Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge is vital to combat the climate crisis

Takeaways from Africa Climate Summit and Climate Week 2023

Last week in Nairobi, Kenya, governments, businesses, international organizations, civil society, and Indigenous leaders met at Africa Climate Week 2023 and African Climate Summit to highlight solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while adapting to the climate crisis.

One message from the week is clear: Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral knowledge is vital to combating the climate crisis. If we scale up Indigenous-led actions and funding, we can protect our planet, peoples, and future.

Many stakeholders have identified nature-based solutions as key programmatic priorities in the next decade in the fight against climate change. Indigenous Peoples have been the world’s nature-based solution providers for thousands of years.

Highlights from Africa Climate Week

Over 30,000 people gathered for Africa Climate Week and Summit to explore solutions. In the opening ceremony, Anne Samante of the National Indigenous Peoples Coordinating Committee on Climate Change and MPIDO read a statement that was put together in an Indigenous Peoples pre-summit. 

Indigenous Peoples  “are not only victims but we also come with solutions,” Anne Samante said. 

The gathering concluded with the Nairobi Declaration – a common position for Africa leading up to COP28 with commitments around climate finance, renewable energy, a Global Climate Finance Charter, green minerals, and economic transformation. A key theme discussed throughout the week was the potential and need to include youth, one of Africa’s most valuable resource. The President of Kenya Dr. William Ruto acknowledged the role Indigenous Peoples play in their cultural landscapes in protecting forests, savannahs, marine environments, and drylands. 

Judith Kipkenda from the Ogiek Peoples of Kenya and the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus read the Indigenous Peoples’ declaration in the closing ceremony. It includes the following key themes: (1) Indigenous focal points and participation at African Union and United Nations level, (2) free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) and stopping evictions of Indigenous Peoples from their lands, (3) recognition and strengthening traditional knowledge systems and partnerships to integrate this knowledge with scientific knowledge, among others.

“Although we as Indigenous Peoples contribute the least to climate change, we suffer the most from its consequences. We are here with solutions and lessons,” Judith Kipkenda said. 

Indigenous knowledge systems for adaptation actions in Africa

In an Africa Climate Week side event organized on September 8 jointly by the FSC Indigenous Foundation (FSC-IF) and the African Development Bank (AfDB), Indigenous Knowledge Systems for Adaptation Actions in Africa, Indigenous leaders and key stakeholders discussed the necessity of including Indigenous knowledge for effective and long-term solutions to the climate crisis.

Dr. Al-Hamndou Dorsouma, Division Manager, Climate and Green Growth Department, African Development Bank, and Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, FSC Indigenous Foundation Council Chair, gave opening remarks. 

“Those with Indigenous knowledge have higher adaptation and lower vulnerability, they make informed decisions and used local knowledge of diversification of crops,” said Dr. Dorsouma.

“It is the time to trust Indigenous Peoples and learn from Indigenous Peoples,” said Hindou Ibrahim.

Then, a panel discussed the importance of Indigenous knowledge in addressing climate adaptation in Indigenous Cultural Landscapes, including Dr. Arona Soumaré, Regional Principal Climate Change Officer, AfDB; Daniel Kobei, Executive Director, Ogiek Peoples Development Program, Balkisou Buba, Vice President of the Cameroon Branch of the Network of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities for Sustainable Management of Central Africa Forests Ecosystem (REPALEAC); and Roopa Karia, Environment Office Director, USAID Kenya and East Africa. Salina Sanou, FSC-IF Regional Director for Africa and Asia, moderated the event. 

“We are moving away from a do not harm to an inclusive approach, “ said Dr. Soumaré of the AfDB.  

“While working with science, we need to consider Indigenous knowledge. Women are holders of that knowledge,” said Balkisou Buba. 

“Indigenous Peoples must be part of climate strategies from the design phase,” said Daniel Kobei, emphasizing that Indigenous knowledge is different from traditional knowledge. 

“A real concern from USAID is the legal rights of Indigenous Peoples and the human rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Roopa Karia.

Dr. Alejandro Paredes, Interim Managing Director of the FSC Indigenous Foundation and Dr. Olufunso Somorin, Regional Principal Officer, Climate Change and Green Growth Program at the African Development Bank, closed the event.

Speakers agreed that Indigenous knowledge is powerful and we need to use it in climate adaptation strategies and actions. Indigenous knowledge is the future. 

We invite you to join us to make this future a reality as we carry this message to COP28 and work to elevate Indigenous-nature-based solutions with concrete actions. 


Join us at Africa Climate Week 2023: Indigenous Knowledge Systems for Adaptation Actions in Africa

As guardians of 25% of the world's land, our knowledge holds the answers to tackle climate challenges through collaborative, multisectoral efforts.

In Africa, the greatest threat faced by Indigenous Peoples is the growing impacts of climate change. However, Indigenous knowledge is an effective climate solution. Indigenous Peoples’ land management techniques are not static but instead adapt to the shifting needs of the land and environment. Indigenous Peoples contribute little to greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining the largest carbon stores on Earth within their territories. Effective and long-term solutions to climate change must involve Indigenous Peoples as key stakeholders.

To learn more, join us at a side event at Africa Climate Week, organized jointly by the FSC Indigenous Foundation and African Development BankIndigenous Knowledge Systems for Adaptation Actions in Africa. The event will take place on Friday, September 8, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm in Abedares Hall and will foster a dialogue between Indigenous leaders and key stakeholders to identify opportunities related to traditional, local, and Indigenous techniques for sustainable land use and climate change adaptation. 

Find more information below.


Indigenous Innovative Solutions: discovering Maya cultural richness through the lens of Alex Pérez Ventura

Photography is one of the innovative Indigenous solutions when it comes to young photographers like Álex Pérez Ventura. Get to know his work.

This year, on International Youth Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we highlight Indigenous youth as the driving force of change, seamlessly blending deep-rooted traditions with an innovative vision of the future. Meet Alexander Pérez Ventura, whose photographs have captured the cultural richness of his community, the Maya Mam People in Guatemala, showcasing the harmonious link between heritage and modernity.

Through the lens of Alexander Perez Ventura, several projects have shown the world the cultural richness of his community, the Maya Mam People of Guatemala. Alex is also part of the group of talented young Indigenous Peoples, winners of our photography contest “Innovative Indigenous Solutions 2022.”

At only 24 years old, Alex has built a prolific career as a photographer, community journalist, documentary filmmaker, filmmaker, and amateur poet. His work has captured the world’s attention, showcasing the cultural richness of his community and his deep love of photography.

The art of storytelling

Alex describes himself as a passionate traveler who seeks to learn the stories of different Indigenous Peoples and document them. Through his lens, he materializes and disseminates diverse historical contexts, connecting their past with his vision for the future. “I like to travel through Indigenous communities to learn about their histories and document them, to materialize and disseminate the diverse historical contexts, to know where I come from and thus understand where I am going,” he assures. His current challenge is to explore the world of independent filmmaking, taking his creativity and unique perspective to new dimensions.

Alex’s work is steeped in natural landscapes, particularly visual depictions of lakes and waterfalls. These depictions are a reflection of the Indigenous cultural landscapes characteristic of his community, with which they also hold a deep ancestral connection. “The Tz’utujil People have a special and important connection with the lake, because it is considered as ‘La abuela ya’, from the ancestral thought power and positions are ephemeral, dignity and memory is permanent”, explains Alex, who also considers that this thought keeps the Mam People, as the great protector of their natural resources, against practices such as pollution, deforestation, and mining exploitation. “All this, under a vision that focuses on justice and respect for the land,” he maintains. 

His work also illustrates powerful Mayan ceremonies, which consist of honoring all the elements of the earth as living elements. “Everything has life; the stone, the trees, the plants, the rivers, and so on. That is why we are always grateful to these elements that help us to stay alive. During our harvests, holidays, or special days we thank the elements of water, air, earth, and fire, with a Maya Ceremony in sacred places, accompanied by ancestral music,” explains Alex.

Photography: Pioneering Indigenous Innovative Solutions

Alex has gained a place of leadership among the youth of his community through his dedication to photography. He has participated in various artistic spaces of empowerment, such as film festivals and forums, where he has given voice to numerous Indigenous youth and conveyed their messages to the world.

Likewise, Alex always remembers his grandparents, around the fire, sharing their stories of Indigenous resistance during the armed conflict in Guatemala, between 1960 and 1996. The testimonies of his ancestors have led him to use the power of photography and visual arts to do memory exercises.

Discover the depth of Maya culture through his lens, see the photo with which he stood out in our photo contest, “Children of the Earth”, and be captivated by the beauty and meaning that is revealed in each image he captures. Check out more of Alex’s work here.

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The “Indigenous Innovative Solutions” Photography Contest Winners


Virtual event: USAID & Indigenous Peoples: Co-creation Efforts and Lessons Learned

Sara Omi, Coordinator of the Economic Empowerment Plan for Indigenous Women of Panama, will speak about the FSC Indigenous Foundation and our Indigenous Peoples Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD) Program

To commemorate International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, on Wednesday, August 9, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. ET, USAID’s Inclusive Development Hub will host the virtual event, “USAID & Indigenous Peoples: Co-creation Efforts and Lessons Learned.” This event will showcase the impact of co-creation efforts that support Indigenous Peoples issues in Latin America. 

You will hear from Agency partners and USAID staff working on the ground with Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala, Panama & Colombia. Speakers will include:

  • Aj’bee Jimenez, Senior Advisor for Indigenous Peoples Issues, USAID/Guatemala 
  • Sara OmiCoordinator of the Economic Empowerment Plan for Indigenous Women of Panama, FSC Indigenous Foundation
  • Karina Ballén, Senior Manager in Mental Health and Psychosocial Care, International Organization for Migration 
  • Diana Aguas, Differential Approach Specialist, International Organization for Migration 

USAID Deputy Administrator Paloma Adams-Allen and Senior Advisor on Indigenous Peoples Issues Stephanie Conduff will provide opening remarks. 

If you require a reasonable accommodation, please contact

For questions on this event, please contact

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