By Tiffany Fourment, Volunteer, Global Greengrants Fund/UK & Europe
In a time when profit often prevails over people, indigenous communities all over the world are engaged in struggles to protect and defend their cultures, livelihoods and land.
It is estimated that around 50% of the world’s land is claimed, used or managed communally, much of it by indigenous peoples who depend on the land and its resources for their survival. Research has shown that this type of local land management is one of the most effective ways to ensure conservation.
However, despite international-level protections such as Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, these communities are often powerless to defend their rights when faced with the seizure and exploitation of their land by governments and multinational corporations with interests in logging, mining, or oil extraction.
A new source of hope was presented recently by The Rights and Resources Initiative whose research suggests that supporting indigenous groups in their stewardship of tropical forests could be crucial in mitigating the effects of climate change. The report quantified the amount of carbon stored in tropical forests, and found that at least 24% of that carbon is stored in forestland that is managed by indigenous and local communities. Because ownership of much of this land is not legally recognised, it is vulnerable to exploitation, and its deforestation could release an estimated 22,000 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere.
This report underscores the importance of engaging and supporting indigenous communities as the most effective stewards of their land, and Global Greengrants Fund is doing just that. Recent recipients of our grant funding include:
- Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia, a network of organisations advocating for indigenous peoples’ rights to land and traditional territory. Funding enabled a field visit during World Indigenous Peoples Day 2015, in which indigenous community representatives from each of the country’s states learned first-hand from landowners who successfully asserted their rights to land in Sarawak, Malaysia.
- Federación Binacional del Pueblo Zápara de Ecuador y Perú, who works to preserve the culture of the Zápara people and gain legal rights of ownership to their ancestral land and its inherent biodiversity. With funding support, the group was able to participate in COP21, as an Indigenous Peoples Organisation.
- Association of Pygmies from the Ingende Territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who were supported in their project to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the country’s Forest Concessions for Local Communities decree, increase awareness of the legal implications among indigenous communities, and develop an advocacy strategy for helping communities acquire and manage forest concessions under the decree.
Indigenous peoples are often the ones whose livelihoods and well-being are put directly at risk by irresponsible destruction and exploitation of natural resources. But they are also the ones who possess the deep knowledge and understanding of the most effective ways to live in a sustainable way in connection with the natural world.
By supporting the work of these and numerous other indigenous groups, Global Greengrants Fund assures that empowerment and change come from the grassroots level – from the communities who know intimately the challenges they face and the best ways to address them.