Icon Story highlights

  • Pollinators are globally in decline, threatening biodiversity and food production
  • The IPBES Pollination Assessment identifies that diversified farming systems, including rotational cropping, are beneficial for pollinators and pollination
  • Policies supporting Indigenous peoples and local communities' customary sustainable practices and territorial rights are beneficial for pollinators while supporting livelihoods

Experts gathered in dialogue during the past days in the Karen community of Hin Lad Nai, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, witnessed the excellent example of pollinators protection integrated in a traditional farming system. They noted and appreciated the Thai Government’s initiative in recognizing the successful management practices and customary rights through the declaration of the Hin Lad Nai territory as a Special Cultural Zone.

This is a mechanism which recognizes cultural rights and ancestral territories, built on a Cabinet Resolution of August 3, 2010 by the Thai Ministry of Culture. This support to the Karen culture and way of life is also sustaining pollinators and the sustainable production of valuable products such as forest honey and tea, while protecting the rich forest biodiversity.

International experts observe and learn about pollinators and pollination while walking through the biocultural landscape of Hin Lad Nai (Photo: Jitirapa Bumroongchai)

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Assessment Report on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production has shown that pollinators such as bees, birds, bats and butterflies are in decline globally, which threatens biodiversity and food production all over the world. The Pollination Assessment also provides evidence-based solutions for the management of threats faced by pollinators globally. Among those, the assessment identifies that diversified farming systems, including rotational cropping and fallows, enhance pollinators and pollination. Policies that recognize and support Indigenous peoples and local communities’ management in these landscapes can help secure the continuation of these benefits.

“There is a Karen saying that “we should walk like the bees”. When the bees fly, they fly better together and look after each other and the interest of the whole community of bees. They live in harmony together, and increase the biodiversity in the forest with their actions, like we do.  Our community has been revitalizing our forest since it was heavily damaged by the logging concession in the 80s. We are requesting the government to recognize the rights of the Karen people to continue our customary and sustainable use of biodiversity.” Chaiprasert Phoka, community leader of HIn Lad Nai

The Hin Lad Nai leader Chaiprasert Phokha shares experiences from his community with the group of international participants (Photo: Jitirapa Bumroongchai)

Dr Lynn Dicks, of the University of East Anglia, a Co-ordinating Lead Author of the IPBES Pollination Assessment report expressed, at the conclusion of the dialogue:

“I saw many elements in the self-sufficient farming system of the Karen people at Hin Lad Nai that would directly benefit wild pollinators. Some of the native bees in the area, such as the eastern honey bee Apis cerana, naturally nest in holes in larger trees. These bees have probably struggled to find nest sites since the forest around Hin Lad Nai was logged in the 1980s by a logging concession. The Hin Lad Nai make beehive boxes for them to use, which are surely a valuable resource for the honey bee populations”

The IPBES Pollination Assessment further encourages strengthening the food production systems and securing the benefits from pollination through recognition of territorial rights and land tenure for Indigenous peoples and local communities; supporting Indigenous and local knowledge and practices as a complementary model for sustaining biodiversity and culture together. The Special Cultural Zone in Hin Lad Nai is an important and successful initiative ready to be scaled out and spread to more communites. However, further recognition of the rights to land and resources is needed to also secure the foundation of those pollinator-friendly practices. Conservation of biodiversity and customary livelihoods and practices can go hand-in-hand, and protected areas can benefit from maintaining and strengthening biocultural governance and practices.

“During these days we have seen many examples of the opportunities that connecting knowledge systems brings for ecosystem management. Securing the territory and our knowledge systems is the key. There are two inter-related discourses here: the territory discourse and the knowledge discourse. It is important that both these are addressed when talking with governments about protecting biodiversity and ecosystems” Elmer González, from the autonomous Indigenous territory of Guna Yala in Panama

At the dialogue closing, experts outlined policy and action pathways to ensure uptake of the Assessment findings, particularly emphasizing the contributions made by Indigenous peoples and local communities, their knowledge and practices, through biocultural approaches to global pollination conservation and management.

Dialogue participants, guided by the community’s shaman, conduct the closing ceremony (Photo: Jitirapa Bumroongchai)


The “Dialogue across Indigenous, local and scientific knowledge systems reflecting on the IPBES Assessment on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production” took place 21 – 25 January 2019 in the Karen community of Hin Lad Nai, Chiang Rai, Thailand, as part of the ongoing process of dialogues that seeks ways of working and co-producing knowledge across Indigenous, local and scientific knowledge systems based on equity, reciprocity and usefulness for all involved, with a Multiple Evidence Base approach. The event was co-convened by SwedBio and Stockholm Resilience Centre, the Indigenous organizations PASD and IMPECT, UNESCO, with in-kind contributions from CSIRO and CESD, and the Karen Indigenous community of Hin Lad Nai as critical contributor and local host.

Many dialogue participants had been engaged in the Pollination Assessment, and included Indigenous pollinator expert from different parts of the world, including Panama, Myanmar, Guatemala, the Philippines, Antigua and Barbuda, New Zealand, Kenya and India. Together with local Indigenous pollinator experts, and global, national, or local scientists and policy actors they analysed key messages of the IPBES Pollination Assessment and suggested pathways for better policy and practices in pollinator and biodiversity management.

The IPBES Assessment on Pollination, Pollinators and Food Production was the first IPBES thematic assessment, and viewed as a pilot of the procedures for working with Indigenous and local knowledge in assessments. It made important steps in advancing collaboration across knowledge systems, and contributed to IPBES’ role in progressing the frontiers of sustainability science.

On the last day of the event, an international seminar at Chiang Mai University presented the main findings of the Pollination Assessment, the Thai government policies and actions in its support, and the outcomes of the dialogue in Hin Lad Nai. A broad range of actors gathered at the seminar, including academics, Indigenous organizations, environmental organizations, government officials and UN agencies. Overall, both the dialogue and the seminar were an engaging and effective means to support the uptake of the IPBES Pollination Assessment in local, national and international policy.

For more information, please contact:

  • Prasert Trakansuphakon, Pgaz K’ Nyau Association for Sustainable Development, Thailand. Email: ptrakan@gmail.com
  • Pernilla Malmer, SwedBio at Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden. Email: pernilla.malmer@su.se
  • Nigel Crawhall, Chief of Section, Small Islands and Indigenous Knowledge, UNESCO. Email: n.crawhall@unesco.org

Additional resources: