Restoration initiatives must include indigenous peoples, GLF delegates say

Review restoration practices

Delegates at the Global Landscapes Forum conference in Nairobi, Kenya. GLF photo
21 September 2018

BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — Landscape restoration initiatives must include the voices and involvement of indigenous peoples, and particularly women, to ensure success. That was the main message from participants at a session on Land Territory and Natural Resource, Traditional Knowledge and Climate Adaptation, hosted by the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG) at the recent Global Landscape Forum conference in Nairobi.

“Restoration of global landscapes cannot play by the current rules,” said Gertrude Kenyangi, executive director of Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (SWAGEN) and a member of IPMG Uganda. “It is necessary to form new institutions and organizations which specifically take into account the specific concerns of the local communities‚ indigenous peoples and marginalized groups such as women, youths, people with disabilities and minorities.”

After all, she pointed out, the degradation that restoration projects are now addressing took place under a system that has allowed the inequitable and destructive use of landscapes, motivated very often by greed.

“Policies, laws and regulations that existed when the degradation process was taking place were clearly defective. It is imperative that they are assessed and reviewed,” she said.

The leadership of women was critical, she added, in community revitalization and renewable natural resource management, a point backed up by IPMG Kenya member Edna Kaptoyo with several practical examples of women-led projects.

“Indigenous women are part and parcel of the land,” she said. “Landscape restoration initiatives need to capitalize on their knowledge, their specific knowledge on key species, whether it be what to plant and what can work in key areas.”

Kenyangi also underlined the distinction between stakeholders and rights holders. “Indigenous peoples and Local forest dependent communities must be recognized as rights-holders and not another category of stakeholders,” she said. Any intervention “must be a human rights-based collaborative venture between the rights holders and stakeholders as partners.”

That means avoiding involuntary resettlement of communities dependent on forests, as well as recognizing indigenous peoples’ customary tenure rights.

That point was also taken up by Steven Lawry, director of the Equity, Gender and Tenure research program at the International Centre for Forestry Research.

“Multi-stakeholder platforms are often a weak substitute, at best, for participation,” he said. “I think we should talk less about stakeholders and more about rights holders. It’s really about rights.”

Secure rights enable communities to better negotiate the terms of contracts and arrangements for benefits from REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) and Payment for Environmental Services programs, for example.

“It’s the absence of rights that puts communities — including indigenous communities — in a very weak position with respect to that negotiation with the result that they get a bad deal and the incentives are insufficient to motivate the kind of changes and practices and behaviors that policy envisions,” he said.

The lack of rights is a big reason why such programs often fail, he added. When rights are strong, it gives people “the ability to say ‘no, that deal is not good or fair, and these are our resources. We have a better idea. Let’s put that on the table.’”

For session facilitator Basiru Isa, an indigenous pastoralist from Cameroon and IPMG secretary for Africa, climate change was also linked to the issues of indigenous people’s rights. “Restoration is not just about mitigation and reducing carbon,” he said. “It needs to be about helping communities to adapt, enhance biodiversity and other non-carbon related benefits. Whenever we talk about climate change indigenous people are first people to feel the impact.”

“Restoration cannot pursue a scientific path alone,” Kenyangi concluded in her keynote speech. “It needs to be carried out in ways that balance social, economic and environmental objectives at all stages of the restoration process.”

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