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FSC-IF celebrates the launch of the Ogiek Peoples’ Cultural Center 

Center represents resilience, recognition, and preservation of Indigenous cultural heritage.

Partners and community members pose for a photo in front of the Ogiek Cultural Center. Photo credit: OPDP 

The official launch of the Ogiek Cultural Center on March 19, 2024, marked a significant milestone in the preservation and celebration of the Ogiek people’s rich culture and heritage. Organized by the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP) in partnership with Land Body Ecologies, Wellcome Trust, and other partners, this event was held at Nkareta ward, Narok County, Kenya, drawing attention to the deep-rooted culture, history, and traditions of the Ogiek community. The FSC Indigenous Foundation was invited as a partner.  

The Center, which also houses the Ogiek Museum, is now positioned to serve as a pivotal educational resource and a beacon for biodiversity conservation. 

The inauguration week kicked off with an enriching learning exchange among partner learning hubs from across the globe, including Uganda, Thailand, India, the Arctic, and London, all of which are part of the Land Body Ecology (LBE) Project. This interaction paved the way for an immersive tour of the Ogiek Cultural Center, featuring the Ogiek Museum, the Ogiek herbarium — a repository of traditional herbs — and the Ogiek village, which offers a window into the community’s traditional lifestyle within an authentic Ogiek forest setting. The highlight of the day was a guided tour through the Mau Forest, allowing visitors to connect firsthand with the ancestral lands of the Ogiek people. 

The event was graced by community members from various regions, government officials, partners, donors, and other stakeholders. The chairperson of OPDP’s Board warmly welcomed attendees, emphasizing the center’s role in fostering an understanding of the intrinsic relationship between land, body, and health, as well as preserving the Ogiek’s traditional knowledge and practices. He also underscored the community’s commitment to sustainable development.  

Notable speakers, including Dr. Liz, strong Ally and Lawyer of the Ogiek community, voiced their determination to reclaim historical ownership of their lands and stressed the importance of community titles in protecting the forest. The day was charged with a spirit of resilience, with speakers from the Ogiek and other Indigenous communities such as the Sengwer and Endorois, sharing their experiences and the challenges they face, notably the loss of their territories and the need for more trees. The solidarity among Indigenous Peoples was noticeable and appreciated, with the Ogiek being applauded for their role in leading the way for Indigenous rights from national, regional, and international levels. 

The Chief Guest Prof. Mary Gikungu Director General, National Museums of Kenya emphasizing the importance of documenting natural and cultural heritage, celebrated the centre as a testament to the Ogiek community’s resilience and dedication to preserving their culture. The message was clear: “culture is not only a link to the past but a bridge to the future, connecting us to our roots through unique songs, stories, and traditions that capture the essence of the Ogiek people.” 

The center was ushered in as a crucial facility for understanding and promoting the Ogiek culture, language, and traditional practices. The commitment to continue protecting their forests and the ongoing training in the Ogiek language during holidays were highlighted as key components of their continued legacy. 

Promoting Socio-Economic Empowerment among Ogiek Women  

This event also underscores the strengthening partnership between the FSC Indigenous Foundation and the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP). Our collaboration on the “Promoting Socio-Economic Empowerment among Ogiek Women of Mau, Kenya” project, implemented through the Indigenous Peoples Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD) Program, represents a shared commitment to empowering Indigenous communities while fostering sustainable economic models. IPARD is funded by the USAID, the Forest Stewardship Council, and private sector partners.  

FSC-IF’s presence at the launch amplifies our joint commitment to cultural preservation and the empowerment of Indigenous Peoples on an international stage. Secondly, the center serves as a physical space where the objectives of our partnership — such as socio-economic empowerment, particularly of women, and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods — can be visualized and realized. Lastly, it strengthens the bond between FSC-IF and OPDP, enhancing our collaborative efforts towards achieving greater recognition and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in decision-making processes in Kenya and beyond.  

Watch a video for more information on the launch: https://youtu.be/0BafEJHviGk  

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WEBINAR: Mother languages, pillars that sustain the knowledge and cultural practices of Indigenous Peoples and their solutions to climate change 

Learn how preserving, revitalizing and promoting Indigenous languages contributes to environmental stewardship

Join the FSC Indigenous Foundation for a webinar on April 4, 2024, to acknowledge the significance of preserving and enhancing Indigenous mother tongues as a vital component that fosters effective responses to climate change challenges.  

Indigenous languages serve as custodians of traditional knowledge, nature-based interactions, and scientific knowledge among Indigenous Peoples. These elements actively contribute to environmental stewardship and bolster efforts to combat climate change. However, the impacts of climate change pose a threat to the vitality of Indigenous languages, endangering their survival and continuity, hence, prioritizing their preservation, revitalization, and promotion becomes imperative. 

On April 4, 2024, 10-11 am Panama time / 9-10 am Central American time / 12 – 1 pm Brazil time, we are gathering with Indigenous leaders with experience in sociolinguistic and linguistic matters and a climate change perspective.  

The zoom webinar will have simultaneous interpretation in Spanish, English, French and Portuguese, Mam and K’iche’. 

Join us and register here.  

Panelists

Maatal Pérez

FSC-IF Indigenous Peoples Affairs Officer – Guatemala / President of the Poqomam Indigenous Mayoralty of Palín

Mayan – Poqomam sociolinguist with experience in public policy with a focus on linguistic and cultural rights of Indigenous women and Indigenous Peoples.

President of the Poqomam Linguistic Community of the Academy of Mayan Languages of Guatemala, and titular representative of Indigenous Peoples at departmental, regional, and national levels in the System of Development Councils.

Specialized studies in Indigenous Women’s Leadership at the Intercultural Indigenous University of Bolivia, Postgraduate studies in Indigenous Peoples’ Rights for the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination at the School of Political Science of the University of San Carlos of Guatemala, specialization in Gender and Feminism at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Humanities CEICH, Autonomous University of Mexico UNAM.

Iguaigdigili López  

Teacher, biologist, and researcher

Biologist by profession, specialist in intercultural bilingual education, Indigenous Peoples’ law, postgraduate in higher education, consultant on gender and biodiversity, traditional knowledge, cultural revitalization, climate change.  President of the Organization of Indigenous Women United for Biodiversity of Panama (OMIUBP).

Quetzaly Quintas Arista  

Coordinator of the Gibäñ Dadi’idznu team “long live our language”

Young woman, 24 years old. She is originally from the community of Santa María Guienagati, a Zapotec village in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Since she was a teenager she has worked with children to raise awareness of environmental care and has been interested in learning the language of her community, currently only spoken by older adults, which led her to study a degree in Linguistics at the National School of Anthropology and History. She was a facilitator of the subject Lengua indígena at the Universidad Autónoma Comunal de Oaxaca. She is currently the coordinator of the Gibäñ Dadi’idznu team “que viva nuestro idioma” (long live our language) made up of Zapotec-speaking seniors. She is also developing projects for the dissemination and revitalization of the Zapotec language. She received a grant from Cultural Survival and collaborates as a monitor for Nidos de Lengua, an initiative of the Secretaría de Cultura y Artes del Estado de Oaxaca.

Te Ngaehe Wanikau 

Title: Kaumatua / Elder, Tribe: Ngati Hikairo ki Tongariro, People: Maoríes de Aotearoa (New Zealand) 

I have served on many boards, committees, and working groups at the local, national, and international levels. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve on all of them. However, the position I cherish the most is the one my elders and parents prepared me for. It is my role with my people.  It has no legal description in the Western context. It is a traditional position for my whanau – family, hapu – extended family, iwi – my tribe and the people and environment we serve and protect.

My traditional teachings are: Kawa – Divine protocals, Tikanga – human protocols, Matauranga – Streams of traditional exoteric knowledge, Whakapapa – Genealogy of both people and all existing things

Opening remarks

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim

Chair of FSC-IF Council and Coordinator of the Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chad (AFPAT) 

Hindou Oumarou is a member of the Mbororo People of Chad, part of the FSC Indigenous Foundation Council and an environmental and Indigenous Peoples activist.

She is the Coordinator of the Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chad (AFPAT) and served as the co-director of the pavilion of the World Indigenous Peoples’ Initiative and Pavilion at COP21, COP22 and COP23.

She is the gender representative and Congo Basin Region and Focal Point on Climate Change in the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC).

She was recognized by BBC as a top 100 women leader and by TIME’s Women Leaders in Climate Change and is a National Geographic Explorer.

This webinar is organized within the framework of a webinar series: Resilient Roots: The wisdom of Indigenous women and youth in the fight against climate change. Watch our website and social media for upcoming webinars.  

Watch a recording of the webinar below.

ENGLISH

MAM

K’ICHE

News

Ceremony to celebrate business mentoring program between Indigenous company Guna Ogob and Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo Hotel

The FSC Indigenous Foundation facilitated this collaboration to foster partnerships, knowledge exchange, and economic development with culture and identity.

Panama City, Panama – On February 29, 2024, members of the Indigenous community business Guna Ogob and volunteers from the Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo Hotel received certificates after having completed a business mentoring program together.  

This innovative partnership connected members of the company Guna Ogob with professional hotel staff, who exchanged knowledge and offered mentoring in sales, marketing, accounting, talent, and culture over 6 months. Volunteers learned how to provide support to Indigenous Peoples on these topics, and Guna Ogob members strengthened business skills. The program also identified challenges and opportunities for business partnerships between the private sector and an Indigenous business.  

Guna Ogob is an Indigenous community coconut oil business located on Mamitupu island in the comarca Gunayala in the northeast of Panama. It was founded in 1997 by Pablo Nieto Pérez and has grown despite challenges of lack of registration and access to markets. Today, youth from the community are leading the development of the company, harmonizing a modern vision with Indigenous ancestral knowledge. 

Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo is a hotel with a unique location, where wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean can be appreciated. With a commitment to a social impact program, the hotel’s professional staff has participated in a knowledge exchange with Guna Ogob and is working to strengthen this Indigenous enterprise and its design and brand. 

The FSC Indigenous Foundation (FSC-IF) is a global Indigenous organization supporting Indigenous Peoples’ self-development, self-governance, and self-reliance through Indigenous-based solutions, multi-sectoral partnerships, and funding. Through the Indigenous Peoples Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD) Program, we have been working with Guna Ogob, fostering strategic partnerships between the Guna People and stakeholders, including government and the private sector. We have supported training in entrepreneurial and business skills, and the co-development of a strategic and business plan.  

The collaboration with Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo is one of these initiatives that demonstrates the success of shared value partnership management: while Guna Ogob has been able to learn new skills and organizational cultures, Sofitel volunteers have been able to identify talent, learn about Indigenous ways of doing business, and exchange cultural knowledge. 

Closing ceremony  

The presentation of certificates took place at the Sofitel Legend, located in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama. The ceremony began with a tour of the hotel and words from the Director of the Hotel, David Kianni. “We are dedicated to our commitment to continue to co-create initiatives that support cultural heritage,” he said.  

The FSC-IF Lead on Business Partnerships and Indigenous Economies, Fredy Duque said, “With these people here present, we are confident that we are contributing to the dream that Guna Ogob has of being able to move forward, not only in terms of the consolidation of a company, but also to continue sharing its cultural legacy.” 

Next, the Manager of Guna Ogob, Gabriel Garrido, and the Founder of the company, Pablo Nieto Pérez, gave remarks. 

“This is the first time I see another company that is working with us, and that’s going to be part of the story that we always tell,” said Gabriel Garrido. 

Igupdili Morris, in charge of sales of Guna Ogob, emphasized the importance of working together. “If one falls down, we have to stand together and get up,” she said.   

The event concluded with a presentation by the hotel chef of products made with Guna Ogob coconut oil. Participants discussed the partnership and how it will help both companies in the future. The collaboration will continue with support on logo and branding.

News

Indigenous women on the frontline against climate change

At COP28, Indigenous women leaders from Africa, Mesoamerica and Asia share perceptions of climate change and their actions to resist its effects.

On December 11, Indigenous women from Cameroon, Panama, Kenya, and the Philippines discussed how their ancestral knowledge contributes to Indigenous Peoples’ resilience to the effects of climate change in a side event at COP 28, From the frontlines: Through Indigenous women’s eyes.  The event was organized by the FSC Indigenous Foundation (FSC-IF), the Coordination of Mesoamerican Women Territorial Leaders (CMLT), the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMBP), and the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities (GATC).

Indigenous Peoples have been disproportionately affected by the impact of climate change. From the increase in the intensity of hurricanes, forest fires, droughts, and the degradation of soils and ecosystems, this crisis causes serious losses and damages that particularly affect Indigenous women and girls, as it hinders access to subsistence resources and increases the conditions of insecurity, vulnerability and risk to different types of violence

At the same time, Indigenous women have historically been the guardians of ancestral knowledge and transmitters of traditional practices of medicine, planting, and the deep bond with Mother Earth. Therefore, the food security of their families, the good living of their peoples, and the conservation and regeneration of the planet’s forests and biodiversity depend on the empowerment and identity of Indigenous women and girls. 

Around the world Indigenous women are taking action to resist the impacts of climate change on their territories and communities and build resilience, using their ancestral knowledge and deep connection with Mother Earth. 

Voices and actions from around the world

In a panel, Sara Omi, President of the Coordinating Committee of Women Territorial Leaders of Mesoamerica; Balkisou Buba, Vice President of the Cameroon Branch of the Network of Indigenous and Local Populations for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in Central Africa (REPALEAC); Edna Kaptoyo, Grantmaking and Partnerships Officer, Pawanka Fund; and Helen Magata, Coordinator of the Climate and Biodiversity Program of Tebtebba Foundation, shared their perspectives on loss and damages from climate change, the link between climate change and increasing violence, and their actions for resilience. 

Something needs to be done to reduce climate change to reduce the threat of violence against Indigenous women and girls,” stated Balkisou Buba. Panelists explained that Indigenous women face violence due to the impacts of climate change in their territories as they are forced to migrate to cities or walk longer distances to fetch water or wood.

They also discussed losses and damages from climate change. “Language loss is not something you can compensate for, our languages are dying,” explained Helen Magata, noting that language is connected to traditional agricultural practices of Indigenous women. 

In response to these challenges, panelists shared actions they are taking in their communities for climate resilience. 

Indigenous women are doing great work to preserve the ancestral knowledge of our grandmothers. I come from a community that was relocated due to the construction of a hydroelectric dam, my grandmothers have shown that despite the violation of the right to territory we can restore our home and maintain our identity,” said Sara Omi. 

Indigenous women have been socially organizing to collectively face issues, such as access to food with drought-tolerant crops and traditional medicine. Women understand the ecology of their territory, which is crucial for regeneration and restoration projects,” added Edna Kaptoyo.

“Pastoralists use the land for periods so that the soil can regenerate. We also take just what we need from nature. We also use traditional knowledge to predict what is going to happen: draughts, rains,” said Balkisou Buba.  

Helen Magata discussed forest and water management practices in her community that respond the the challenges of climate change and contribute to the reduction of conflict. She also shared the work of a community center to support Indigenous women’s mental well-being. “We do so much for the community and forget about ourselves, but we are also individuals,” she said. 

The panel was moderated by Rabiatou Ahmadou, Political Participation and Advocacy Coordinator at the International Indigenous Women’s Forum.Our Indigenous cultures are cultures of sharing,” she emphasized, highlighting that Indigenous women think about sharing, protecting, and leaving resources for the next generation. 

Messages to stakeholders

Key stakeholders including governments, donors, philanthropists, and social and humanitarian operators participated in the event to hear directly from Indigenous women leaders on their perspectives and messages.

Edna Kaptoyo called for the recognition of the role of Indigenous women in climate resilience. Balkisou Buba highlighted the need to invest in traditional knowledge and involve Indigenous women in decision-making.

Helen Magata said that Indigenous women do not need to be empowered, because they already are. “Knowledge is power and Indigenous women have the knowledge,” she said. The call for stakeholders is to provide spaces and platforms for them to share that knowledge.

Further than the creation of these spaces, both Sara Omi and Balkisou Buba emphasized the need for direct climate finance to Indigenous women to allow them to continue protecting forests, and landscapes and advancing actions towards climate resilience. 

Watch a recording of the event below:

Contact information:

Mary Donovan, FSC-IF, m.donovan@fsc.org

Tamara Espinoza, CMLT/AMPB, comunicacion@mujeresmesoamericanas.org

Andrea Rodriguez, GATC, arodriguez@globalalliance.me

Listen to more messages from Indigenous women on climate change here.

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