Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Shifting cultivation can be sustainable if managed properly and environmentally sound

Asia’s indigenous peoples’ consultation meeting opened in Chiang Mai today to discuss shifting cultivation practices

Chiang Mai, Thailand, 28 Aug 2014 -- In order to support indigenous communities that are depending on shifting cultivation, it is first and foremost necessary to recognize that it is more than just farming practices or farming systems, it is a form of historically sustained livelihood systems and landscape management that is closely connected to the traditional culture and way of life of the communities, a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) sponsored forum heard today.

This is one of the preliminary findings of FAO-supported case studies examining the challenges faced by the region’s indigenous peoples as relates to their shifting cultivation practices. The findings were discussed today at an FAO sponsored Regional Multi-stakeholder Consultation on Regional Support to Indigenous Peoples for Livelihood and Food Security, jointly organized by the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and FAO, in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Among other needs, indigenous peoples across the region rely on access to land to ensure their food security needs, yet national policies and economic development are often at odds with those requirements.

“In order to address the issue of poverty among indigenous peoples, concerted efforts by all stakeholders are necessary and FAO, being a specialized agency of the UN and the leader of global efforts to eradicate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, is committed to engaging with indigenous communities,” Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific remarked.

Asia is home to approximately 70 percent of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples. At the global level, indigenous peoples make up about 15 per cent of the global poor. “Unless we target this one of the largest portion of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in our society, we would not be able to eradicate poverty and hunger, and our fundamental goal of equitable growth, social stability and sustainable development would never be achieved,” Konuma said.

“Indigenous communities in the world, as well as those in this region, have many things in common and face similar challenges,” said Konuma. “At the same time, I am aware that each indigenous community is unique in its history, language, social systems, cultural values, livelihood systems, and other important characteristics.”

“The ways different indigenous communities are adapting to the changes of the current world may be different. One of the challenges for partner organizations like FAO, would be how to make our cooperation and support most useful and relevant,” Konuma added. “For that reason, I believe that learning from the indigenous peoples themselves is the most important first step. It is also very important that as a next step we share experience and knowledge broadly so that lessons learnt in one place can be brought to the attention elsewhere.”

Organized by AIPP and FAO in collaboration with other partners, researchers conducted case studies between March and May 2014 in seven Asian countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Nepal and Thailand.

The two-day regional multi-stakeholder consultation, which attracted representatives from indigenous networks and participants from government, development organizations and research institutions, heard that indigenous peoples’ livelihood has proven to be most secure in a ‘dual economy’ – a livelihood system which combines self-sufficiency oriented food production with a cash oriented production of crops and/or small enterprises and off-farm employment.

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Allan Dow
Communication Officer