On Biodiversity Management by Indigenous Peoples

By Alejandro Barrios, Member of the Global Executive Council, People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS)

On behalf of the Global Executive Committee of the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), I am very happy to be part of this event. I am Alejandro Barrios, a Quechua1, delivering this message from a small town in Bolivia. The PCFS, which was founded in 2004, is a South-led global network of grassroots food producers across 53 countries struggling for food sovereignty.

Indigenous knowledge systems are distilled from generations of observation and practice. While practices differ, they are anchored on the same principle across the world — the interconnectedness of the people and their environment. They conserve the environment while fulfilling the needs and aspirations of the community.

For IPTK2, my organization, as part of our unit Madre Tierra or Pachamama, we are implementing several projects with our indigenous communities managing biodiversity while promoting structural changes in recognition of indigenous peoples (IP) knowledge.

But recognizing IP knowledge must equally acknowledge critical facts: how can indigenous communities continue to be guardians of biodiversity when we are subjected to murder, persecution, discrimination, and landlessness?

Despite the adoption of the UNDRIP3 and global clamor for recognizing community land rights of indigenous peoples, only a tenth of community lands globally are recognized.4

Without this recognition, indigenous people’s territories are under constant threats of large-scale landgrabbing by agribusiness, mining corporations, and big ticket projects like megadams.

Another major driver of biodiversity loss is the use of toxic pesticides, especially in plantations that encroach our lands. These decimate pollinator populations and adversely impact biodiversity and fragile ecosystems.

This is why we are greatly disappointed by the FAO’s announced partnership with CropLife International, the global association of the world’s largest agrochemical and seed companies. CropLife member companies make more than one-third of their sales income from Highly Hazardous Pesticides — the pesticides that are most harmful to human health and the environment.

An FAO partnership with CropLife runs directly counter to the urgently needed transition to innovative, knowledge-intensive ecological approaches known as agroecology that FAO has been supporting in recent years.

Furthermore, in Colombia, Brazil, the Philippines and elsewhere, indigenous peoples are being gunned down for defending their lands, the forests and the world’s biodiversity.

As current global systems remain tilted towards corporate interests – with transnational corporations and international finance institutions constantly financing projects that fuel militarization and conflict in ethnic areas, land grabbing, plunder, and human rights violation – our recognition for the “guardians of biodiversity” are mere empty phrases.

We call on FAO and civil society to join us in advocating for:

  1. recognition of Indigenous People’s right to land and resources, and self-determination,
  2. Protection of the forests, peatlands and rainforests by stopping landgrabbing of corporations and so-called development projects
  3. Banning the use of highly hazardous pesticides and expansion of monocrop plantations encroaching our lands; sever the FAO-CropLife alliance and
  4. Holding guilty States and corporations accountable for killing farmers and indigenous peoples

We invite you all to join the UNFSS counter summit or the Global People’s Summit on Food Systems, where the voices of indigenous peoples are not drowned out by transnational corporations, landgrabbers, and their lobbyists.

Fight for just, equitable, healthy, and sustainable food systems now!

Stop killing farmers and indigenous peoples!


1 Quechua people may refer to any of the indigenous people of South America, whose significant populations are living in Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Argentina.

2 Instituto Politecnico Tomas Katari (IPTK)

3 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenoues Peoples (UNDRIP)

4 RRI (2014)

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