The regional campaign "Securing indigenous territories to protect life" puts the spotlight on the relevance of ensuring legal security of land and territorial rights for indigenous peoples.
We spoke to Diocelinda Iza, an indigenous Kichwa leader from the Panzaleo people, to understand how securing indigenous peoples' land and territorial governance plays a crucial role in protecting biodiversity and responding to climate change. Diocelinda is part of the collective leadership of the Movimiento Nacional de Mujeres de Sectores Populares Luna Creciente, and has also served as president of the Organización de Mujeres Indígenas y Campesinas Sembrando Esperanza and of the Movimiento Indígena de Cotopaxi.
TODAY, CLIMATE CHANGE STANDS AS THE MAIN THREAT TO THE HEALTH OF HUMANITY AND OUR PLANET.
"Given the consequences of climate change that we all face, indigenous peoples feel a deep concern to maintain harmony with Mother Earth. Our fights are not only limited to the defence of our territories, but also focus on the protection of Mother Earth from various threats, such as logging and mining, among others. We must act now to protect what is left and leave a better world for the next generations," says Diocelinda.
Thus, through their values and principles of life such as reciprocity, balance and good living, and their ancestral sustainable natural resource management practices, indigenous peoples secure the forests, water, mountains and wetlands, which also provide their material and spiritual sustenance. In relation to this, Diocelinda explains that "by maintaining the Andean chacra, medicinal plants, native shrubs and plants, seeds, we also contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity. We make a very important contribution in this sense".
But the contribution of indigenous peoples goes beyond the sustainable management of the commons. Diocelinda emphasises that they also possess traditional practices of immense value in addressing the challenges of climate change, such as "the territorial community organisational capacity to educate and discuss the changes we are experiencing, to make decisions in community, in assemblies and meetings to protect Pachamama and to demand that the authorities respect the rights of Mother Nature".
THANKS TO THESE VALUES AND ANCESTRAL KNOWLEDGE, INDIGENOUS TERRITORIES ARE CONSIDERED TO BE HAVENS OF GREAT BIODIVERSITY THAT PLAY A CRUCIAL ROLE IN PRESERVING THE ECOLOGICAL BALANCE OF OUR PLANET AND IN REGULATING THE CLIMATE.
Furthermore, several studies show that ensuring people-centred land governance and securing the land and territorial rights of indigenous peoples is a proven solution to address climate change.
In this regard, Diocelinda explains that "indigenous territories have lower deforestation rates, which contributes significantly to reducing temperature rise and the aggravation of climate change. In addition, our efforts in biodiversity conservation strengthen the resilience of ecosystems and provide them with greater possibilities to adapt to the disruptions caused by climate change.
"The commitment of indigenous communities to the preservation of their territories translates into decisive action in the fight against climate change. Our link to the land and the care of ecosystems is invaluable," says Diocelinda. However, States still do not recognise the fundamental role of indigenous peoples in the protection of our planet, nor do they guarantee their rights to land and territory. "Securing our rights to land and territory is essential not only to protect our lives, but also to achieve more prosperous societies," she adds.
IMPACTS OF THE EXTRACTIVIST MODEL ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND AGRI-FOOD SYSTEMS
The negative impacts of the extractivist and neoliberal model place indigenous peoples in a situation of increased vulnerability to climate change. Diocelinda comments that "this model has had detrimental effects on indigenous communities and on the biodiversity that is part of our territories. Our water sources, moorlands and soil are affected and they are all parts of an earth that is showing signs of fever, weakness and disease".
"The effects of climate change manifest themselves in our daily lives, such as difficulty in planting, frost and high energy costs. It is also reflected in lower prices for agricultural products and the increase of livestock areas to the detriment of agriculture."
"Not only is Mother Earth being harmed, but many peasant families are also being deprived of their livelihoods and their connection to the land. Many of these families even stop producing their own food, and the pollution generated by extractive activities is irreversible," explains Diocelinda.
This is especially critical given that in the current context, where the predominant agri-food system is one of the major causes of biodiversity loss, indigenous peoples contribute to more sustainable agri-food systems, as their forms of production - unlike those of agribusiness - respect the environment. "Maintaining peasant and indigenous farms ensures that the whole country is fed. Seventy per cent of our food comes from small-scale diversified and agroecological production, and is healthier and more sustainable. We work for the recovery of ancestral wisdom to continue producing organically", says Diocelinda.
"Big companies pollute our lands and territories, while we, the indigenous peoples, safeguard our spaces in defence of Mother Earth. Therefore, we urge society to reflect on their actions and their impact on climate change, seeking greater awareness", concludes Diocelinda.
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