Family Farming Knowledge Platform

Indigenous Peoples & Family Farming

Indigenous peoples can contribute significantly to the family farming debate thanks to their wealth of traditional knowledge, spirituality and understanding of ecosystem management. Indigenous peoples is a highly diverse group adapted to live in many different ecosystems but always in close relationship with nature. Indigenous peoples share several key elements in their livelihoods that make them distinct. In particular, and with respect to their food systems, these are mainly: their food systems are holistic and combine gathering, hunting and cultivation; they follow gift economy with often low monetization levels; work is carried through reciprocity; the producing unit is the community or clan; they rely on communal resources like forests, lakes, rivers, lands and pastures; and their food systems are respectful of the environment in which they operate.

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Although Indigenous peoples differ from family farmers and small holder food producers, they share with them their intrinsic relation with the environment and their love for their lands and territories.

The term “indigenous peoples” with “s” was internationally agreed by indigenous peoples themselves to encompass diverse collectives that are also known as adivasis, janajatis, mountain dwellers, hill tribes, ethnic minorities, scheduled tribes, adat communities, highland peoples, hunter-gatherers, first nations, and aboriginals as well as other groups that fit the characteristics outlined in working definitions of “indigenous peoples”. 

Although indigenous peoples account for less than 5 per cent of the global population, (it is estimated that there are more than 370 million self-identified indigenous peoples in some 70 countries around the world, with the large majority living in Asia and the Pacific), they comprise about 15 per cent of all the poor people in the world. Indigenous peoples are a highly diverse group that has made relevant contributions to the world´s heritage, but the lack of recognition for their rights, access to opportunities and their lands, territories and natural resources places them in a situation of vulnerability and marginalization.

Thus, an agenda that pursues global food security, sustainable management of natural resources and poverty alleviation, is incomplete unless it addresses indigenous peoples’ needs.

In a context of climate change, impoverished resources and need for better yields, indigenous peoples hold a vast source of knowledge that can allow to diversify agricultural production and produce more nutritional foods.

Their defense of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), is important when working with them. This principle also applies to small holder and family farmers when facing investments and plans that affect their lands.

FAO is working with indigenous peoples to jointly implement the 2010 FAO Policy on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. Presently, work is being done with indigenous peoples on the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, training of indigenous women leaders, indicators, Free, Prior and Informed Consent and in the advocacy area.


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Food Security Center (FSC) is a Non-Profit Organization that aims improving nutritional security and environmental sustainability through specific education programs and actions which are addressed not only to children, but to adults as well – both in Europe and Africa. These programs, have been designed to meet the requirements of...