Bioversity international

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS Rights to land, territories, natural resources and nomadism

Governance, Free, Prior and Informed Consent, and development programmes

Internal positive driver - Traditional Indigenous Peoples’ governance systems and strong social cohesion

Despite the different drivers and factors negatively affecting Indigenous Peoples’ food systems, the research showed that all the participating communities manage to maintain a solid social bond and solidarity within their communities. This is even more so for those communities that have maintained their traditional governance and customary institutions, which reinforce social cohesion as everyone participates in the decisions for the betterment of the community. For example, the Khasi have maintained the Durbar Shnong, their village council, which is an ancient system linked to other villages and sites since ancient times and has been embedded within the formal system of State governance. The Maya Ch’orti’ maintain respected local leaders linked to a confederation of Maya Ch’orti’ municipalities in Chiquimula dedicated to sustainable development. Since 1996, the Sámi have established a parliament dedicated to plan and implement the self-government of the Sámi as an independent legal entity of public law. The Kel Tamasheq governance system is based on Village Councils acting as advisory bodies to the communal authority. Whenever the communities do not have specific governance institutions in place, they still show strong social binding and organization systems often linked to celebrations, rituals and communal work. For example, amongst the Khasi, representatives from all families gather once a year and, combined with festivities, prepare the jhum field. They can also hire people from the village to help carry out the activities. The Tikuna, Cocama and Yagua call the minga, gathering friends and family members together to help carry out different work activities during a full day of work. The Maya Ch’orti’ cosmogony includes the concept of “mística de servicio” or being of service to others and the community. This is a key element of their governance, providing services that are free, voluntary and permanent for the benefit of the community. The Inari Sámi keep alive the tradition of collective and communal work by bringing together different cooperatives during the round-up process of the herds.

The relationships between communal works, social cohesion, functioning institutions and customary governance with the transmission of traditional knowledge, culture and the preservation of biodiversity are a research area meriting more attention. This would enable the design of support programmes that build upon this intangible but extremely valuable capital that indigenous societies have.

External positive driver - Development interventions supporting the communities

There are examples of development programmes initiated by the government, NGOs and institutes that have benefited the communities, reduced the drudgery, and brought about positive impacts. Some of these programmes have improved access to electricity, petrol, schools, health dispensaries and roads, whilst others have brought new varieties of seeds and new animal breeds. These positive impacts seem to be greater when the community had a say and was part of the initiative managing to provide their consent prior to the intervention. The Kel Tamasheq and the Bhotia and Anwal developed vegetables via gardening to complement their diets thanks to the support of governmental agencies and NGOs. Several of the participating communities benefited from infrastructure facilitating water access. For instance, the construction of pipelines increased greatly the quality of life of the Khasi, the Bhotia and Anwal, and the MelanesiansSI, whilst boreholes facilitated access to water for the Kel Tamasheq. Despite an increase of inorganic waste in the communities, a result of the increased consumption of allopathic medicines, batteries and processed foods, some of the participating communities have managed to keep the burden of waste and garbage low thanks to state-run recycling initiatives. The Inari Sámi benefited from an efficient state-run recycling system and managed to recycle all waste. The Khasi had recently been included in a state-run recycling system. Lastly, the access to government-subsidized food rations for the Khasi, and Bhotia and Anwal benefit the communities and are welcomed initiatives.

External negative driver - Development programmes needing consultation and consent

In most of the eight analyzed food systems, government interventions aim to support the well-being of the community. Whilst some of these governmental programmes have obtained positive outcomes, others have been mentioned by the communities as an important source of stress and dissatisfaction. In most of the food systems analyzed, there are examples of well-intended governmental programmes that had a negative impact on the Indigenous Peoples’ food systems and diets. The participating communities mentioned that they have not been consulted properly, which could perhaps indicate that in some cases the process of FPIC has not been duly respected. In these instances, the combination of the fact that the indigenous leaders and the community were not properly consulted, and that the State authorities did not follow the process of FPIC, resulted in the failure of the programmes.

Despite some positive examples found during the research, in most profiled food systems the local administration and the national institutions did not consider the existing Indigenous Peoples’ governance systems when developing new policies and development programmes. This could be one of the reasons for the low level of success for some development programmes, initiatives and social protection schemes introduced in these communities. In some cases, these initiatives created new challenges for the communities and in others environmental issues related to the introduction of new plant varieties and animal breeds. The Bhotia and Anwal are progressively increasing the use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides with the introduction of new crops. The Khasi saw a loss of food diversity as a consequence of the introduction of rice varieties through state-run programmes in the 1980s. For the MelanesiansSI, both with the arrival of missionaries in 1915 and later with development interventions, the introduction of new foods and the establishment of commercial coconut plantations influenced food production and consumption and negatively affected the health of the people. The adoption of the Lagos de Tarapoto Wetlands Complex as the first Ramsar site in the Colombian Amazonian area is a positive example that shows that conservation policies can be successful with the consent of the indigenous communities. Comprising areas destined for production, conservation and restoration initiatives under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) the site received the support of the Tikuna, Cocama and Yagua, who wished to engage in the process of protection and recovery of their ecosystems. The Free, Prior and Informed Constent cannot be sufficiently emphasized.

The research has shown that minor adjustments during the design, discussion and implementation phases of assistance programmes can greatly improve their impact and sustainability.

External negative driver - Expansion of infrastructure bringing external actors

Infrastructures are reported as welcomed and beneficial to the participating indigenous communities. However, the expansion of infrastructure also brings new actors that sometimes entail new challenges. For instance, the construction of roads in Nellim has resulted in the arrival of alcohol and narcotics. Improved accesses for the Inari Sámi has also brought tourists, leading to environmental degradation and eutrophication of lakes. The construction of roads and the opening of ferry services around Gribe resulted in more logging that has progressively reduced the size of the Baka forest and increased trade in bushmeat, adding pressures on the biodiversity. In Puerto Nariño, the arrival of highly processed and imported food to the market is associated with the development of the urban area. The remote location of Namik village of the Bhotia and the Anwal in the Himalayan mountains has slowed down the arrival of external actors. Likewise, for the Kel Tamasheq in Mali, the road conditions make it difficult to reach the Aratène village.


Ensure that Indigenous Peoples in their country are informed about FPIC, and on how they can request its application.

Respect the principle of FPIC. The respect of the process of principle of FPIC is a guarantee of respect of the right to self-determined development of Indigenous Peoples, which contributes directly to the success of any proposed development interventions.


In respect of the UNDRIP, through the different ministries, stop any development and interventions in indigenous territories until they receive consent from Indigenous Peoples following the process of FPIC.

On a local level, together with indigenous leaders, create mixed committees to analyze the proposed Central Government interventions from Line Ministries, ensuring that those proposals clashing with the views and cosmogony of the Indigenous Peoples can either be adapted or rejected.

Both nationally and locally, have the Principle of FPIC inform all programmes, decisions and policies affecting Indigenous Peoples and their communities, including development and conservation policies.

In this context, include Indigenous Peoples in the steering committees implementing these programmes, decisions and policies.