The ever-changing weather patterns across the globe, but particularly in Latin America, where alternating periods of droughts and floods have gotten worse, has put particular strain on the indigenous and rural women of the region. Lack of land ownership, access to technical and social services means that those who depend on the land for their sustenance are at an ever-increasing risk. But the women are strong, and are finding innovative ways to keep supporting themselves an their families.
Indigenous women and rural women play a very important role in addressing climate change, specifically in efforts to ensure food security in their households and their countries, as well in climate change adaptation efforts.
Global Greengrants Fund, the leading environmental fund supporting grassroots action on a global scale, and The International Network of Women’s Funds have put together a guide to supporting grassroots women’s organizations working on climate justice and women’s rights across the globe. The guide specifically addresses the urgent needs within the funding community and aims to increase appropriate funding for climate action and women’s rights worldwide led by women.
Women’s funders might describe grants that build on women’s traditional roles in agriculture or as service providers… [and] Although such interventions have supported women to mobilize and articulate their rights, they do not always challenge women’s secondary status in societies or address existing power dynamics within families and communities.
For many women, biodiversity is the cornerstone of their work, their belief systems and their basic survival. Apart from the ecological services that biodiversity provides, there is the collection and use of natural resources. For indigenous and local communities in particular, direct links with the land are fundamental
The United Nations Environmental Programme, has a series of chapters, or in-depth articles about women and their relationships with various aspects of nature. One of those chapters touches on Biodiversity, land protection and sustainable development. Aside from the ability to provide food, shelter, and resources for their survival, biodiversity in any given area has a profound impact on the inhabitants of said area. Loss of overall diversity can be devastating. Biodiversity allows women the world over to sustain their livelihoods, bring themselves up from poverty and empower their children to follow in their footsteps.
The Indigenous people of North and South America have come together through a treaty signed by women leaders Casey Camp-Horinek (Ponca), Pennie Opal Plan (Idle No More Bay Area), representatives on the Indigenous Environmental Network’s Delegation for the COP 21 United Nations Summit in Paris, met with three representatives of the Amazon Watch Delegation: Kichwa leader, Patricia Gualinga and President of the Association of Sapara Women, Gloria Ushigua. Together they signed a treaty and vowed to stop the progression of extractive industries strengthening their grip on our environment and work together to solve today’s most pressing environmental problems.
“There have never been more unjust laws than the ones that exist now which are allowing the destruction of the environment that we need to exist. For these reasons we invite our sisters and their allies around the world to join us in teach-ins and nonviolent direct actions at all of the facilities and seats of power that are causing the destruction. We invite you to do this calmly, without malice, and with the love in your hearts for everything you hold dear.”
You can read the entirety of their statement here.
Since Evo Morales – the first Indigenous president to rule a majority Indigenous country – took office in 2006, there have been major changes to the government operation of Bolivia, including an overhaul of the constitution in 2009. However, his efforts to help Indigenous and impoverished communities by increasing access to food and land for more citizens have lost him the support of many, due to his promotion of large-scale agriculture corporations.
A recent agricultural summit brought together representatives of all corners of the agriculture process: growers, producers and funders – those who stand by traditional ways and those who favor continued use of genetically-modified argriculture (more commonly known as GMOs). Together, these constituents engaged in heated debates about land occupation, use and GMOs.
This was in the run up to a government and agricultural producers’ re-launch of the agricultural sector for the state of Santa Cruz (which is geographically the largest state, and the one most affected by deforestation). However, interestingly enough, environmental NGOs and those Indigenous groups who, because of their opposition to Morales’ policies, have lost favor with him were absent from the summit.
Morales’s mixed environmental record is also reflected in the actions of Bolivia’s indigenous people. They are often painted as stewards of the Earth, having fought alongside environmental activists to protect rainforests, halt construction of mega-dams, and enshrine strict legal protections for the environment. However, at the agricultural summit small-scale indigenous farmers often joined large landholders — who still comprise by far the largest threat to Bolivia’s forest — in arguing for looser environmental regulations.
“[Some] sectors of small producers… want an expedited expansion of the agricultural frontier, they want to change the Forest Law… They [even] want genetically modified seeds,” said Gonzalo Colque, the director of The Land Foundation, a Bolivian NGO dedicated to supporting small producers.
It’s important to notice who received an invitation from the Morales government to attend the agricultural summit – or any important national conversation – and who did not get a place at the table, since attendees’ views largely shape the outcome of the discussions.
A report by the Land Foundation argues that small-farmers and indigenous people were not adequately represented at the conference. “In the planning stage of the agricultural summit, the indigenous and peasant sector was absent,” it said. Ultimately, peasant and indigenous groups were allowed to send 25 representatives; medium-producers sent another 25; and agro-industrial groups sent 50.
At the heart of this debate is deforestation and the severe impact it has on all living species in the forests and rivers in Bolivia. Currently at risk are endangered species like the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), spectacled bear (remarctos ornatus) and jaguar (panthera onca), and delicate ecosystems such as the Chiquitano Dry Forests, and the Gran Chaco, each home to hundreds of plant, insect and bird species.
You can read the full article on this debate and its impacts over at Mongabay.
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