Mobilizing Indigenous and Local Knowledge to address climate impacts and vulnerabilities in Caribbean

© NASA

5 September 2019, Georgetown, Guyana – The regional workshop “Mobilizing Indigenous and Local Knowledge Solutions: Addressing Climate Impacts and Vulnerabilities” has brought together indigenous and local community experts as well as climate and meteorological services experts, around how Indigenous and local knowledge can boost social and ecological resilience and be mobilized for climate change adaptation.

In the current context, following the devastating passage of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, this workshop was particularly revealing to understand how local communities are trying to anticipate and respond to extreme weather events.

The Caribbean, as well as all Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in other regions, are already experiencing the effects of climate change, not only in the form of extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Dorian, but also rising sea levels, coastal erosion, salination of drinking water, coral bleaching and death, ocean acidification and other ecosystemic and biological impacts.

This UNESCO-sponsored regional workshop has collected important information on the knowledge of local and indigenous communities, which was shared with the government of Guyana the last day, in order to help to better understand what environmental and scientific policies and actions are needed to build resilience in the region.

Concrete examples were given such as those of the Upper Mazarun region of Guyana, where indigenous peoples identified anthropomorphological, hydrological, biological indicators, such as signs of plants and animals, to know when, what and where to plant. Similar examples were also shared from Cuba, where, for example, the moon can help to predict seasonal change and certain plants with specific caracteristics can help to establish the balance between people and nature.

UNESCO aims to “develop robust and all-inclusive programmes to advise on evidence-based STI policies and to build capacity and capabilities in science and engineering” said Peggy Oti-Boateng, Director of UNESCO’s Division for Science Policy and Capacity Building in the Natural Sciences Sector. UNESCO also “works with local and indigenous community to co-produce and co-design knowledge systems by mobilising Science, Technology and Innovation and Indigenous and Local Knwoledge; develop tools and models to fight the challenges of climate change; and to identify opportunities for inter-generational global solutions“.

Climate change is a global problem but adaptation and resilience building need to be implemented locally. This is why UNESCO will continue its work of bringing together local, scientific and decision-making communities to continue the work on the inclusion of indigenous peoples’ rights and ancestral government structures in policy decision-making spaces.

Welcome ceremonial dance by Pakuri Culture Group (Arawak) during the workshop in Kingston, Guyana. © UNESCO/ K. Ikhlef

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