Indigenous worldviews & REDD

19 May 2009

Alí García Segura, an indigenous Bribri from Costa Rica (Central America), expresses reservations about projects, such as REDD, that are implemented with concepts and models that are totally external to indigenous worldviews.

My people inhabit the primary forest with the largest biodiversity of Central America, which was recognised in 1992 as a UNESCO world heritage site. My people still live mostly in the traditional way; we have our own language, which I speak perfectly, our own traditional model of organisation, our medicine, our Awá (traditional healer) and our traditional houses. We live from the river, fishing and hunting, and from the natural resources, plants, trees, leaves, vines and all those things that nature gives us.

So when I read the last message you sent I found myself in the same situation of our brother Pygmies. Our land has been threatened often for its wealth in gold and timber. My people have protected the existence of the wildlife with our blood, partly from projects that are said to bring us human development or take us out of poverty. We have never seen the results of these projects, as we indigenous peoples have a different vision of development and different ways to protect natural resources.

When organisations come with funding to supposedly help us to protect our resources, we always say that it is a plan to get us out of our territory, as these projects are always implemented with concepts and models that are totally external to our worldview. From such projects, people living in the communities would become accustomed to a new way of life, and tomorrow they will forget what their own people have done for many thousands of years.

In this sense, I think that the issue of carbon is an external concept. For us, all natural things contribute to life. The air supports us, the birds take care of us as well, as do the fishes, the trees, the mammals, and all the things that are alive. If we consider all natural things as a web of life, we can not separate one from another. When the policies of the big institutions such as the World Bank and others make plans with our resources, but only taking them into account as carbon sequestration, an external concept to indigenous languages, the indigenous communities are forced to change their own vision of their resources. I think that for a better understanding between financial organisations and indigenous communities we should create a communication mechanism based on our traditional models. By this I mean that we should look for a dialogue mechanism such as those used by the indigenous peoples to take decisions without discrimination, and to reinforce the continuity of natural resources.

So I do not know if REDD will fulfil our expectations or not, but I am able to say that, as long as traditional knowledge is not taken into account, all these efforts will fail and will always foment ambitions to gain possession of the natural resources available in our territories for commercial purposes. This will not bring any real benefit to the original inhabitants, and will violate our rights and many other things.

This is the final posting under the theme 'REDD'. In the coming weeks, a new lead article will be posted in order to launch a discussion on a new theme.

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