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Shillong, India - Indigenous Terra Madre Event (3-7 November 2015)

Indigenous peoples are on the frontlines of climate change and food insecurity


A participant speaks during the opening session of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum held in February at IFAD. Some of the main outcomes from the forum will be presented by IFAD at the Indigenous Terra Madre event in India. ©IFAD/Giulio Napolitano

Rome, 3 November – Representatives of over 600 indigenous communities from around the world will come together in India to discuss how indigenous knowledge and food systems can help solve some of the world's toughest challenges.

From 3 to 7 November, IFAD will be participating in Indigenous Terra Madre in Shillong, India, an event aimed at bringing together various stakeholders to discuss how traditional knowledge and the sustainable use of natural resources can contribute to building better food systems.

The timing of the event is critical, as world leaders recently agreed on the landmark  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and look to reach a new international climate agreement in Paris in December.

"Indigenous peoples have an important role to play, particularly when it comes to sustainability and when it comes to the relationship between food, nature and humanity, " said Antonella Cordone, IFAD’s Senior Technical Specialist on Indigenous Peoples.

"This holistic approach is now becoming universal with the SDGs. However, indigenous peoples were the first to take this approach," said Cordone. 
Indigenous tribes and communities from Brazil, Central Asia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mexico, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States will take part in the week-long global knowledge sharing event.

Examples of tribal communities who will be in attendance include the Sateré-Mawé tribe from the remote Brazilian Amazon and the Kalenjin community from Kenya's Rift Valley.

The IFAD-funded project North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project for Upland Areas (NERCORMP) in India will also be actively participating in the event and sponsoring participants from different communities. Eight tribal groups will be showcasing tradition food.

The event is the result of collaboration between Slow Food, the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty and the North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS).

IFAD is a key sponsor of the event and a longtime supporter. In 2011, IFAD also sponsored the very first Terra Madre Indigenous at Jokkmokk in Sweden.


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said there is "much to be learnt from indigenous peoples as we seek to find solutions to the challenges of combatting climate change" while speaking at a conference in Cochabamba, Bolivia. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

Indigenous food systems under pressure

Indigenous peoples have a long history of living off the land and developing food systems that depend on the traditional knowledge of their local ecosystems.

However, indigenous peoples’ food systems are under pressure, due to factors such as lack of recognition of land tenure systems, climate change challenges and the transitional processes towards mono-cropping production.

Cordone says the key issue for indigenous peoples is secure land tenure.
"Land is not a commodity to indigenous peoples, it is intrinsic to their identity,"  said Cordone.

"It is based on their worldview of Mother Earth (Terra Madre), which encompasses everything including human beings and plants. What is on the surface and below the surface."

The second plenary session of the event will delve into the wellbeing of indigenous communities, and how indigenous peoples in North East India, Kenya, Nicaragua and Peru perceive their wellbeing.

Cordone says that session will be an opportunity for IFAD to highlight key learnings and outcomes from the second Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum held in February which concentrated on indigenous food systems and how it impacts overall wellbeing.

Much to be learnt from indigenous peoples

With global temperatures rising and food security becoming increasingly unstable, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently announced that it has never been more important to listen to indigenous communities.

"Indigenous peoples globally are among the world’s most vulnerable and marginalized people,” said Ki-moon, in a speech he gave in Bolivia at the Peoples World Conference on Climate Change and the Defence of Life.

“Yet their history, traditions, languages and knowledge are part of the very bedrock of human heritage,” he continued. “There is much to be learnt from indigenous peoples as we seek to find solutions to the challenges of combatting climate change and managing Mother Earth’s resources in a sustainable way.”

Ki-moon added that, in many nations, “the poverty gap between indigenous and non-indigenous groups is increasing,” and that was unacceptable.“As we implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we must do so in culturally appropriate ways that meet the needs of indigenous peoples and their conceptions of well-being.”

 Source: ifad.org

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