6th July, 10:30 - 12:30 BST - Natural History Museum (NHM) Lecture Theatre
International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED) and Forest Peoples Programme (FPP)

4. Critical role of Indigenous People and local communities in delivering successful NbS

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Session summary

Session 4, The critical role of Indigenous People and local communities in delivering successful NbS, highlighted concerns around the influence of western value systems and worldviews on how NbS are conceptualised and operationalised; particularly the overarching dominance of market-based mechanisms.

Diego Pacheco, representing Bolivia’s stance in the UNFCCC negotiations, warned against the commodification of nature inherent to the green economy approach and expressed concerns over a move towards a new environmental colonialism through new binding obligations for developing countries and increasing dependence of developing countries on capitalist financial structures. He critiqued the linking of NbS to markets in the form of offsets, warning that it reinforces anthropocentrism, strengthens the hegemony of market-based approaches, limits the potential development of different knowledge systems, and dilutes the need to enhance the integrity of ecosystems.

“Capitalist solutions cannot solve the global crisis that capitalism has created”

Diego proposed “Mother Earth-centred actions” using rights-based approaches, common but differentiated responsibility, developing policy instruments not aimed at the commodification of environmental functions and instead strengthening non-market approaches, and recognizing Mother Earth as a living being.

We were then introduced to a case of ‘so-called NbS’ gone wrong by Marisol Garcia, who has been fighting against the REDD+ project in the Cordillera Azul National Park in Ecuador. Marisol described how the protected area excluded Indigenous Peoples, was implemented without their free, prior and informed consent, and with no decision-making power on the management of their ancestral lands. The large revenues generated by the project remain in the hands of the state and one NGO, and the Indigneous Peoples have not had access to the benefits. Instead, their forest is generating wealth for a few privileged people.

Helen Magata echoed the importance of using a human rights-based approach for implementing NbS and looking beyond economic values to cultural and spiritual values, while embodying interdependence, interconnectedness, and reciprocity.

“We need to operationalise indigenous and local perspectives into NBS at every level, focusing and asking what is needed.”

Musonda Kapena brought in a much-needed gender lens to the conference, showing how women are the custodians of indigenous knowledge and how their traditions of sustainably harvesting non-timber forest products (such as foods, medicines, and cosmetics), requiring intimate knowledge of the land, have contributed to ecosystem and biodiversity conservation in Zambia, when their voices are heard and valued. 
“We only have one collective heritage. So we collectively need to come up with solutions for our one collective home”

Yiching Song introduced the case of community seed banks in China as an NbS, which have helped provide resilience to climate change and the covid pandemic, while sustaining agrobiodiversity and supporting food security.

Dismas Partalala Meitaya, from the Masaai in Tanzania, highlighted the vital importance of land tenure for hunter-gatherers, and Indigenous Peoples globally, including governance and legal tools such as village certificates and zoning laws which, by securing their access to natural resources, secure their livelihoods.

While there were further warnings voiced in the session discussion around carbon markets ‘poisoning the NbS well’ and the potential for maladaptation to occur, the session concluded with the need for translating the well-founded principals on paper into successful implementation on the ground. This can only happen when communities are allowed to engage in fair dialogue and state their true priorities, when enough time is allowed for trust to be built, when financing is long-term and criteria are flexible, and when proper grievance mechanisms which have legitimacy amongst the stakeholders using them are in place.

Key take-homes

  • “We do not inherit the earth, we borrow it from our children” – African proverb highlighted by Musonda Kapena.
  • Concerns around solutions designed around western value systems, market-based mechanisms, and private sector control; can clash with IPLC worldviews.
  • The economic value of NbS must move beyond a narrow lens to a biocircular economy.
  • NbS should be designed and operationalized through rights-based approaches, not at the expense of indigenous lands, rights, and livelihoods.
  • Working with nature can help people better cope with crises, climate breakdown, via a focus on locally-led, participatory approaches.
  • Knowledge resides across all people, especially indigenous women e.g. forests and ecological interactions nurture NTFPs.
  • Technical and financial resources are needed to ensure that rights-based approaches materialise on the ground.
  • We must be discerning about NbS – calling out projects when they are not true NbS.


  • Dilys Roe's photo

    Dilys Roe

    Principal researcher and team leader (biodiversity), International Institute for Environment and Development

    Dilys leads the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)’s work on biodiversity and conservation. Her work focuses on the human dimensions of conservation – including understanding and supporting the necessary conditions for effective community-based conservation. A strong element of her current work is on engaging local communities in tackling illegal wildlife trade and, more broadly, enhancing community voices in conservation policymaking and strategies for linking biodiversity conservation with poverty reduction and social justice. Dilys is also a Fellow of the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

  • Helen Tugendhat's photo
    Co-chair & Speaker

    Helen Tugendhat

    Programme Coordinator, Forest Peoples Programme
    Overview of why IPLCs have concerns about NbS

    Helen works with the Forest Peoples Programme, a human rights organization that works to create political space for indigenous and forest peoples to secure their rights, control their lands and decide their own futures. Helen has worked for over 20 years providing policy advice to indigenous peoples and communities on conservation policy and practice, from the 2003 World Parks Congress in Durban onwards, and on the application of international human rights frameworks to defend local and national recognition of rights. She is particularly interested in supporting indigenous-led conservation initiatives based on secure tenure, in addition to rights-based approaches to other forms of biodiversity protection.

  • Diego Pacheco's photo

    Diego Pacheco

    Head of the Bolivian delegation to the UNFCCC at COP26

    Download slides PDF

    Concerns about NbS and possible alternative approaches

    Diego Pacheco (PhD) is the Head of the Bolivian delegation to the UNFCCC. Previously he was Head of the Bolivian delegation to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). For the last decade, Mr. Pacheco has been a Principal Advisor to the Bolivian government, including to the Ministry of Planning and Development, the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment, the Ministry of Production and Microenterprises, Energy and Hydrocarbon, and Ministry of the Presidency. Since 2010, he is Rector of the University of the Cordillera, Bolivia.

  • Marisol García's photo

    Marisol García

    Kichwa youth leader from Peru
    The green heart resistance against false solutions based on nature that dispossess the Kichwa people of their territory

    Leader of the Kichwa people of the Tupac Amaru native community, San Martín, Peru. She is the current leader of the Indigenous Federation of Kechua Chazuta Amazonas (FEPIKECHA) and former leader of the Coordinator for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of the San Martín region (CODEPISAM). She has brought the voice of Kichwa women and their territorial claims to spaces such as the Congress of the Republic of Peru, IACHR, OHCHR, COP26, among others. She is currently a fellow of the 16th edition of the Title of Expert in Indigenous Peoples, Human Rights and International Cooperation, of the Intercultural Indigenous University (UII) and the Carlos III University of Madrid. She promotes and practices the philosophy of life and struggle that herself calls “Green Heart Resistance”.

  • Helen Magata's photo

    Helen Magata

    Communications Officer of Tebtebba
    Indigenous peoples’ perspectives on NbS - how, if and where should NbS be supported and under what conditions

    Helen Magata is a Kadaclan indigenous woman from the Cordillera, Philippines. She is part of the Resilience Program of Tebtebba Foundation also known as the Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education. Helen has been part of the team involved in facilitating a scoping study around indigenous peoples' perspectives, contributions and leadership on Nature Based Solutions in the past year. She is currently part of the Indigenous peoples’ team that is tasked to work on lobbying for the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights in climate finance, particularly the Green Climate Fund.

  • Musonda Kapena's photo

    Musonda Kapena

    Director at Namfumu Conservation Trust in Zambia

    Download slides PDF

    Women As Custodians of Indigenous Knowledge & Conservation of Forest Biodiversity

    Musonda Kapena has a wealth of 20 years of local and international experience with forest communities promoting indigenous knowledge systems towards sustainable management of forest resources and environmental justice. She is the co-founder of the Namfumu Conservation Trust, an indigenous organization working in Zambia and around the world to champion the stewardship of indigenous people in sustainable environmental management. They help strengthen capacity in Strategic Management, Forestry and Natural Resource Management, Social and Environmental Safeguards. Musonda’s work in Zambia is inspired by her passion for indigenous knowledge systems in forest conservation & natural resources with an emphasis to how women are custodians and stewards of indigenous knowledge.

  • Yiching Song's photo

    Yiching Song

    Program Leader at Farmer Seed Network in China

    Download slides PDF

    Supporting Indigenous People and Local communities for NBS in climate Changes: Farmer Seeds Network’s Exploration and Stories in China

    Dr. Yiching Song, Founder of Farmer Seed Network (FSN in China), and Program leader in UNEP-IEMP. She obtained her Ph.D in Wageningen University, has been a senior researcher in the Chinese Academy of Science since 2000, and joined the UNEP-IEMP as program leader since 2016. Her expertise focus on biodiversity, sustainable livelihood, integrating community & ecosystem-based climate change adaptations for natural based solutions, working in Climate changes actions and policies in China and other developing countries. Her main research methodology is participatory action research and policy analysis with bio-culture and multi-disciplines complex system from community to global levels.

  • Dismas Partalala Meitaya's photo

    Dismas Partalala Meitaya

    Representative of the Ujamaa Community Resource Team in Tanzania
    Yaeda Valley and Lake Eyasi: a success story for community and conservation, a case study of indigenous communities in Northern Tanzania

    Dismas Partalala is one of the founding members of the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT), an organisation supporting indigenous communities in northern Tanzania to sustainably manage and benefit from land and natural resources on which their livelihoods depend. His work is dedicated to strengthening indigenous people's rights, particularly the Hadzabe hunter-gatherers, which has resulted in significant gains for their land and the entire northern Tanzania ecosystem. His vision is for a connected and healthy landscape that supports the resilience of indigenous people, livestock, and wildlife.

  • Pam McElwee's photo
    Speaker: Wrap up

    Pam McElwee

    Professor of Human Ecology at Rutgers University
    Safeguarding the rights of IPLCs in NbS: IPBES

    Pamela McElwee is Professor of Human Ecology at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University. She has served as a lead author for the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land and is a co-chair of the upcoming IPBES “nexus” assessment on the interlinkages between biodiversity, water, food, climate and health. She is also co-lead of the Thematic Group on Cultural Practices and Ecosystem Management for the Commission on Ecosystem Management, IUCN.

  • Stewart Maginnis's photo
    Speaker: Wrap up

    Stewart Maginnis

    Global Director of the NbS Programme at IUCN
    Safeguarding the rights of IPLCs in NbS: IUCN Global Standard

    Stewart Maginnis has worked in sustainable development and biodiversity conservation for 35 years. He has lived for extensive periods in Tanzania, Sudan, Ghana and Costa Rica, undertaking conservation fieldwork. He led the development and promotion of “forest landscape restoration” (FLR) – one of the first “purpose-built” Nature-based Solutions - to which over 60 countries have committed more than 210 million hectares under the Bonn Challenge. He and his team at IUCN have worked over the last 12 years on defining and promoting the concept of Nature-based Solutions and supporting its application to climate change, food & water security and disaster risk reduction. He is currently the Deputy Director General of IUCN with responsibility for the IUCN programme of work.