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Глобальный форум по продовольственной безопасности и питанию
• Форум FSN


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

The world’s population is growing, with the need to produce more food. This challenge exacerbates water scarcity, which is further compounded by a changing climate. To cope with the challenge, could indigenous or traditional practices support climate change adaptation efforts on reducing water scarcity in agriculture?

To address this question, a first step consisted in reviewing traditional/indigenous practices used by rural communities as coping strategies for climate change adaptation in agriculture. An agro-ecology grouping was used, seeking to highlight the potential of transferring practices between areas of similar agro-ecology.
A compendium of such practices was thus compiled and is available for reference.

The need to mainstream indigenous knowledge and traditional practices into sustainable development has also been well acknowledged, including through the 1989 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate change.

However, evidence of successful use and transfer of indigenous practices to cope with water scarcity in agriculture remains scattered. This discussion is an opportunity to systematically identify practices that have demonstrated their effectiveness in supporting the livelihoods of the communities and to classify them in such a way that they can be upscaled or replicated elsewhere. This is especially crucial for areas with similar agro-ecological characteristics. It is expected that some of these practices will then support projects aimed at addressing water scarcity in agriculture, with an objective roadmap comprising recommended practices/ technologies and the required supporting policies, as relevant.

Furthermore, different opinions are still being voiced on semantics (e.g. indigenous knowledge, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples, community knowledge or local knowledge systems…). This discussion will also seek to reach some consensus on the most appropriate terminology to be used in the final version of the compendium.

The purpose of this discussion is thus to call for participants’ contributions to the following questions.

1. Sustainability and replicability of the practices

From your experience (or knowledge), which of the indigenous/traditional practices below have been successfully applied and if possible, replicated (different times or places) in order to cope with water scarcity in agriculture? Please provide examples and references.  

  • Weather forecasting and early warning systems
  • Grazing and Livestock management
  • Soil and Water Management (including cross slope barriers)
  • Water harvesting (and storage practices)
  • Forest Management (as a coping strategy to water scarcity)
  • Integrated wetlands and fisheries management
  • Other (please specify)

2. Moving beyond semantics

Having discussed all these practices/ technologies, which terminology would be most suitable to neutrally label them in the compendium? 

Please briefly substantiate your argument with most updated references, when available.


We look forward to your inputs to this important discussion.

Patrick Bahal’okwibale

FAO, Ethiopia

Jean-Marc Mwenge Kahinda

CSIR, South Africa

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