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Indigenous peoples: key allies in hunger fight

FAO Director General's message for the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

Photo: ©FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri
Tribal herdsman in Tanzania.
9 August 2012, Rome - Indigenous and tribal peoples, with their wealth of ancestral knowledge, are key partners in the fight against hunger, FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said today on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples.

Many indigenous peoples live in symbiosis with the environment and are highly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods. They also often have specialized knowledge about nature's resources and diversity, both on land and water.

But although they comprise just around five per cent of the world's population, indigenous and tribal peoples make up about 15 per cent of the extremely poor. And while data specific to the food security situation of indigenous peoples is slim, the numbers that are available show that levels of hunger and malnutrition among indigenous peoples are much higher for non-indigenous populations.

Part of the problem is that economic development initiatives do not adequately take into account the cultural context and needs specific to indigenous communities -- often with the unintended result of intensifying the marginalization, poverty and food insecurity they experience.

To help address this, FAO launched in November 2010 its Policy on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.  The "FAO Policy on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples" aims to provide guidance to the agency's various technical units and encourage staff in headquarters and in the regions to engage more systematically and responsibly with indigenous peoples and their organizations.

According to Graziano da Silva's message today: "The voices of the world's indigenous peoples must be heard so that we can, together, find a new balance between human needs and the needs of the planet, new mechanisms capable of guaranteeing environmental and social justice, and new models of food production, distribution and consumption to relieve the pressure on natural resources and ensure that future generations will have the resources they will need to feed themselves."

Read the full text of the Director-General's message here.