The ICCA-GSI Phase 2 was launched in October 2020 as a rapid response initiative to the COVID-19 pandemic for communities living in territories and areas conserved by Indigenous Peoples and local communities (ICCAs). After a call of proposals was open from December 2020 to April 2021 in 45 countries, a total of 257 projects are under implementation as of August 2021 with approximately another 100 projects expected to be implemented in the last quarter of 2021. Below is a snapshot of what is happening in some of these countries.
In Argentina, a regional week-long event for Indigenous Peoples and their ICCAs, also known as ‘Territories of Life’, started with a ceremony on August 9 to celebrate the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. Led by the SGP National Coordinator Francisco Lopez Sastre, opening remarks were given by institutional authorities, including Karai Javier Villalba, a member of Mbya Guarani Peruti Community and of the SGP National Steering Committee, Carlo Tomasi, the UNDP Resident Representative in Argentina, Marcela Gally, Dean of the Faculty of Agronomy at the University of Buenos Aires, and Queen Sotillo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Culture. Throughout the week, members of 35 Indigenous communities who started implementing 18 ICCA-GSI projects across the country in May 2021 interacted with the FAUBA national ICCA network and the aforementioned stakeholders to share their traditional knowledge and governance practices in biodiversity conservation, as well as their experiences and challenges from external threats, including the COVID-19 pandemic. This event marked the first of a series of regional discussions until 2023. Click here for more information about this event.
There are about 9,000 villages in Burkina Faso, a Sahelian country located in the middle of West Africa. Each village territory has at least one community conservation area in the form of a pastoral area, a sacred natural site, or a village forest or hunting area. According to Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change, approximately 55,000 ICCAs have been identified in the country, covering at least 2 million hectares. Of these, sacred sites constitute the vast majority to conserve the natural and socio-cultural heritage of local communities.
Since 2015, SGP has been supporting Indigenous Peoples and local communities in mitigating and adapting to climate change impacts, as well as conserving in the conservation of these ICCAs, which hold concentrations of biological diversity and essential ecosystems that the communities rely on for their livelihoods as well as in mitigating and adapting to climate change impacts. A national ICCA network has also been established since then to consolidate and solidify efforts towards the conservation of these sites.
Yet, land grabbing for agro-business development, population growth and urbanization, amongst others, threaten the Indigenous Peoples and local communities, the continuity of their governance structure and their traditional knowledge-based practices. Moreover, cautionary measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as border closures and limited mobility within the ICCAs, have severely impacted the socio-economic activities at the site level.
As such, the portfolio of projects under the ICCA-GSI Phase 2 are aimed at the self-strengthening of Indigenous peoples and local communities in restoring the ecological balance of ecosystems and preserving their territories. Awareness-raising on the COVID-19 pandemic is also provided to local radio stations to ensure efficient outreach. As of August 2021, the projects include the expansion and decentralization of the national ICCA associations and the promotion of the “Territories of Life” approach. A General Assembly of the National ICCA network to be held on 21 to 24 September 2021 in Ouagadougou will jumpstart the knowledge-exchange and capacity building on (i) skills related to legal recognition of natural sites and their governance structures, (ii) the restoration of sacred sites, village forests, and grazing areas, including technical skills on agro-forestry, and (iii) the manufacture of nose masks, production of hydroalcoholic gel, and distribution of personal protective equipment to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
In China, SGP has been playing a unique role in supporting the establishment, recognition, and development of Community Conserved Areas (CCAs) since 2009. Through a community-oriented approach, over 800,000 hectares of biodiversity and cultural diversity areas have been conserved in important landscapes and seascapes in the Qianhai-Tibet Plateau, the Three Parallel protected area, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Beibu Gulf. A total of 47 CCAs has also been supported through the development of peer-review guidelines to the global ICCA Registry, a database administered by the UNEP-WCMC, one of the ICCA-GSI key partners. Of these, 22 CCAs have been registered to the global ICCA Registry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the ecological pressure over the CCAs. Firstly, the ethnic peoples and local communities’ reliance on natural resources has substantially increased due to job losses in urban areas for migrant workers. Secondly, the sustainable management activities of CCAs have declined because the communities spend more time on livelihood activities rather than CCA patrolling. Thirdly, the existing traditional management methods in the CCAs address short- to mid-term challenges but need to evolve and capture future risks and impacts of unanticipated emergencies.
To this end, the portfolio of projects for the ICCA-GSI Phase 2 supports ethnic communities to cope with and recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by strengthening their capacities in natural resources management, self-governance of their CCAs, and local livelihood development. Across the country, projects are safeguarding different types of ecosystems in the provinces of Qingdao, Shandong, Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, and Yunnan, including the Three Parallel Rivers protected area. Project activities include (i) safeguarding essential ecosystems by improving the institutional governance structures, rehabilitating degraded lands, and demarcating CCAs where relevant for species regeneration; (ii) supporting sustainable livelihood development by diversifying livelihood options and establishing linkages to market systems for the sale of local products; (iii) increasing resilience to pandemic-driven challenges and future risks by establishing mutual aid and self-help groups in relation to sustainable production and livelihood development.