Powerful economic interests such as the expansion of agriculture, mining and infrastructure often take precedence over the rights and needs of local communities. As a result, a lot of the nature that has been used and managed by indigenous and local communities for generations is under ever greater pressure.

No voice in decision-making processes

Decision-making processes related to economic developments often ignore the interests and insights of communities, or don’t take them seriously. This constitutes a missed opportunity, because the local population possesses valuable knowledge necessary for sustainable landscape management.

Traditional knowledge is disappearing

In addition, traditional knowledge among these communities is disappearing. Young people invariably leave for the cities, which means that intergenerational knowledge is lost. Due to changes in land use, knowledge of species and their interaction is also lost. Lastly, governments and development organisations do not always take into account the world views and knowledge of communities that have a close relationship with nature.

Women are often hit harder  

The consequences of these developments are often more serious for women, because they play a key role in food production, gathering medicinal plants and water and the sustainable use of natural resources. They also play an important role in the safeguarding and transfer of traditional knowledge about nature.

However, there are solutions to these problems: by boosting the voice, the rights and capacities of indigenous and local communities, especially in areas with significant biodiversity value, we can improve the protection of nature.

Recognition of rights (including land rights), knowledge and capacities

First and foremost, it is important that the land rights of indigenous and local communities are recognised and respected. In this context we contribute through capacity building and the empowerment of indigenous and local communities and the social organisations – our local partners – that work with them. We take a bottom-up approach, based on local needs, mutual trust, respect and a long-term collaboration. 

Empowerment and the inclusion of indigenous and local communities

Improving organisational structures better equips indigenous and local communities to sustainably manage nature, also in a changing world. To this end we advocate effective governance by and with indigenous and local communities, based on their knowledge, capacities and rights. We devote extra attention to the interests of women in order to achieve gender equality.

Using the knowledge of local communities to protect nature

The Tanintharyi region of Myanmar is home to a variety of indigenous and local communities. With their knowledge and experience of the sustainable use and management of natural resources built up over generations, they can make a huge contribution to nature conservation and sustainable development.

Achieving nature conservation targets

In addition, it is important that governments, social organisations and other stakeholders recognise the ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’ (OECMs) formulated by IUCN, in achieving national nature conservation targets.

Bundling traditional and scientific knowledge

To achieve this we connect partners with each other and regional and international networks and UN mechanisms, where they can defend their rights and interests and simultaneously learn from others. We facilitate exchange and dialogue and jointly seek solutions that unite traditional and scientific knowledge.

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Evelien van den Broek
Senior Expert Environmental Justice
Maartje Hilterman
Project Leader – Forests for a Just Future