BIODIVERSITY

Involving indigenous communities critical to achieving climate change targets

The most affected areas are the forests and tropical regions.

In Summary

• The world is continuously under threat due to climate change that has been occasioned by habitat loss and environmental degradation.

• According to the United Nations Global Biodiversity Outlook published in September 2020, the most affected areas are the forests and tropical regions where most indigenous communities reside.

The world is continuously under threat due to climate change that has been occasioned by habitat loss and environmental degradation.
The world is continuously under threat due to climate change that has been occasioned by habitat loss and environmental degradation.
Image: THE STAR

The world is continuously under threat due to climate change that has been occasioned by habitat loss and environmental degradation.

According to the United Nations, Global Biodiversity Outlook published in September 2020, the most affected areas are the forests and tropical regions where most indigenous communities reside.

Given their dependence on natural resource for their livelihoods, climate change presents an additional burden to these already marginalised communities socially and economically.  

 

And as the report notes, indigenous communities are still largely excluded from global, national and local conversations on climate change and mitigation interventions and their valuable knowledge on sustainable resource management aren't reflected in national legislation and global conventions. 

It is, therefore, imperative that any planned decision likely to affect their livelihoods such as on climate change should include their priorities, views, dreams and aspirations.

Respect for Indigenous Communities’ Traditional Knowledge to tackle the climate crisis and biodiversity loss is among the 20 targets identified by the United Nations Convection on Biological Diversity (CBD), agreed on in Nagoya Japan in 2010 and ratified by all the UN members except the United States.

A decade later, none of the 20 targets has been fully achieved; only six have been partially met.

Climate variability and change has in the recent years presented itself inform of unpredictable and extreme weather, significantly threatening livelihoods among communities.

As a result, a global outcry has forced countries to come up with ways to mitigate and or adapt to the effects of this global challenge. Kenya is in the process of implementing the second National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) 2018-22.

To ensure effective involvement, the Climate Change Directorate and Indigenous Communities have agreed on an engagement framework that recognises that indigenous communities have distinct knowledge and experience on the preservation and conservation of the natural environments from which they obtain their livelihood and around which they have developed their social, cultural and religious systems and structures.

 

This is encouraging because effective engagement ensures everything is put under consideration and objective feedback is given equal consideration in the decision-making process.

The NCCAP 2O18-22 recognises that climate change is contributing to the loss of Kenya’s biodiversity and calls on identifying, among others, minority and marginalised communities and, working with and for them, for the success of climate change action.

Creating opportunities for community participation is integral to good governance and public participation on public interest issues.

Marginalised Indigenous Communities are unique constituencies not only because of the impact of climate change on them but also the role they play in ensuring the success of climate change intervention as well the perspectives and experiences they bring on board through their indigenous and local knowledge.

The engagement framework notably will provide a platform for cooperation and collaboration between the Climate Change Directorate (CCD) and Marginalised Indigenous Communities through a Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) comprised of the CCD and the representatives of marginalised on implementation of the NCCAP 2018-22 as well as any other issues deemed relevant.

It envisions an inclusive NCCAP  that responds to the needs of the communities likely to be affected by decisions on climate change interventions. 

This framework supports that shift by broadly defining Marginalised Indigenous Communities, their engagement and by presenting the core principles that the engagements should consistently reflect.

The marginalised indigenous communities (pastoralists, hunter-gatherers and fisher communities) in Kenya will use this framework when planning engagement activities.

Partners and clients will use it to better understand their needs, priorities and concerns and fit into them.

Ramiro Batzin, the co-chair of the International Indigenous Forum, quoted in a National Geographic article, notes that many countries still do not respect Indigenous Communities’ Traditional Knowledge, even though indigenous people play a pivotal role in protecting biodiversity.

“We can take from biodiversity what we need, but we mustn’t exploit it,” she says.

This is changing in Kenya as one of the aims of the engagement framework is to identify, document and facilitate incorporation/integration of Indigenous traditional knowledge systems into climate change planning and actions.

Further, Dolly Jorgensen, an environmental historian at the University of Stavanger in Norway emphasises that meaningful change seldom comes from the top alone, instead, history tells us that change often starts from the bottom.

Some of the most famous environmental successes in modern history—like a near-global ban on industrial whaling or the comeback of beavers in Europe—were at their heart-driven by individuals or groups who mobilised, creating demand for businesses to offer better choices and kick-starting an upward spiral that eventually reached decision-makers.

With the engagement framework between marginalised indigenous communities and the Climate Change Directorate Kenya is on the right move towards a better biological diversity rejuvenation and protection, and more successful climate change mitigation and adaptation actions.

The writer is the Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE). E-Mail: [email protected]