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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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Indigenous empowerment for climate-resilient solutions in Africa

At COP 28 side event Indigenous leaders discussed empowering Indigenous communities with financial resources and inclusive carbon markets to scale up climate solutions.

At COP 28, the FSC Indigenous Foundation, the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC),  the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Inclusive Development Hub convened experts at an event on December 5 in the Indigenous Peoples Pavilion, Engaging Indigenous Peoples in Carbon Markets: Direct access to climate finance for Indigenous communities in Africa to increase awareness of the unique contributions of Indigenous communities to climate resilience and to discuss opportunities, challenges and solutions related to direct climate finance and carbon markets.

The need for direct and inclusive mechanisms

The global challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change require urgent and collaborative action. Indigenous communities, often the stewards of rich biodiversity, possess unique knowledge and sustainable practices that can significantly contribute to climate resilience. By fostering direct access for Indigenous Peoples to climate finance, we can empower Indigenous communities in Africa to implement sustainable solutions, contributing significantly to the broader goals of biodiversity conservation and climate resilience.

Carbon markets could be a way of empowering Indigenous Peoples by paying them for protecting the world’s forests. Indigenous and community lands hold at least 22% of the carbon stored in tropical and subtropical forests globally. These markets have the potential to create a unique opportunity for Indigenous communities to develop an economic sector aligned with Indigenous lifestyles, Indigenous Cultural Landscapes, and sustainable land management. It is also an opportunity for governments and industry to co-create meaningful partnerships and develop relevant policies with Indigenous Peoples.

On the other hand, some Indigenous communities fear that further development of carbon markets, even with the new rules agreed to at COP 27, will endanger local livelihoods and create loopholes for further emissions. Markets must be designed in a transparent way that responds to the needs and realities of Indigenous communities.

Perspectives from Indigenous leaders

We took the opportunity of COP28 to create an inclusive space to identify the key constraints, challenges, and opportunities of climate finance and carbon markets. 

To begin the event, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, FSC Indigenous Foundation Council Chair gave opening remarks. 

“What is the carbon market, and how is it going to respect the land and rights of Indigenous Peoples?” she asked.  “If governments are going engage in the carbon market, we are not going to let them do it without getting the benefit and we are not going to let them do it while harming our lives and our territories.”

A panel with Indigenous leaders and partner organizations shared perspectives and key insights on how we can engage stakeholders from the realms of climate finance, environmental policy, and Indigenous rights advocacy to ensure direct access to finance for Indigenous communities.

Panelists also discussed how Indigenous Peoples can benefit from carbon markets, and which concerns need to be addressed for more Indigenous Peoples to participate.

“There is a big debate that carbon is a false solution”, said Kanyinke Sena, Executive Director of IPACC. “We must understand that carbon in itself is not a bad thing, what is a bad thing is the people that use that to come and benefit – the carbon cowboys.” 

He also emphasized the importance of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) for communities engaging in the carbon market.

Elijah Toirai, Natural Climate Solutions (NCS) and Communities Lead at Conservation International discussed registration for carbon credits and the importance of carbon market reports remaining public. “We are seeing a shift towards Indigenous Peoples communities becoming the carbon credit entity. The Indigenous Peoples’ communities and organizations are registering the projects. That way, when it comes to benefit sharing, the buyers actually then pay to these Indigenous Peoples’ organizations,” he said.

Joseph Itongwa, Coordinator of REPALEAC and IPACC Great Lakes representative, posed an important question: “Where can we report the wrongdoers in the carbon credit equation?”

The question and answer section presented the opportunity to exchange knowledge and information from other regions. 

“We, the Indigenous Peoples, have organized ourselves and have proposed our own climate strategy, called the Amazon Indigenous Network, in the face of this challenge. We are looking for the rights of Indigenous Peoples to come first, and the right of access to the territories. We are implementing REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) with the guidelines of the Amazon Indigenous Network,” said Fermín Chimatani Tayori of the National Association of Contract Executors for the Administration of Communal Reserves of Peru.

Panelists concluded that it is vital to ensure the respect of Indigenous Peoples’ rights in the development of carbon markets. Indigenous Peoples need to be included in the design of these mechanisms so they can engage in carbon markets, if they so choose, in favor of their communities, landscapes, and cosmovision.

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Latin American and the Caribbean Climate Week 2023: Indigenous Women and Their Powerful Messages on Climate Change

Indigenous women from around the world are on the frontline against climate change.

Indigenous Women on the Frontline Against Climate Change

The “Latin American and the Caribbean Climate Week” is approaching, and Indigenous women from all over the world have joined our campaign, ‘Indigenous Women on the Frontline Against Climate Change,’ to highlight their crucial role in the fight against this environmental issue that currently jeopardizes life on Earth. We united their voices from diverse regions of the world.

The series of climate weeks  leading up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, makes its stop in Latin America, with Panama as the host, from October 23 to 27. 

Panama is one of our primary hubs where we are implementing our Indigenous Peoples Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD) Program. Here, we will continue to demonstrate that Indigenous solutions are a key strategy to address climate change and prepare for COP28 in December.

In this context, we have been showcasing the strategic work carried out by Indigenous women globally. We have gathered  messages that demonstrate that, despite being one of the most affected populations by this issue, they lead the implementation of climate solutions. Their knowledge of Indigenous solutions that have existed for millennia is essential in the current effort to reverse the damage to our Mother Earth. Listen to some testimonials!

Empowered Indigenous women against climate change

Mataal Magdalena Pérez – Maya Poqomam (Guatemala)

She highlights the essential role of women in preserving mother tongues and their connection with nature, serving as a pillar of resilience against environmental devastation and climate change.

Olga Kostrova, a member of the Chulymtsy People (Russia)

She discusses the role of women in her community in monitoring changes in nature and raising awareness about environmental issues that affect both the forests and the food security of the community.

Anne Samante – Indigenous leader from the Maasai community (Kenya)

Anne highlights the critical role of Indigenous women, who are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts due to gender disparities and resource scarcity.

Gloria López, member of the Lenca Indigenous People (Honduras)

Gloria discusses the pivotal role of Indigenous women in guiding their families to adopt positive actions and the valuable work carried out by Indigenous women’s organizations in transmitting ancestral knowledge, which serves as a source of climate solutions.

Indigenous young women are also on the frontline against climate change

Jeptoo Kibichum – Endorois Indigenous People (Kenya)

She discusses the multifaceted role of Indigenous women who are active in areas such as preserving ancestral agricultural knowledge and collaborating on adaptation strategies.

Kandra Ehrman – Guna Indigenous People (Panama)

As a young Indigenous woman, she stands out as the first diver in her community and as an activist for climate change. She also works towards the empowerment of Indigenous women.

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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. 

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