In order to meet Aichi Target 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity on restoring 15% of globally degraded ecosystems there is a need to increase the participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in ecological restoration activities.
The study highlights the relevance of restoring indigenous agricultural systems today. These systems are flexible and adaptive, and include both traditional and modern crops relevant today,” said Dr. Tamara Ticktin, professor of botany at UH Manoa and co-author on the study.
Researchers have published a study highlighting the large role indigenous agriculture can play in producing food, while supporting biodiversity and indigenous well-being in Hawaii under intense land use and climate changes.
The State of Hawaii, like many municipalities across the globe, aims to increase its food self-sufficiency, with a target of 30% of its food produced locally by 2020. Increasing temperatures and changes in precipitation are already occurring locally and globally, and plans to meet food self-sufficiency goals must consider how climate change will affect agricultural viability.
Researchers from Kamehameha Schools, University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH Manoa) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) have published a study in the journal Nature Sustainability (March 2019) highlighting the large role indigenous agriculture can play in producing food, while supporting biodiversity and indigenous well-being in Hawaii under intense land use and climate changes.
The researchers of the study focused on the archipelago of Hawaii, where development pressure, rates of food importation and threats to unique native species are among the highest in the world. Furthermore, climate change impacts are expected to increase risks to communities in isolated regions like the Pacific, heightening the necessity of resilient, locally-produced food and community-based solutions.
To determine the past, present and future potential of indigenous Hawaiian agroecosystems and inform their restoration, the researchers developed spatial distribution models of three main Kanaka Maoli agroecosystems under current and future climate change scenarios. The models incorporate environmental and climactic data to determine areas suitable for certain crops and agricultural systems. The team found that Hawaii could have sustained approximately 250,000 acres of traditional agroecosystems, potentially producing more than 1 million metric tons of food annually, levels comparable to food consumption in Hawaii today. Furthermore, the study’s carrying capacity estimates lend support to previous hypotheses that pre-contact Kanaka Maoli populations were comparable to Hawaii’s population today.
Said Dr. Natalie Kurashima, lead author of the study, “For indigenous communities around the world, the restoration of indigenous food systems goes far beyond food security, providing opportunities for strengthening identity, social ties, knowledge transmission and well-being, inseparable from indigenous food. All of these characteristics, evident in the growing number of aina revitalization efforts going on across Hawaii, can improve social resilience to climate change.”
The study also showed that although Hawaii is one of the most urbanized Pacific Islands, urban development has only slightly reduced potential traditional agroecosystems and the majority of suitable areas (71%) remain agriculturally zoned, and thus could be restored without land use restrictions today. However, like many agricultural lands around the globe, these areas are continually threatened by land conversion and development, emphasizing the current need to protect and utilize these indigenous agricultural lands.
The researchers found that projected effects of three future climate scenarios vary from no change in potential production, to decreases of 19% in the driest and warmest end-of-century scenario, meaning that large indigenous agricultural areas will likely be viable under a range of future climate changes.
“The study provides the first set of maps illustrating indigenous agricultural lands that could be resilient to a wide range of future climate shifts, which could help land owners prioritize target areas for restoration of Native Hawaiian agriculture today,” said Dr. Lucas Fortini of USGS and co-author of the study.
“Our study provides a new understanding of the food production contribution of indigenous Hawaiian agriculture now and into the future, and really highlights the relevance of restoring indigenous agricultural systems today. These systems are flexible and adaptive, and include both traditional and modern crops relevant today,” said Dr. Tamara Ticktin, professor of botany at UH Manoa and co-author on the study.
Natalie Kurashima, Lucas Fortini, Tamara Ticktin. The potential of indigenous agricultural food production under climate change in Hawaiʻi. Nature Sustainability, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41893-019-0226-1
University of Hawaii at Manoa. “Indigenous agriculture has potential to contribute to food needs under climate change.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 February 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190226144342.htm>.
Ecological restoration projects actively involving indigenous peoples and local communities are more successful. A new study places value on indigenous and local knowledge contribution in the restoring of degraded ecosystems, and highlights the need to engage them in these projects for ensuring a long-term maintenance of restored areas.
Indigenous peoples and local communities are affected by global environmental change because they directly rely on their immediate environment to meet basic livelihood needs. Therefore, safeguarding and restoring ecosystem resilience is critical to ensuring their food and health sovereignty and overall well-being. Their vested interest in restoring ecosystems from which they directly benefit and their intimate knowledge of their lands, resources and the dynamics affecting them, position them as key elements in the attainment of the ecological restoration projects goals.
However, the contributions of indigenous peoples and local communities continue to be largely absent in international environmental policy fora, in which biological importance and restoration feasibility are prioritised over local concern.
The study, led by ICREA researcher at ICTA-UAB Victoria Reyes-García, reviews hundreds of instances in which, through traditional practices, indigenous peoples have contributed to managing, adapting and restoring the land, sometimes creating new types of highly biodiverse ecosystems. “There are many examples in which indigenous peoples have taken leadership roles in restoring forests, lakes and rivers, grasslands and drylands, mangroves and reefs, and wetlands degraded by outsiders or climate change, successfully coupling the goals of restoration and increasing participation of local population,” explains Victoria Reyes-García.
Traditional practices include anthropogenic burning purposively altering spatial and temporal aspects of habitat heterogeneity to create diversity, waste deposition practices resulting in soil carbon enrichment, rotational swidden cultivation systems able to maintain forest cover and plant diversity, interplanting useful plants in native forests thereby increasing forest diversity, and scattering species-rich hayseed and cleaning meadows to maintain grassland productivity and resilience.
However, the research stresses that not all restoration initiatives engaging indigenous peoples and local communities have been beneficial or successful. “Some campaigns have not successfully involved local communities or impacted afforestation outcomes given the lack of clarity of the policies designed at the central level or the neglect of local interests,” says Reyes-García. She highlights that positive outcomes are normally associated with projects in which local communities have been actively involved in co-designing activities, customary institutions have been recognised, and both short-term direct benefits to local population and long-term support of the maintenance of restored areas have been ensured.
Therefore, Victoria Reyes-García advocates that “in order to meet Aichi Target 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity on restoring 15% of globally degraded ecosystems there is a need to increase the participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in ecological restoration activities.”
Victoria Reyes-García, Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares, Pamela McElwee, Zsolt Molnár, Kinga Öllerer, Sarah J. Wilson, Eduardo S. Brondizio. The contributions of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to ecological restoration. Restoration Ecology, 2019; 27 (1): 3 DOI: 10.1111/rec.12894