Mountain indigenous peoples call for support for biocultural landscapes to achieve the SDGs

The International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples has called for support and legal protection for biocultural heritage landscapes and community conserved areas following an event in Peru.

News, 28 June 2017
More than 100 representatives of indigenous mountain communities met in Peru's Potato Park in April 2017 to share their expertise and build their international network (Photo: Lucia Flórez Zelaya)

More than 100 representatives of indigenous mountain communities met in Peru's Potato Park in April 2017 to share their expertise and build their international network (Photo: Lucia Flórez Zelaya)

Representatives of mountain communities from Bhutan, China, India, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Taiwan, Tajikistan and Thailand have issued a declaration calling on governments to recognise the profound importance of biocultural heritage and indigenous knowledge.  

The Potato Park Declaration calls on governments to support efforts by indigenous mountain communities to protect their rich biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as their spiritual heritage and cultural identities, for food security, climate change adaptation and local economic development. 

Mountain indigenous peoples play a vital role in conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services, but are among the poorest, most marginalised and most vulnerable to climate change. Their landscapes are repositories of evolving genetic diversity for future adaptation, and places of high spiritual value. 

The declaration was issued at the fourth Learning Exchange of the International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples (INMIP), which took place in the Potato Park in the high Andes of Peru from 19 to 23 April 2017. 

The Potato Park is a biocultural heritage territory of 9,000 hectares where six indigenous Quechua communities conserve more than 1,000 native varieties of potato. Incomes in the Potato Park have doubled in five years through biocultural products and services, and potato productivity has increased despite severe climate change impacts. 

The learning exchange brought together more than 100 indigenous peoples as well as representatives of civil society, research, government and donor organisations. 

The event included policy discussions between mountain community representatives and government officials, as well as farmer-to-farmer training on methods and tools for establishing biocultural heritage landscapes. It was organised by INMIP, Asociacion ANDES, the Potato Park, and IIED.

Alejandro Argumedo, international coordinator of the INMIP, said: "The INMIP network is nurturing relationships that are truly helping mountain indigenous peoples to accomplish great things. 

"Besides building a common agenda through transnational networking, this type of exchange helps to spread proven innovations to address the similar problems faced by mountain peoples. Talking to one another, and learning and exchanging knowledge and experiences, greatly enhances the survival of indigenous mountain peoples and their environments."

Call for practical action

The Potato Park Declaration calls on governments and institutions to:  

  • Support participatory action-research with indigenous mountain communities linking traditional knowledge and science to address urgent threats posed by climate change
  • Facilitate the repatriation of native crop varieties to indigenous mountain communities and protect local seed systems for food and nutrition security
  • Assist in the creation of indigenous-led landscape-based gene reserves and community seed banks
  • Provide support for participatory development of biocultural products and services, creating market linkages and branding of indigenous products 
  • Ensure opportunities for the participation of indigenous women in decision-making at all levels, and
  • Implement policies to strengthen traditional institutions and reverse the loss of indigenous knowledge and languages.

Krystyna Swiderska, principal researcher IIED, said: "The Potato Park exchange showed that the Quechua worldview, where wellbeing is achieved through balance between the human, natural and spiritual realms, is shared by indigenous peoples across the world. This declaration highlights the critical importance of mountain indigenous peoples and biocultural landscapes for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Aichi Targets."

Mountain ecosystems are extremely vulnerable to climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with several extreme impact events attributed to warming. Many communities are already affected by erratic rainfall, drought, increased temperatures and pests, as well as physical impacts caused by melting glaciers. In addition, social and legislative change threaten the continuity of traditional knowledge and resource management systems. 

The declaration ends with the signatories reaffirming their commitment to working together towards INMIP's common vision: "a world rich in biocultural heritage that maintains the harmonious relationship among the spiritual, human and natural realms for resilient indigenous mountain communities".

Further resources