Indigenous peoples embody traditional ecological practices that dictate generation, management, conservation, use, restoration and transformation of native biodiversity in diverse ecosystems. Through generations of local experimentation, knowledge exchange they have established a systematic comprehensive body of knowledge about natural environment, functioning and characteristics of ecosystems and different habitats and how to use them without disturbing the intricately interdependent natural systems and environmental processes.
It has been pointed out that natural resource management cannot depend on any single knowledge system like Western science; rather it must draw lessons from a plurality of knowledge systems. It is being acknowledged that local and indigenous communities, with historical continuity of resource use practices, possess exceptional knowledge, skills, institutions and resources rooted in local history and local conditions that can be employed for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.
This paper looks at role of indigenous communities in biodiversity conservation, discusses various traditional practices aimed at sustainable resource use in the following areas, which in addition to having local relevance, can also find wider applicability in larger settings. These include:
Agriculture: Andean waru-waru farming in harsh environment; aboriginal fire regimes practiced in Northern Thailand, Brazil, Ecuador and Australia’s Northern Territory’s; India’s Garhwal Himalayan farmers’ baranaja practice
Forestry: Brazilian Kayapo Indians’ highly productive, species rich apete; sacred landscapes – China’s holy hill forests, northeast India’s sacred groves; traditional taboos of communities in Alwar, India.
Fisheries: eastern Indonesia’s sasi or traditional prohibition system; regulated access system of Batanes Island’s mataw fishermen in northern Philippines.
Water harvesting: the Maldharis’ “well-in-tank” system in arid Kutch, India; Zuni farmers’ “flood water harvesting” in Colorado.
The paper also considers how such indigenous practices could be integrated into mainstream natural resource management and conservation efforts.
|Keywords:||Traditional Practices, Sustainability, Biodiversity Conservation, Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Water Harvesting|
Doctoral Student, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
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