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Climate finance to build resilience of indigenous peoples in El Salvador and Paraguay

Through its Green Climate Fund projects, FAO is supporting the efforts of indigenous peoples to build more resilient livelihoods and adapt to climate change


07/08/2020

Rome – The International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples is only two days away and climate finance gives cause for celebration. Through its Green Climate Fund (GCF) projects in El Salvador and Paraguay, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is supporting country efforts to access climate finance so that people and communities can build more resilient livelihoods and adapt to climate change.

FAO reports that indigenous peoples are the guardians of 80 percent of global biodiversity, and are critical stakeholders in climate change mitigation and adaptation – over 20 percent of carbon stored in tropical forests lies within indigenous territories. Yet, they are among the world’s most vulnerable groups, representing 6.2 percent of the global population, but 19 percent of the world’s poorest people. The loss of indigenous peoples’ traditional livelihoods, lands and territories also puts them at greater risk of food insecurity. These challenges are compounded by the impacts of climate change which threaten traditional, often land-based, livelihoods.

“Building the resilience of indigenous communities to climate change is key to ensuring sustainable and inclusive development pathways,” says Eduardo Mansur, Director of FAO’s Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment (OCB). “Climate change mitigation and adaptation action is about more than reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It’s about tackling inequality, bridging the social divide and building back better in a post-pandemic world.”

In El Salvador, 20 500 indigenous peoples from three groups (Kakawira, Lenca and Nahuat Pipil) are among the 225 000 direct beneficiaries of the “Upscaling climate resilience measures in the dry corridor agroecosystems of El Salvador (RECLIMA)” project, valued at USD 127.7 million. Located in the dry corridor of Central America, El Salvador is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate risks. By improving access to water and building local capacity to manage natural resources sustainably, indigenous peoples and family farmers will not only be more resilient to the impacts of climate change, but they will also enhance their adaptive capacities to ensure greater food, water and livelihood security.

In Paraguay, at least 14 800 indigenous peoples (the Aché, Avá Guaraní, Guaraní Occidental, Mbyá Guaraní, and Paĩ Tavyterã) are among the 87 210 direct beneficiaries of the “Poverty, Reforestation, Energy and Climate Change (PROEZA)” project, valued at USD 90.3 million. Municipal districts in Eastern Paraguay are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and certain municipal districts have extremely high climate and social vulnerability. Many of Paraguay’s vulnerable communities live in remote areas, lack land ownership rights, and are highly dependent on natural resources: only 2.5 percent of indigenous peoples have access to potable water and only 31.2 percent have access to electricity.

Indigenous peoples are the present and the future. @FAO/Naroa Gutierrez

Through the PROEZA project, beneficiaries will be able to diversify income streams, reduce their high rate of dependency on natural resources, and access technical assistance for the recognition of their legitimate rights. In addition, environmental conditional cash transfers (E-CCT) will be provided in exchange for community-based, climate-sensitive agroforestry, thereby improving livelihoods and the climate-resilience of many indigenous peoples and their traditional communities.

Both FAO and GCF recognise the importance of valuing and respecting indigenous peoples and their rights in all project activities. Implementing the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process is crucial to a project’s long-term sustainability and success. Likewise, GCF’s Indigenous Peoples Policy ensures the active participation of indigenous peoples throughout the entire project cycle so that their views and concerns are reflected in decision-making processes.

Speaking out for indigenous peoples’ rights. @FAO/Naroa Gutierrez

The COVID-19 pandemic poses new challenges for indigenous peoples’ well-being, livelihoods and health. In Latin America, indigenous peoples are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, largely because of underlying social disparities and exclusion as well as limited access to quality and culturally accessible health services. UN Women cautions that indigenous women are particularly at risk because of their prominent roles in the informal economy and as caregivers.

FAO is working closely with its partners and GCF to identify the potential immediate and longer-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on project activities as well as corresponding measures to minimize these impacts. Both organizations are also focusing on the environmental and socio-economic co-benefits that can be generated in the current and post pandemic context.

With many more projects in the pipeline, FAO’s GCF-financed work will continue to support indigenous peoples – the guardians of the forests –  so they can build more resilient livelihoods, preserve their traditional knowledge, and maintain their way of life.