Project Title: The Kuna People and the Impacts of Climate Change on Sea Level1
Participating Indigenous Peoples/Nation:
The Comarca Kuna Yala is located in the northeast region of Panama, is one of the five indigenous Comarcas in Panama. It is composed of 49 communities, with an approximate population of 65,000 people. The project will include the entire Comarca, but three pilot sites will be selected to gain a greater understanding of the impacts and influence of climate change.
Proponent Organisation: Fundación para la Promociíon del Conocimiento Indígena (FPCI)
Overall Project Objective
This project seeks to establish a line of action for preventing or minimizing the current impacts of climate change in the Comarca Kuna Yala. Toward this end, it will address the problem in three stages, evaluation, planning, and implementation.
The three proposed general objectives for this work are:
1.Evaluate the implications of climate change on cultural, environmental, social, spiritual, and economic activities of the Comarca Kuna Yala
2.Plan and organize different existing elements and mechanisms of the Comarca for adaptation in the face of climate change
3.Implement the adaptation mechanisms and actions for the Comarca Kuna Yala in response to the impacts generated by climate change.
All of the proposed objectives of this project are based on the IPCCA methodology and conceptual framework.
Brief Description of Project:
Currently, the communities of the Comarca Kuna Yala are facing grave problems due to climate change. The main change experienced is the rise of the sea level, which directly or indirectly is impacting the cultural, environmental, social, spiritual and economic systems of the Kuna People. These impacts are threatening their food sovereignty, health, and survival. With this in mind, the present project aims to carry out an assessment of the impacts of climate change with the goal of providing adaptation options for coping with the phenomenon.
The project will apply the IPCCA conceptual framework and methodology with the direct participation of community members, emphasizing the indigenous knowledge that has already allowed for adaptation in the face of climate change.
Local ecosystem, resource management and livelihoods practices:
Adivasis look at land as an ecosystem, which integrates the physical, biological and spiritual spaces of their existence. Their struggle has been primarily around the control of this space for their survival. Women play a historical role as seed creators, preservers of animal and plant genetic resources and organizers for family and community. Agriculture, livestock and forest produce are the major source of their livelihood. Shifting cultivation is widely practiced in the forests.
The community systems of conservation, labor and knowledge sharing are the core elements of food farming systems of Adivasis. Indigenous communities still practice collective farming traditions in which different members of the community contribute different resources- labour, land, animals, seeds. A traditional system of sharing known as ‘naamu’ is practiced, where a farmer lends seeds to another farmer, who in turn repays the donor with twice the amount of seeds.
Climatic conditions/trends in the assessment site
Meteorological data in India of the past one hundred years shows that March and April are warming faster than May and June which are supposed to be the hottest summer months. The average temperature for March has increased by 0.76 C, in April by 0.58C, and in May and June by 0.17 C, the maximum increase occurring in the last three decades (Down to Earth, May 16-31, 2009).
The south-west monsoon account for 75% of the countries rainfall and occurs from June to September. Rainfall trends in the past couple of decades have shown increasing erratic rainfall with delays in onset of the south-west monsoons, heavy rainfall concentrated in 1-2 days, unseasoned rains, delays and disrupted behaviour of the north-east monsoons and continuous years of scanty rains.
Potential climate change impacts on the ecosystem and communities:
There are several changes in the biodiversity and natural resources, which are linked to the development paradigm, climate change or more likely, a combination of the two. At this stage it is difficult to differentiate and delineate so here we present some preliminary generic information on changes in ecosystems and communities:
20 years ago, there were more than 60 diverse food crops across the Adivasi areas. Government agriculture policies pushed people to grow mono crops or plantations for an outside market, resulting in a loss of biodiversity, food and forest produce. Erratic rainfalls have resulted in lower yields. Farmers, who used to follow their own traditional seasonal rainfall / weather calendars with respect to farming, appear to be in a dilemma as to whether to follow their traditional wisdom/ practices or respond to changing weather patterns.
Certain varieties, which would be planted at the onset of the season are no longer planted due to erratic rains, potentially leading to germ-plasm loss, as farmers are unable to save and store the seeds.
Traditional healers are finding it very difficult to procure medicinal plants, which were easily available a decade ago.
Wild tubers, like Dioscorea oppositifolia traditionally consumed by Adivasis in the rainy season are in steep decline possible due to erratic rains .
Farmers have observed a significant increase in diseases that affect cattle, goats and poultry and the emergence of new diseases For instance, over the last ten years the occurrence of Anthrax2 in Visakhapatnam Adivasi areas has increased to endemic levels. Alarmingly, Adivasi populations are largely unfamiliar with the disease, which was non-endemic in the past and hence is a significant challenge to Adivasis’