Icon Story highlights

  • SwedBio, IIED, ANDES and MSDSP co-authored report highlights outcomes from International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples (INMIP) second International Learning Exchange in Tajikistan
  • Workshop uses interactive “walking workshop” method, facilitating participants to interact with the landscape and articulate experiences
  • INMIP calls for more international collaboration of indigenous mountain communities, and for community seed banks as a means to increase resilience against climate change

Living on a mountain side has always had its dangers but it has also been a stable and culturally rich way of life for many. Add climate change to the mix and the risk of erosion, melting glaciers, altered water supplies, and amplified weather variability increases. All of these together have placed indigenous mountain communities as one of the most vulnerable populations to climate change impacts.


Supporting indigenous mountain communities
While the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) prioritise those most vulnerable to climate change, and highlight the importance of incorporating local, indigenous, and scientific knowledge, few initiatives have done enough to support indigenous mountain communities.

SwedBio and partners, Asociación ANDES (Peru), IIED (UK) and Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (Tajikistan), aim to address this shortfall through organising workshops between indigenous mountain community leaders, policymakers, scientists and other actors.

A workshop took place 11-18 September 2015 in Jafr and Tuggoz communities, Tajikistan, and resulted in a summary report entitled Climate Change and Biocultural Adaptation in Mountain Communities. It also included information acquired from the previous workshop hosted in Bhutan in May 2014, where the International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples (INMIP) was formed. This network aims to promote interaction and a knowledge exchange through interactive web-based tools and through walking workshops.

“The walking workshops enable communities to learn new techniques from one another, exchange seeds, inspire revitalisation of their biocultural heritage and develop practical tools,” explains Pernilla Malmer from Swedbio and co-author of the report.


A walking workshop

Twenty one mountain community leaders from ten different countries; Bhutan, China, India, Krgyzstan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Taiwan, Tajikistan, and Thailand, as well as other actors, participated in the workshop. Together they sought ways to cultivate collective action and share knowledge and ideas. Walking workshops, where host farmers guide visiting farmers through the landscapes they manage, are used for INMIP meetings.

“This type of workshop allowed for farmers to share knowledge and for discussions to take place in the landscape. Unlike more formal workshop settings, being out in the field enables farmers, practitioners and researchers to see innovations first hand, exchange practical knowledge, and it encourages indigenous farmers to actively share their knowledge. It creates synergies and innovations based on connections across knowledge systems, rooted in equity and reciprocity,” Malmer highlights. “It is an application of the multiple evidence base approach.”

In this particular workshop, participants visited Jafr in Rasht Valley and Tuggoz in Wakhan Valley in the Pamirs. The locals were able to share their experiences with workshop participants about methods they use to make crops grow in harsh conditions. This first hand exchange of knowledge, whether traditional, indigenous, or scientific, allows for innovative ideas to emerge, and also allows for participants to collectively explore the landscape for solutions.

The workshop also included two specialised exchanges: one between women from the different mountain communities, and another between community elders. While in both cases they recognised and appreciated learning about the differences between their cultures, they also all noticed one thing they had in common: “One of the most important things is land, both for livelihood and as a scarce resource,” describes Datu Amay, an elder workshop participant from the Philippines.


Small, but mountainous steps forward

As a way to move forward, the workshop identified four action points they believe will help strengthen biocultural resilience of mountain communities in the face of climate change:

  1. International seed exchanges
  2. Establishing an international network of Biocultural Heritage Territories
  3. Establishing an international network of Community Seed Banks
  4. Developing a Declaration for governments and climate change negotiators

One of the key practical ideas emerging from this workshop is to establish an internet hub where traditional knowledge, biocultural heritage, and community seed banks could be shared. However, participants also warned of the importance that some information be kept restricted as a means to protect the intellectual property rights of the indigenous peoples.

Participants concluded the workshop by sharing their experiences and formulating The Tuggoz Declaration on Climate Change and Mountain Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration has been successfully used to inform their governments and supported their recommendations before COP21 in Paris December 2015.

While only two workshops to date have been conducted, a third INMIP workshop takes place in Yunnan, China, just in time to provide their governments with advice on indigenous and local knowledge before COP22 in December 2016.