Protecting the traditional knowledge and regions of indigenous people groups means helping achieve a sustainable, without the hunger-free world and contributing to the fight against deforestation and climate change.

Kenyan Tribal Dance
Photo by Ethan McArthur / Unsplash

For a considerable length of time, the significance of indigenous people groups in the fight against deforestation, land degradation, and climate change was overlooked and even denied, to the detriment of the environment and the food systems on which we as a whole depend. Thanks to the global advocacy of indigenous people groups and their communities, this propensity is changing, though not fast enough.

Indigenous individuals are the guardians of global biodiversity

Some 370 million individuals identify themselves as members of indigenous cultures. While indigenous people groups make up under five percent of the world's total population, they wield big influence over the prosperity of the natural resources on which we as a whole depend. They manage 28 percent of the world's land surface and, are the de facto guardians of 80 percent of global biodiversity — including the majority of the plant and animal species on Earth.

As family farmers, fishers, pastoralists and forest-dwellers, indigenous people groups apply traditional ways for land management and food production which have evolved over hundreds of years and which have often proven their sustainability and resilience even with environmental changes.

Baskets to weigh
Photo by Trevor Cole / Unsplash

Indigenous knowledge systems and languages contribute directly to natural and cultural diversity, poverty eradication, conflict resolution, food security, and ecosystem health, and serve as the foundation of the resilience of indigenous communities to the effect of climate change. Their awareness of traditional food sources and the fundamental connection between food systems and healthy landscapes can help advance diets that are diverse and sustainable.

The crucial role of indigenous people groups was known in the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And, yet, indigenous people groups continue to experience disproportionately significant levels of land insecurity, social dislocation, and violence while defending their traditional lands. They additionally make up 15 percent of the world's poorest people.

We have the responsibility to support them

Two tribe members
Photo by Surya Prakosa / Unsplash

As of late, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) hosted the first-ever high-level, master meeting on indigenous food systems. Sooner rather than later, a forthcoming FAO report based on two years of research is relied upon to shed further light on the experiences of indigenous people groups, their needs, and their capability to help achieve a sustainable, hunger-free world.

While these are encouraging signs of commitment, it will take urgent, broader policy changes and community-based action, especially around the acknowledgment of land rights, to bring about noteworthy, lasting upgrades in the lives of indigenous people groups and the natural resources which are essential to every one of us.