to mitigate climate change through community-led conservation

Author:  Maria Alejandra Aguilar (UNU-IAS)



Forests are one of the most important ecosystems on Earth as they are providers of multiple services for human and nonhuman species, from water to carbon sequestration, to special tropical habitats for flourishing biodiversity, and livelihoods for humans and home of 60.0000.000 tribal communities (WWF, 2018). Nevertheless, forests have been disappearing at alarming rates in the past decades, from 2000 to 2012 2.3 million km2 of forest have been lost worldwide (Hansen et al. 2013). Forestry, subsistence farming and commodity driven deforestation are the major drivers. The loss of important forests such as tropical rainforests is one of the major catalysts of climate change.

This panorama is worsening by the existing visible effects of global warming and the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases as forests are shifting to become sources of carbon dioxide (Gramling, 2017). Revaluating the role of forests and their link as traditional lands is the key to change
forest management trends, built resilient communities and efficient mitigation strategies for climate change worldwide. A recent report from the Rights Resources Initiative, “Corned by protected areas”, highlights the effectiveness of traditional land rights of indigenous people in the conservation of the
world´s forests, the halt of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation.

In contrast with the business as usual governmental management of protected areas, where participation and the effective access of decision-making processes by local communities is limited or symbolic, and so the traditional knowledge of the indigenous people is disregarded in the
inclusion of conservation policies. The report provides an estimate of the effectiveness of community-led conservation versus governmental led conservation, “Globally, therefore, Indigenous Peoples and local communities are investing an estimated 16–23 percent (i.e. US$3.16 billion–4.57 billion) of the amount spent by governments, donors, foundations, and non-governmental organizations, combined, on conservation” (Rights Resource Initiative, 2018).

Despite protecting about 80% of the world´s remaining biodiversity (World bank, 2008), indigenous people are also the most vulnerable to climate change, as their survival depends directly on the health of their habitats. The recognition of stewardship of natural resources by indigenous people and the formalization of their land rights and prior consultation, are the very first steps to attain sustainable development and achieve the Paris Agreement target to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°.