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المنتدى العالمي المعني بالأمن الغذائي والتغذية

Re: Addressing water scarcity in agriculture: how can indigenous or traditional practices help?

Eileen Omosa
Eileen OmosaWe Grow IdeasCanada

Forest management for sustainable water supply

Communities which historically relied on natural resources (water, forests, pastures, land) to provide a livelihood have devised forest management methods to ensure continuous water supply.

Long before science reiterated relations between forest conservation and sustainable water supply, rural communities had acknowledged the existing relationships, and developed systems for forest management. For example, in Africa most of the forests commonly known as "community forests" survived due to the use of indigenous/customary rules and regulations on rights, access and management of the shared forest and water resources.

Rights and access to particular forests came with clear roles, benefits and responsibilities: who could access which forest, when, what forest products to harvest (fruits, firewood, timber, herbs), and how much. To ensure adherence to the rules of access and harvest, the communities had narratives and practices spelling out the type of punishment for those who defied the rules. Stories have always formed part of the daily lives of many communities – to entertain, inform and educate. So, who would cut down a tree at the very top of a hill reserved as sacred for prayer sessions when the consequence was death of a loved one or incapability of one’s body organs? Who would water livestock at locations reserved for portable water when the punishment would be death of their livestock? So, adherence, mainly through respect to the rules saw many forest areas conserved. As we know of the water cycle, trees contribute to rain formation.

How do we document and incorporate some of the customary conservation practices into our education system and policy formulation as a way to enhance forest management for sustainable water supply?