Tacana Indigenous People of Bolivia Win Prestigious Equator Prize

Award recognizes achievements in indigenous right-based land management

Source Newsroom: Wildlife Conservation Society
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Newswise — Bolivia's Tacana indigenous council has been awarded the Equator Prize for its efforts to reduce deforestation. For 14 years, the group has worked in the Madidi landscape to implement a community-based land-use vision for their ancestral territory.

The award ceremony occurred at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference on Monday, December 7th. The Equator Prizes are sponsored by the Equator Initiative and are awarded biannually in recognition of sustainable development solutions for people and nature. The Equator Initiative is a partnership that brings together grassroots organizations, civil society, governments, and the United Nations to promote local efforts to reduce poverty, protect nature, and strengthen resilience in the face of climate change.

Actor Alec Baldwin served as emcee for the ceremony, which was also attended by: Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Program; Gro Harlmen Brundtland, Chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development and former Prime Minister of Norway; Naoko Ishii, CEO of the Global Environment Facility; and Kumi Naidoo, International Executive Director of Greenpeace.

This year there were a record 1,461 nominations from 126 countries and only 21 winners. During the two weeks prior to the award ceremony the Tacana representatives participated in a series of policy dialogues and special events at the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris, highlighting the role and importance of conservation efforts led by indigenous people to halt deforestation.

In addition, the Government of Norway and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency both made commitments to supporting indigenous land rights and conservation efforts, and the UN Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People committed to representing their rights in the face of growing threats to forests and livelihoods.

The event highlighted the importance of indigenous territorial rights and traditional knowledge as a concrete local answer to the global challenge of climate change and related forest loss; as well as a response to their local adaptation needs to increased environmental vulnerability arising as a result of climate change. It is because of this need that WCS has been working with indigenous groups throughout the Amazon and has supported land titling for more than 714,222 hectares and territorial management plans for more than 1,450,000 hectares.

WCS has worked with the Tacana since 2001, supporting their efforts to secure collective legal tenure over 389,000 hectares and implement a land-use and natural resource management strategy among the 20 communities living within it. The land-use strategy prioritizes sustainable livelihoods, biodiversity conservation, and forest protection. Its implementation has resulted in four times less deforestation than in surrounding areas.

This has implications both for climate change mitigation and for climate change adaptation. These forests are managed to promote resilient livelihoods through agroforestry, ecotourism, handicrafts, cacao production and sustainable caiman harvesting that have benefited more than 50 percent of Tacana households.

The land-use strategies are likewise critical to maintain connectivity between the indigenous land and Madidi protected area. This is important for conservation of watersheds and more than 50 endangered wildlife and plant species – in particular for wide-ranging jaguar and white-lipped peccary.

"We are extremely proud to have been the technical partners for the Tacana in establishing a successful model for achieving ecosystem and wildlife conservation goals through strengthening indigenous territorial rights in an area of outstanding conservation importance" said Dr. Lilian Painter, Country Director for WCS's Bolivia Program.

This is the second Equator Prize for WCS partners in the Madidi landscape. In 2010, the Tsimane Mosetene Regional Council was awarded a prize for the co-management of the Pilon Lajas Protected Area. This year's theme is avoided deforestation, and the Tacana were successful in demonstrating their contribution to this key arena in the face of climate change.

Dr. Julie Kunen, Executive Director of WCS's Latin America and Caribbean program, noted: "There are few places in the world that can claim to have the richness in both natural patrimony and cultural patrimony of Bolivia, and the Madidi landscape is the country's crown jewel. We salute the indigenous stewards of these lands and celebrate their success."

This conservation initiative of the Indigenous Council of the Tacana People was implemented in partnership with WCS and was supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the blue moon fund, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)
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