A Need for Indigenous Knowledge


Failures to include Indigenous Knowledge in solutions for averting the effects of climate change are creating less sustainable futures for the global environment.


The United Nation’s REDD program is accused of sidelining indigenous leaders, preventing them from playing a full part in REDD planning activities, and failing to guarantee respect for their rights. Photo credit, Climate Central

As the climate is rapidly increasing, planners and scientific experts have failed to incorporate the ideas of indigenous populations. Native populations have learned from prior generations how to interpret the environment without the use of Western scientific method. According to National Geographic’s Gleb Raygorodetsky’s blog, “The very identify of indigenous peoples is inextricably linked with their lands.” Planners need to start listening to the knowledge that Indigenous people have in order to create a more sustainable world. It’s not only a question of climate change, but also one of equity. Most indigenous populations rely on agriculture, forest, hunting, fishing and gathering for their subsistence. These patterns are affected heavily by climate change, and it was not until 2007 and again in 2010 that their voices were heard on a large scale.

The most authoritative and influential reference on climate change in the world, the IPCC Assessment Reports guide governments, policy- and decision-making communities, and non-governmental organizations in planning and implementing their actions.

IPCC in 2010: indigenous or traditional knowledge may prove useful for understanding the potential of certain adaptation strategies that are cost-effective, participatory and sustainable.”

Although they were heard at this U.N. meeting, many solutions that planners have come up are making it worse for indigenous populations. One example of this is Redd+ (Reducing Emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries). The projects intent is to create more sustainable management of forest and enhancement of forest carbon stock. In an open letter of concern from the Global Justice Ecology Project stated,

“Projects are already having severe negative impacts on the environment and on economically and politically marginalized groups in society, particularly Indigenous Peoples, small farmers, other forest dependent communities, and women.”

This is because REDD+ is coming from a Western point of view on sustainable forest. When outsiders such as the United Nations are trying to create forest management plans they fail to account for the values of indigenous populations. The open letter also stated…

“By creating incentive for preserving forest there was a sudden increase in the economic value of forest land due to the introduction of performance payments for forest conservation will definitely lead to an increased risk of conflict over land between these communities and more economically and politically influential groups that see an opportunity to profit from these payments. For this reason, increased conflicts over land, elite resource capture, forced displacements, involuntary resettlements and human rights violations are inherent outcomes to REDD+ as a forest conservation approach.”

Many indigenous people have been protesting REDD projects in their area because of this. A couple examples of this are…

 “As Kenya’s Mau Forest is made “ready” for a UNEPfunded REDD+ project, members of the Ogiek People continue to suffer evictions, and Ogiek activists are attacked for protesting land grabs. In Indonesia, the Mantir Adat (traditional authorities) of Kadamangan

The Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities on Climate Change against REDD+ and for Life joins its voice to the international outcry against the inclusion of REDD in the State of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act.

The Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities on Climate Change against REDD+ and for Life joins its voice to the international outcry against the inclusion of REDD in the State of California’s Global Warming Solutions.

Mantangai, district of Kapuas in the province of Central Kalimantan, reject REDD projects because it is a threat to the rights and the livelihoodsof the Dayak community in the REDD project area”, and have called for the cancellation of a project that has violated our rights and threatened the basis of survival for the Dayak community.”

According to a Betanio Chiquidama, president of Coonapip and cacique (chief) of a forest reserve in Panama…

“More than half the country’s forests are on the lands of indigenous people. How can an effective plan to save these forests be negotiated if the indigenous leaders are not at the table? The pressure on the forests has never been greater – for food, fuel, fiber and mineral exploration. But we also know that there are other lands that could be used for these purposes; the answer is not to kill our forests.”

The REDD projects are not an effective way to mitigate but is believed to be an attempt to exploit the big forest of the world. Christine Halvorson, of the Rainforest Foundation U.S., believes that indigenous peoples were significantly more able than any other public or private land-owner to protect biologically valuable forests. She stated…

rainforest panan

The Rainforest Foundation works with indigenous populations to create more sustainable management policies.

 Any plan aimed at reducing climate change should strengthen the rights of the indigenous people to the forests that are central to their lives and livelihoods. Without the participation of those most likely to be impacted, efforts to save the world’s forests likely will fail.

 Although plans have failed to reduce climate change in the world, it is important for solutions to incorporate or bridge the gap between indigenous knowledge and scientific knowledge.  Especially when creating Forest Management plans in forest where indigenous populations sustain off of that forest.