Indigenous Knowledge for Climate Change

Indigenous knowledge refers to the understandings, knowledge, and philosophies developed by societies through the generation of living. Indigenous knowledge can help meet the goal of societies by developing sustainable agriculture and ensuring food security for local communities. It also acts as an important catalyst to sustainable development as it is directly related to resource management. Climate change and indigenous peoples’ rights are inextricably linked. Continuous fluctuation of climate change occurs every year whereas indigenous knowledge helps in seeking emergencies measures to subsist to environmental changes.

Over the centuries, indigenous people have provided a sequence of ecological and cultural services to the community. The preservation of traditional forms of farming knowledge and practices have helped maintain biodiversity, enhance food security, and protect the world’s natural resources. For indigenous people, resilience is rooted in their traditional knowledge to combat climate change as their understanding level related to any land or surrounding they live in is deep enough to tackle those obstacles that might occur in near future due to climate change. Every community and landscape in their own unique ways responds and have responded to cope and adapt to environmental changes.

This lockdown made most locals in my region (located in Udyapur district Province-1, Nepal) including myself engage in agricultural activities; promoting, realizing and depending on small scale household agricultural activities. From that, I extracted different traditional knowledge used by locals living indigenously in the region while learning different perspectives of the people to overcome the challenges posed by environmental changes. These indigenous knowledge and practices can be seen in locals adapting to drought, scarcity of rain, and decreased production of crops. Locals have accomplished this through community-based measures to sustain human livelihoods.

The locals in these communities including my own family have established culture-based mechanisms of adaptation to harsh weather conditions. Over the years, they have been building and maintaining suspension bridges, temporary river crossings aiding human and animal trails and tracks. These can be further illustrated through practices of participatory seed exchange, uses of halo and kuto (traditional tools) for an alternative way to modern technology and tools that are based on direct or indirect use of fossil fuel. As a result, such mechanisms play a significant role as adaptation measures that are employed in the region to sustain indigenous practices and to adapt to the results of the effects of climate change.

On the contrary, extreme weather events like wildfires or deluge in numerous parts of our country and throughout the globe have severely tested the resilience of these indigenous communities across the world and seem further exuberated since 2020 with serious health and economic impacts posed by COVID-19. We recognize that there is still much to be done to stop, prevent, mitigate and remedy the current and forthcoming adverse impacts of climate change to which these communities and their people are particularly vulnerable. Knowledge systems and practices of Indigenous people are recognized as a ‘major resource’ for global climate change adaptation but they have not been necessarily or consistently used in adaptation efforts but rather have been neglected in policy and research. These indigenous, traditional and native communities with their relevant indigenous knowledge and practices should be valued, promoted and shared for mutual benefit and betterment from/of the environment.

Nabin Thapa, GoldenGate International College

(Note: The views published in the blog are personal views of the writer alone and do not represent Environment Protection and Study Center. The article has been selected as winner for the monthly blog competition based on the theme provided on August by Environment Protection and Study Center.)

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