Nery Matías Ramos is a young Mayan of the Mam ethnic group, in the community of Buena Vista, in Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Guatemala. Since he was little he has been interested in the forest and now he clearly sees the problem that climate change brings for his population.
“Climate change is affecting communities a lot. Basically, we know this problem because of the issue of agricultural production. Before you plant a crop and it gives you a bigger harvest; “The rains came at the right time, the light conditions are more adequate, the soil hasn’t changed much, but now the drought is affecting agriculture a lot,” said Nery, who is 24 years old and is about to finish his degree in agronomy. in the department of Huehuetenango, two hours from Buena Vista.
Nery is one of thousands of young indigenous people who want to add their voice and action to efforts to stop the effects of climate change in Latin America. However, it is not easy.
The indigenous people of Latin America continue to suffer from inequality and a state of poverty that hinders their full inclusion for greater development in the Latin American region. Centuries of abandonment and exclusion have translated, according to the World Bank’s report entitled “Indigenous Latin America in the 21st Century”, that at least 43% of the 42 million people belonging to indigenous communities live in poverty. , a figure that exceeds twice the proportion of non-natives living in the same situation.
Added to inequality and poverty is the impact of climate change affecting the territories where indigenous communities live, home to most of the world’s biodiversity. This is despite the fact that these are the populations that contribute the least to global warming.
New voices facing the climate challenge
Although the challenge is great, new generations of natives, young people as well as Nery, have begun to act with the support of local organizations and universities in the region.
At the age of 17, Nery met the Utz-Che’ Association, a network of more than 40 local communities and farmers tasked with protecting the lands and forests of Guatemala and always alert for national threats. policy to recognize collective rights and climate change, which in 2019 is responsible for the severe food insecurity of 34 million people in 25 countries around the world.
Therefore, Nery began collaborating with the Utz-Che’ Association, which had to mediate with outside agents so that the forests, lands and indigenous communities were respected. They also form strategic alliances, essential for the development of the population without violating the cultural identity.
For Germán Freire, senior specialist in Social Development for Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank, indigenous communities have a fundamental role in the task of stopping global warming.
“Indigenous peoples are the main actors in the climate agenda, because, although they are only 5% of the population, they manage 80% of the world’s biodiversity and are the guarantors of large areas of forests and ecosystems that critical for the well-being of the planet. ”, explains and exposes the example of the Amazon rainforest. “Most of the Amazon has been subject to indigenous agroforestry management practices at some point in its history and these interventions are still an important part of the composition and stability of tropical forests.”
For more than a decade, the World Bank has been working with Indigenous Peoples’ organizations to better understand and apply traditional knowledge to climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions. In the same way, Through direct grants to indigenous organizations and their inclusion in national programs, the Bank also works to promote the recognition and strengthening of the significant contribution of indigenous people as guardians of forests and biodiversity in the region.
In addition to the Utz-Che’ Association, they also established a strategic alliance for the training of new generations of indigenous leaders with the Fund for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean (FILAC), where Dali Ángel, a young Zapotec from the State of Oaxaca, in Mexico, is the coordinator of the Women and Youth program.
For Dali, indigenous youth should sit at the table in discussions about adaptation and mitigating the effects of climate change, because what is at stake is their future: “We cannot public policies and mitigation measures if they are not consulted. This is where the new generations come to have a fundamental role, because they are the transmitters of traditional knowledge and knowledge. “This is the new generations that can communicate within the globalized world.”
In response to these needs, the World Bank created the “Indigenous Youth Voices for Climate Change Action” program that will train 90 youth from the region’s indigenous peoples. The initiative, led by the Indigenous Fund for Latin America (FILAC) in collaboration with the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Intercultural Indigenous University, Indigenous Youth Network, Abya Yala Indigenous Forum (FIAY) and Carlos III University of Madrid, seeks to strengthen on the capacity of indigenous youth across the region to participate more effectively in the climate agenda of their countries and communities.
The innovation of this program is that it puts Western scientific knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge of the communities on par. For native participation to be effective, they must understand both sides of the discussion. Dali knew the importance of building bridges of dialogue between two knowledges. “Neither we nor they have all the answers, how do we combine the two knowledges for the benefit of our communities?”
That is the great challenge faced by young indigenous people like Dali and Nery. They are the hope of their communities to influence the global climate agenda without rejecting their traditional ecological knowledge. They are the first line of defense to guarantee compliance with environmental commitments and contribute to the eradication of poverty on a living planet.