Indigenous leaders attend COP-26 and demonstrate application of traditional knowledge to combat climate change

Several Indigenous leaders —mostly women— attended COP26 in Glasgow. They sought to communicate strategies adopted by traditional communities in the Amazon to combat the impacts of climate change. Their agenda included topics such as using clean energy, adapting their ways of life, and working for the conservation of the standing forest and its biodiversity. 

"We knew that Indigenous Peoples would have a voice and space at the Climate Conference. Therefore, it was a great opportunity to share the strategies we have adopted on climate change," says Indigenous leader Sineia do Vale, who highlighted the challenges of getting to Glasgow during the pandemic. These included documentation requirements (including proof of vaccination) and her first in-person meeting since the first COVID-19 outbreak. 

According to Sineia, one project presented at COP26 was the installation of a wind turbine at the Tamanduá community, at the Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous Land in the state of Roraima —now nearly ready for deployment. Another presentation was the Indigenous brigades, whose goal is to prevent and fight forest fires in the Amazon. These programs are all supported by the Roraima Indigenous Council (CIR).

Sineia was born in the Serra da Lua region, and is a member of the Wapichana Indigenous People. She coordinates the Territorial and Environmental Management Department at CIR, where she has worked since the late 1990s. She is helping to disseminate a publication on Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous communities' perceptions on climate change.

“Due to the pandemic, many people who were doing fieldwork had to adapt their practices, and that's why our study was a little delayed, but we are now planning to issue it in the first quarter," explains Sineia.

Fieldwork is carried out by Indigenous and environmental officers trained in data mapping and information collection. 

These initiatives are part of the Bem Viver project, which promote the well-being of indigenous peoples in the state of Roraima, developed under the Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity (PCAB) with support from USAID/Brazil. 

Bem Viver is implemented by CIR in conjunction with the Brazilian Education Institute (IEB), and Nature and Culture International (NCI). It aims to promote governance and support the territorial and environmental management of Indigenous lands. The project implements the National Policy for Territorial and Environmental Management of Indigenous Land (PNGATI), and structures sustainable Indigenous cattle-farming practices. They were introduced by communities in the region more than four decades ago

Plans — Under the project, three Indigenous Lands managed to develop and implement Territorial and Environmental Management Plans (PGTAs) last year: Serra da Moça, Manoa Pium, and Centro Maturuca. The Mangueira, Boqueirão, and Jacamim communities, located in Serra da Lua, are finalizing their plans this year.

PGTAs encourage autonomy and self-determination of indigenous peoples with a focus on environmental protection and territorial control. They bring together reflections and plan for the sustainable use of Indigenous lands to improve their quality of life and strengthen their cultures and traditions. In addition, they provide useful input for policy design. 

“It's very gratifying to support ideas proposed by the communities themselves, and to see so many positive results. It's not a top-down approach—we are not imposing anything they don't want. They have the autonomy to decide what they want," adds Sineia.