World leaders have been engaged in drafting a new Global Diversity Framework (GDF) for protecting the world’s biodiversity at COP15, the UN’s Biodiversity Conference. Now as the conference enters its final days, what outcomes do we expect for pastoralists across the world?
The draft GDF includes 21 targets to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. At the centre of attention is the 30 X 30 target which seeks to designate 30% of Earth’s land and ocean area as ‘protected areas’ by 2030. 30% is considered the critical threshold to avoid the risk of extinction and to ensure global economic and food security. Many indigenous communities and their advocates fear that this provision will harm the interests of those who have long served as custodians of critical habitats.
Designating a region as a ‘protected area’ will mean that pastoralists, and other resource users, will not be permitted to inhabit those areas or practice livestock keeping, foraging and agriculture. This will have serious consequences for the local and indigenous communities that have served as guardians while the global elite will be able to access these areas for tourism and hunting, and in some cases, for resource exploitation. These provisions also mean that communities, who rightfully belong in these areas, are made subservient to the state and must prove their positive contributions to nature. Now, as private finance is being solicited to support conservation initiatives, the vulnerability of local populations is further heightened. Several indigenous groups have been protesting this provision both outside and within the floor of the COP15.
Pastoralists have been at the firing line of such initiatives for long. The last blog has spoken about how pastoralists areas have been vulnerable to ‘fortress conservation.’ The conservation areas under the Northern Rangelands Trust in Kenya are examples of the overlap between pastoral areas and protected areas where pastoral livelihood practices have been undermined. In western India, the Banni grassland has been designated as a ‘protected forest’ yet the Working Plan prepared by the State Forest Department seeks to exploit a part of the area for the production of charcoal and biofuels.
The PASTRES biodiversity briefings have shed light on some of these issues to support nuanced decision-making. Pastoralists live on and use over half of the Earth’s land surface. The managed grazing of livestock by pastoralists is useful in controlling forest fires. Pastoralism improves biodiversity by facilitating seed dispersal and protecting rare species. It improves soil microbial health and fertility as well.
Announcing $800 million in funding over the next 7 years for indigenous-led conservation initiatives, Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, the host country of COP15, set the tone for the meeting in his opening speech when he said, “All of our work in protecting nature must be reflective of indigenous ways of knowing and being, and in true partnership in order to advance our shared journey of reconciliation.”
Recognising that species and ecosystems are protected through human interaction, and that they are an integral part of ecosystems, is crucial as negotiations move forward. So far, local and indigenous people are included in the GBF in terms of consultation and participation. A greater focus on their rights will not only ensure that we are able to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and nature loss, but that it is also done equitably.
Read the set of 6 briefings that discuss different aspects of human-animal-environment relations.
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