The Pope with indigenous peoples of the world

Page/12 in Italy

From Rome

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a member entity of the United Nations, held this week at its headquarters in Rome the sixth International Forum of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America, Asia and Africa, to discuss the role of these communities in the fight against climate change. The Forum was created in 2011 to listen to indigenous people, their wisdom, their projects and encourage governments to listen to them. The meeting is held every two years to coincide with the meeting of the council of governors of the 177 member countries of IFAD.

On its website, IFAD published that “Indigenous Peoples play an important role in the conservation of ecosystems and sustainable resource management. The international community should take them as an example for guidance in dealing with the effects of climate change and support them in carrying out their own development work and strengthening their culture, identity, knowledge, natural resources, intellectual property and human rights”.

The indigenous people of Latin America

Jesús Amadeo Martínez is a member of the Lenca indigenous people of El Salvador and general coordinator of the Indigenous Forum of Abya Yala – “big land” in the indigenous language – a platform of indigenous networks from all over Latin America. In an interview with Page 12 He explained that the purpose of being at this meeting “is much broader than the issue of climate change.”

According to Jesús Martínez, Fida tries to promote programs and projects at the government level, which can have positive or negative impacts on communities: “there can be negative impacts when governments carry out these projects without taking indigenous peoples into account, without coordination with them, for example, agricultural projects. The projects that they sometimes stimulate are monoculture projects that aggravate the situation of global warming and affect climate change. On the other hand, indigenous peoples do agriculture that we call cornfield with a variety of grains to be planted in the same place such as corn, rice and beans”.

For Martínez this marks an important difference: “that is why we have asked that through Fida adequate non-transgenic projects be promoted and that natural seed banks be created, typical of indigenous peoples. During the pandemic it was shown that our seeds are more resilient, capable of adapting to any climate change. On the other hand, the improved, transgenic seeds often have a certain life time, they are not suitable for several crops. And they also harm the health of the population.”

Q: You mentioned agriculture. But are there other projects that affect indigenous peoples? For example, as has happened in other countries with the construction of dikes?’

–El Salvador and Honduras are wanting to build a dam called Chaparral. This means that more than 40 indigenous communities and sacred places will be under water. An event like this affects not only the lives of the population –who will have to emigrate– but also the cultural heritage of the indigenous people. It is necessary to look for mechanisms that allow coordination. The participation of us, the indigenous peoples, must be full and effective. It is not just about including ourselves, because sometimes inclusion damages, instead of strengthening identity. Because inclusion often makes people lose their traditions, their history.

Q: According to you, which is the Latin American country that suffers the most from climate change?

I think that all of Central America is very vulnerable in this sense. More vulnerable than South America. We are also affected by things that happen in Mexico and the US We are the bridge between South America and North America. Hurricanes and other things that we suffer affect the Central American countries much more.

Pope Francis and the Indigenous

Pope Francis received the indigenous people who participated in the Forum at IFAD in a private audience on February 10. It is not the first time that Francisco has met indigenous people. He has always paid special attention to them and has wanted to meet the original peoples in various countries that he has visited.

In the message addressed to the indigenous people in the Vatican, he asked governments “to recognize the indigenous peoples of the whole world with their cultures, languages, traditions and spiritualities, and to respect their dignity and rights with the awareness that the The richness of our great human family consists in its diversity. Ignoring the original communities in the safeguarding of the land is a serious mistake, not to say a great injustice”, he stressed. He also recalled that “we are witnessing an unprecedented social and environmental crisis. If we really want to take care of our common home and improve the planet, changes in lifestyles, production and consumption models are essential. We should listen more to indigenous peoples and learn from their way of life in order to properly understand that we cannot continue to greedily devour natural resources,” he concluded.

Q: How was the meeting with Pope Francis?

Q: The Pope always recognizes that the knowledge of indigenous peoples must be respected, as they are an alternative for a good life. He is aware that there have been situations, both on the part of governments and the Church, where the knowledge of indigenous peoples has been minimized and also the rights acquired through United Nations declarations or ILO Convention 169. (International Labor Organization). When he received us, the Pope emphasized this, making an appeal to governments. We bring him a letter as indigenous peoples so that he can be our spokesperson in the face of the situation that is being experienced in the region where there are social struggles, forced displacements due to the existence of armed groups or the extractive industries. We ask you to make suggestions or recommendations to governments. The Church is a very listened to power.

–Your conclusions about the meeting?

Q: We have high expectations: that IFAD can allocate resources to our indigenous peoples. Sometimes they have given resources but they were minimal. We are asking that economic resources be assigned to us so that the communities can face new situations and redirect some programs so that the indigenous economy becomes more evident and gives it a boost. I am referring to their own crafts, to the milpas (family farming) and knowledge, to the implementation of medicinal plant nurseries.

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