Hussh | Indigenous communities are critical in our fight to protect our lands and seas

Indigenous communities are critical in our fight to protect our lands and seas

As the UN COP15 focuses talks on biodiversity in Montreal, there’s a growing realisation that globally, we’re not as prepared as we need to be in our bid to protect and conserve 30 per cent of the world’s land and sea by 2030.

And we’re failing in one major area in particular: indigenous communities.

Empowering these groups in the conservation of nature and the promotion of biodiversity is not only logical, but critical. Indigenous people account for about 4 percent of the global population but are estimated to be present on 24 percent of the Earth’s surface — land where some 80 percent of remaining biodiversity is concentrated. For thousands of years, they have lived in harmony with the land and offer a unique understanding of (and connection to) the natural world.

As we think about the future need to de-industrialise our agrarian, farming, and fishing practices, indigenous communities provide insight into how to have a healthy, deep understanding of the ecosystems in which you live and translate that lived knowledge into more sustainable practices that can preserve the health of our lands and seas.

Delegating more power to such communities will also be a powerful tool in halting the decline of nature and improving conservation efforts. It’s important to acknowledge that this shouldn’t be about the developed world “allowing” such communities to have a role; indigenous people have long thrived in harmony with the Earth and should now be afforded protection and rights to ensure that they are not marginalised in conservation efforts. In many cases, they have been displaced or disadvantaged by conservation efforts, even though they are often the ones who are most affected by the loss of natural resources.

By restoring them in their rightful roles as change makers, they can be an integral part of the decision-making processes, helping to ensure that conservation strategies are effective and sustainable, not just short-lived projects for political gain.