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9.03.07 - Indigenous Peoples and Forest Landscapes


Janette Bulkan, Canada

About Unit

Unit 9.03.07 was established at the IUFRO World Congress in Curitiba in 2019 and represents a revision of the mandates of two existing Traditional Knowledge units. Unit 9.03.07 reflects the growing interest in research on both Traditional Knowledge (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) and on other issues related to Indigenous Peoples at the forest landscape level.

The objective of Unit 9.03.07 is to promote international cooperation and research in the multiple ways that Indigenous Peoples seek to engage with forested landscapes. The Unit facilitates the exchange of ideas and methods for examining ways in which knowledge, practices, values and ethics of Indigenous forest users can contribute to contemporary and future management of forest landscapes and to ensuring food security.

The unit collaborates with other IUFRO units with expertise in addressing challenges in the areas of governance and policy, political ecologies, sustainable management, rural development and economics. The unit reflects recognition of Indigenous Peoples in a variety of international agreements such as the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992), Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention No. 169, (1989) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP 2007) and is a statement of IUFROs commitment to respecting Indigenous Peoples.

The scope of Unit 9.03.07 is encompassing. From a landscape perspective, it ranges from Indigenous Cultural Landscapes (ICLs) and sacred groves to investigating and understanding the varied uses of traditional knowledge in the creation and maintenance of anthropogenic forests and landscapes. From political ecology and sociology, the unit includes the roles and relations of actors and governance systems for forest landscape. From indigenous studies and rights, the unit considers issues of decolonisation, self-determination and the respect of indigenous rights to landscapes and resources. From business management, economic and operations perspectives, themes include economic development, training and culturally adapted management practices.
Unit 9.03.07 envisages collaboration with the following Units in particular:

  • Theme 1: Forests for People
  • Theme 2: Forests and Climate Change

State of Knowledge

Some recent studies have attempted to characterize and quantify the relationship between Indigenous territories and biodiversity/forest landscapes. An IUFRO Task Force produced an authoritative global review of traditional forest-related knowledge (Parrota and Trosper 2012) demonstrating the extent and importance of this knowledge in maintaining forest landscapes. A team led by Stephen Garnett (2018) attempted a sweeping global quantification of the conservation value of territories managed or owned by Indigenous Peoples. They concluded that Indigenous territories comprise 25% of the world’s land surface, but overlap with 40% of the total protected area estate worldwide. Richard Schuster et al (2018) compared land tenure and species richness data to estimate the level of biodiversity found in Indigenous lands compared to protected areas in similar regions, and found that Indigenous territories have slightly higher species richness than protected areas, and significantly higher biodiversity values than randomly selected areas in similar regions. The same year, Corrigan et al (2018) compared the performance of a range of protected area governance categories and found that areas governed by Indigenous Peoples outperformed other IUCN categories in terms of biodiversity conservation.

While these studies provide evidence of Indigenous forest knowledge and practices as inherently sustainable, other studies have documented numerous barriers to enhancing the role of Indigenous Peoples in forest management. Von der Porten and de Loë (2014) identified 92 studies of Indigenous collaboration in environmental management published between 2003 and 2012, noting that most studies treated Indigenous Peoples as “stakeholder”, while only a minority considered governance or self-determination. Indigenous scholar Kyle Whyte (2018) borrows a term from psychology, the “representative heuristic” to criticize the static portrayal of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous legal orders in much academic and conservation rhetoric. Similarly, Baker et al (2013) demonstrate a tendency within the modern environmental movement to preference “pure” forms of diversity over hybrid diversities, in both cultures and landscapes. The authors suggest that this ultimately undervalues hybrid diversities, and diversity within and among knowledge systems and categories. This diversity, and ways to encourage its expansion, is the subject of a small but growing range of studies around the world, including in Bolivia (de Pourcq et al. 2009), Australia (Hill et al 2012) and Canada (Wyatt et al 2019). On the other hand, some authors analyze indigenous mobilizations occurred in recent years in the Amazon seeking the understanding of different visions of nature (Espinoza, 2019). The work of the Unit will be aimed at expanding the scope of this work to a broader range of cultural contexts, forest landscapes, management systems and governance arrangements.

For references, please see "Publications and references",