Indigenous Food Security at Risk Following Push for Conservation Plan

In October 2021, the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) plans to push for the formal adoption of the 30 x 30 agenda to preserve 30 percent of the Earth’s land and sea by 2030. But Survival International recently launched a campaign to stop the agenda, arguing that it may threaten Indigenous populations’ land rights and food security.

The HAC-led 30 x 30 agenda seeks to address climate change, biodiversity loss, and keep the earth within the planetary boundaries. According to a Protected Planet Report, more than 16 percent of land and 7 percent of coastal waters are recognized as protected areas. To achieve the 2030 goal, HAC promotes the management and increased financing of protected areas, as well as nature-based solutions. They intend to push for the agenda’s adoption at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference of Parties 15 (COP 15).

But Survival International, and several other human rights organizations, argue that such a plan threatens Indigenous populations, who lack formal land rights. Without them, governments can revoke Indigenous rights to land, food, and natural resources. Fiore Longo, Director of the French Chapter of Survival International, tells Food Tank, “Creating more protected areas means that Indigenous peoples relying on this land aren’t going to be able to access their land anymore, so the entire food system for Indigenous people is destroyed.”

Survival International’s campaign aims to stop the adoption of the 30 x 30 agenda at the COP 15. Through public joint statements, letters, and activist kits, Survival International plans to raise awareness and engage the public in a dialogue about protecting Indigenous rights. “We have been sending letters to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Together with other organizations we have explained that this target can be harmful and asked them why they don’t include Indigenous territories as a mechanism to protect biodiversity,” Longo tells Food Tank.

The CBD, which operates under the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), fully supports the implementation of the 30 x 30 agenda. Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the CBD, tells Food Tank, “protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECM) remain essential measures to conserve biodiversity.” She goes on to say that the process of creating such a plan represents “an opportunity for us to, as humanity, to come together at a critical time for nature, and accelerate all efforts to develop and agree upon its goals and targets.”

But Survival International remains unsatisfied. “They just talk about participation and knowledge and there’s no mention of Indigenous peoples’ territories. We haven’t seen anything positive coming from the CBD,” Longo tells Food Tank.

Historically, many conservation efforts across the world displaced Indigenous tribes, including the Batwa in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, the Ogiek in Kenya, and the Adivasis in India.

“Indigenous peoples rely 100 percent on their environment. They need it to eat, to have medicine, for clothes, to practice their rituals,” Longo says. “Food is never just food,” she adds. “In the moment that Indigenous tribes can no longer use their food system, it’s not just that they are starving, but the meaning of their existence as people is finished.”

Survival International believes that there is an opportunity for the global community to develop new conservation efforts that respect Indigenous land rights and CBD may be listening to activists’ concerns.

“The Convention at COP 14, adopted a definition of OECM that goes beyond protected areas,” Mrema tells Food Tank. The Convention now acknowledges Indigenous population’s relationship with their land and enables a participatory environment by including Indigenous populations in dialogues on new 2030 goals.

“The target is still there, the negotiations have to take place, so we still have time to change,” Longo tells Food Tank.

Photo courtesy of John Salzarulo, Unsplash

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