Indigenous People’s Wisdom, Climate, Biodiversity, and Tourism

It is undeniable that we find ourselves in the midst of a climate and biodiversity crisis. You may have seen it in the news or even sensed it in your surroundings – the intensifying extreme weather and the alarming decline in biodiversity are threatening our planet profoundly.

The responsibility for this situation is mainly a result of human actions or, in many cases, inaction.

It is a paradox, however, that those contributing the least to climate emissions are among the hardest hit by its consequences. Indigenous Peoples across the globe have nurtured an intimate bond with nature for centuries, fostering deep connections to the land, water, and ecosystems that are integral to their cultures, languages, and livelihoods. Unfortunately, this connection also makes them highly vulnerable to the harsh impacts of environmental shifts.

In a world struggling with the monumental challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, our focus must shift towards Indigenous communities.

According to the United Nations, there are approximately 476 million Indigenous people worldwide, encompassing 5,000 distinct cultures across 90 countries. While they represent less than 5% of the global population, they comprise 15% of the world’s poorest.

Indigenous Peoples are also protectors of an estimated 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity. Many Indigenous communities have adopted farming techniques that nurture the land and protect biodiversity. Thus, the value of Indigenous knowledge in addressing the global climate crisis is immeasurable. 

If we aspire to transform our relationship with the land and deepen our connection with the natural world, embracing Indigenous Peoples’ wisdom is imperative. Eva Müller, Director of the Forestry Policy and Resources Division at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, rightly emphasizes that the empowerment of these communities, coupled with their deep-rooted knowledge and forward-thinking strategies, is vital for the survival of future generations – both human and wildlife.

Indigenous Peoples are at the forefront of nature protection and biodiversity conservation. At Planeterra, we firmly believe that their insights must be acknowledged and that we must observe and learn from their ways of life. 

In recent months, we’ve been working on the implementation of our Global Climate & Biodiversity Initiative, aimed at supporting our community tourism enterprise partners, including Indigenous communities, to innovate new and existing solutions to the crisis with the goal of improving their adaptability and resilience to the impacts of climate change. Learn more about this initiative, here

Embedded within our Global Climate & Biodiversity Initiative is the understanding that the tourism sector has a significant role to play in addressing this unprecedented crisis. Therefore, we are proud to have signed the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, as it aligns with our vision of how tourism should be and our commitment to doing right by the communities and community tourism enterprises that we partner with. 

Click here to learn more about our commitment and plans.

We will provide further insights into our work regarding this global initiative in the coming months, but in the meantime, we wanted to share an example of one of our Indigenous-led community partners who showcases how tourism can be a powerful tool to support Indigenous communities, safeguard their heritage, and champion environmental conservation.

Parque de la Papa

Pampallacta, Peru.

For centuries, potatoes have held a cherished place in the hearts and fields of the Andes’ Indigenous communities. Parque de la Papa, established in 2006, stands as a haven of agrobiodiversity, safeguarding an impressive array of potato types (approximately 1,300) along with other Indigenous Andean crops in Peru.

One of the remarkable aspects of Parque de la Papa lies in its role as the guardian of ancestral agricultural practices and wisdom passed down through generations. Their sustainable farming techniques and profound environmental insights are pivotal in maintaining the delicate equilibrium between agriculture and nature.

Thanks to support from both local and global entities, Parque de la Papa has woven agro-tourism programs and community micro-enterprises into its fabric. As a result, the reserve has become a center for cultural exchange and education where visitors have the opportunity to get a taste of the rich Andean culture, learn about traditional planting and harvesting techniques, and experience the warmth of the local community. 

Learn more about Planeterra’s work with Parque de la Papa, here.

The benefits derived from tourism are distributed among the local communities for investment in social projects, including improvements to community centers, training on potato conservation and sustainable agrobiodiversity use, women’s empowerment, local rights, and reinforcing traditional community rights systems concerning local bio-cultural resources, and more.

Parque de Papa Pampallacta, Peru

Recognizing its profound importance, the Peruvian government designated Parque de la Papa as an Agrobiodiversity zone. This recognition highlights the significance of its conservation work and provides valuable support for the community’s endeavor to protect their agricultural heritage and maintain their way of life in harmony with nature.

Examples like Parque de la Papa showcase how Indigenous communities in Peru and worldwide remain essential in protecting biodiversity and advocating for sustainable practices that have positive impacts on both people and the planet. 

They also demonstrate the importance of strong partnerships between Indigenous communities, governments, non-governmental organizations, and responsible travel operators in developing tourism initiatives that empower Indigenous Peoples while safeguarding their cultural integrity and environment.

By actively participating in responsible tourism ventures, Indigenous communities gain access to alternative income sources. At the same time, tourism helps ensure the transmission of their traditions to future generations. 

Moreover, tourism presents itself as an opportunity to raise awareness among travelers and inspire them to reflect on the impact of their everyday choices and the potential for positive global change through individual actions.

Have you come across inspiring examples of climate and biodiversity initiatives within community tourism? Leave a comment below and share them with us.

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