Indigenous lifeways for a flourishing Earth

Ulet Ifansasti/CIFOR CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By |2022-02-04T11:50:24+00:00May 14th, 2021|Agroecology, Biocultural Diversity, Biodiversity, Community, Culture, Flourishing Diversity, Indigenous Peoples|Comments Off on Indigenous lifeways for a flourishing Earth

The latest in our series of Deeper Thinking webinars focused on the concept of Flourishing Diversity, which lies at the heart of our newly unveiled Biocultural Diversity Programme (formerly the Flourishing Diversity Programme). We were joined by an inspiring panel of speakers who shared their knowledge and experience, exploring what flourishing diversity means to them and reminding us how ecological and cultural diversity are inextricably linked.

This event, chaired by Synchronicity Earth founders Jessica and Adam Sweidan, explored these diverse viewpoints with Katy Scholfield – creator of our new Biocultural Diversity Programme – and Katy Molloy, Director of Flourishing Diversity – in conversation with Dr Million Belay, Co-ordinator of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), Kerexu Yxapyry and Tiago Karaí, Comissão Guarani Yvyrupa (CGY).

What does ‘Flourishing Diversity’ mean?

As you listen to our wonderful speakers this evening, it will become clear that flourishing diversity means something slightly different to everyone. And that is the point.

Jessica Sweidan

In February, Katy Scholfield wrote about the origins of Synchronicity Earth’s new Biocultural Diversity Programme and how the interconnections between biodiversity, culture, and language had become ever more apparent through her career as a conservationist, leading to an increasing focus – in her own work, and in Synchronicity Earth more broadly – on the idea of cultivating biocultural diversity.

The value of biocultural diversity is slowly being reflected within the conservation community as the correlation between thriving cultures and wildlife is finally being recognised.

It’s about encouraging, restoring and protecting abundant biodiversity while acting with regard and respect for the natural cycles of life, and critically, with regard for the multitude of human cultures and practices that exist across our world.

Jessica Sweidan

Landscape, language and knowledge

Dr Million Belay is Co-ordinator of one of our Biocultural Diversity partners, the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA). AFSA is a broad alliance of civil society actors working to promote food sovereignty and agroecology in Africa. With over two decades on intergenerational learning of biocultural diversity and sustainable agriculture, Million shared his thoughts of where the relationships between landscape, language and knowledge come into practice.

Culture is the shepherd who has overseen the direct selection of plants and animals, and reworked whole landscapes. There are a number of cultural practices in play on any given landscape, and when you look and understand how a landscape is managed, you can see clearly how culture impacts landscape, and how the landscape also impacts culture. The two are interrelated.

Dr Million Belay

He went on to discuss how language also shapes our knowledge and holds the history of the relationship between people and the landscape they live alongside. Ecosystem services is often criticised as a one-way transaction with nature – what can nature do for us? But Million says:

There is a reciprocity between ecosystem services and cultural services. When people talk only of ecosystem services, they talk only of a one-way flow of services, with a healthy ecosystem giving provisioning services like food, fresh water, and fuel; regulating services like climate regulation; and cultural services including spiritual, religious, recreational, tourism. But researchers have also looked at the contribution of culture to the ecosystem and this is so important: weeding, culling, ritual regulations and cultural prohibitions, cultivation, domestication, trade selection, translocation and all the restoring services people provide through soil and water conservation activities, habitat and niche regeneration such as planting.

Listen to Million Belay:

Tiago Karaí, a young leader of the Tenondé Porã Indigenous Land, situated south of São Paulo state’s capital.

Recognising land rights

Tiago Karaí spoke about the consequences of his community losing access to their ancestral lands. He is a young leader of the Tenondé Porã Indigenous Land, situated in the south of São Paulo state’s capital. He is part of the Guarani Yvyrupa Commission (CGY) coordination and represents a new generation of Guarani leaders in the struggle for land titling.

We were living in an area of 26 acres, about 26 football fields and confined to just this for a really long time. It meant that we were not able to develop our culture or our traditions as we wanted to, and we fought to ensure our land tenure so we could secure our territory, which happened in 2016.  

Since the new boundary demarcation recognising our rights to a much larger area (16,000 acres) we have been able to strengthen our culture and our practices, but also recognise how much we had lost when we were confined. We lost seeds. The loss of seeds meant a loss of food, sacred food, and we are only now recovering, able to