Traditional Equals Outdated?

Perhaps that holds true for technology, but what about traditional knowledge of the natural environment? Does that still reside in the dark ages? That seems to be the sentiment of some public officials, who scoff at the idea that indigenous peoples have something to contribute to an monitoring, reporting and verifying (MRV) system for REDD plus.  Many indigenous peoples had encountered reactions of sarcasm, cynicism and incredulity, judging by the vigorous nods around the room in Tebtebba’s brainstorming workshop on MRV concepts, tools, and instruments last weekend.

MRV has been a forestry buzzword (or buzz acronym) for quite a while. Chances are it will continue to climb to the top of the charts as parties begin to grapple with technicalities after the pro-REDD+ agreements in Cancun. There is no denying that sophisticated and technically advanced tools play important roles as parties develop “robust and transparent national forest monitoring systems”. But for REDD+ to work on the ground, what needs to be added is tried and tested traditional knowledge.

That is the domain of indigenous peoples who view ecology holistically, having established, maintained, and invested in cultural and spiritual relationships with the environment. These relationships are well-documented by the United Nations University. The challenge, of course, is to reflect the totality of those relationships in national and subnational negotiations. A scientifically fragmented approach is not the only way. MRV system and tools should also be designed in ways that accord dignity to indigenous peoples. Effective REDD+ implementation needs to engage both the minds and hearts of all stakeholders.

Posted by Celina Yong

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