Indigenous Peoples and local communities are environmental stewards of the richest places of biodiversity and culture in the world. Studies show that ICCAs account for approximately 32 percent of global land and have been proven to be ecologically healthy. Yet, for many years, Indigenous Peoples and local communities have continually faced threats such as land grabbing, encroachment, armed conflict, and environmental degradation impacts from development projects surrounding their territories, amongst others. Now, COVID-19 represents another great challenge for these rural populations. To cope with the pandemic and other issues, countries participating in the ICCA-GSI have been supporting Indigenous Peoples and local communities to strengthen their Territories of Life or ICCAs.
In Colombia, the Self-Strengthening Process (SSP) is a cornerstone for Indigenous and local communities living in ICCAs. The SSP involves a self-strengthening journey, a process of reflection, discussions, and actions that enable communities to define and shape plans according to their needs and aspirations. Initially introduced in 2017 to a number of communities involved in the ICCA-GSI Phase 1 projects, members of Colombia’s national ICCA network 'Red Ticca' are now replicating this process across the country amidst the pandemic and call for more Indigenous Peoples to join the network to solidify their efforts.
According to Nataly Domicó, a member of the Red Ticca network, in 2017 "we began with the self-recognition of the life that exists in our territories, of the colors, of the wise, of the food, of all the ancestral culture that we have and thus we were aware, autonomously, of the importance of weaving in a network, of joining efforts, and weaving ourselves in common purposes to defend, make visible and protect our territories of life.”
To further support the Red Ticca network, the Small Grants Programme (SGP), a corporate programme of the Global Environment Facility that is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme, organized a two-day workshop in September 2020. Here, representatives of 26 afro, Indigenous, and rural community organizations from different regions of Colombia participated in intense discussions to identify their challenges and opportunities related to the sustainable management of their territories.
According to Domicó, "the common purpose we all have here is to take care of the earth. That is why we are in this process of starting to create ourselves in a network, to generate this support, to strengthen ourselves because many times we expect things from outside, knowing that among us we have very valuable experiences to strengthen ourselves and continue to survive as peoples and territories of life."
At the end of the workshop, the network’s proposed actions included territorial mapping, strengthening of traditional medical knowledge, bolstering local economy, prevention of zoonoses and future pandemics, and improved communication on health- and pandemic-related information. More importantly, the Indigenous organizations returned to their territories knowing that they are not alone in their struggle, empowered in their capabilities to cope with the ever-growing challenges and guarantee the permanent existence of local communities in their territories through environmentally sustainable development. More information about this workshop can be found here.
In Argentina, the country’s first-ever ICCA network ‘Territories of Life in Argentina' was created in October 2021. This momentous achievement is the result of the various self-strengthening national workshops organized by the SGP for 32 Indigenous communities who are implementing 18 ICCA-GSI projects across the country. Since the workshops held in August 2021, representatives of the Mbya Guaraní, Mapuche, Diaguita, Kolla, Wichi, Qom, Atacameño, Tonokote Llutqui, Ava Guarani, and Ocloya peoples have been collaborating to listen to each other’s needs and ideas, and to establish common ground based on self-recognized and shared threats and opportunities.
During a 2-day workshop in October 2021 that was chaired by the UNDP Resident Representative in Argentina, the Secretary of the Embassy of Germany in Argentina, and Argentina’s Secretary of Environmental Policy, the Indigenous communities presented their plans for ongoing collaboration as custodians of their territories located in various regions of the country including Jujuy, Salta, Tucumán, Santiago del Estero, Catamarca, Chaco, Formosa, Misiones, and Neuquén. As their constituency statute was adopted by consensus, the ICCA network ‘Territories of Life in Argentina’ was established to be an autonomous organization made up of Indigenous Peoples, communities, and organizations that inhabit the territories conserved and protected by them. UNDP and SGP commemorated this event by granting certificates to the 32 indigenous communities. Within a month after the workshop, 7 more communities have joined the ‘Territories of Life in Argentina’ network.
Please see more information about this workshop and a press release on how communities intend to solve the problems they face.