Indigenous and Local Knowledge

Amplifying the unique voices, perspectives and contributions of indigenous and local communities to make better decisions for biodiversity

Biodiversity conservation often depends on indigenous peoples and local communities. They are important stewards of nature, occupying and sustainably managing at least 25% of the global land area, including many of the Earth’s remaining areas of high biodiversity. They have been able to protect these areas through sustainable use of resources mediated by in-depth knowledge and traditional governance systems, and through active resistance to encroachment by industry, agriculture and other forms of environmental degradation. However, their contributions to global conservation often go unrecognised and unsupported.

Image courtesy of Evan Schneider, UN

Indigenous and Local Knowledge in Trialogues

Indigenous peoples and local communities have in-depth knowledge of their environments. They are key actors in biodiversity conservation while also being directly impacted by the degradation of ecosystems. Environmental policies can have direct impacts on their communities and livelihoods. However, these communities and their knowledge are often excluded from decision-making processes. Recognizing that indigenous and local knowledge can guide biodiversity and ecosystem services policies, BES-Net’s Trialogues create space for dialogue between indigenous peoples and local communities, scientists and policymakers to help to build inclusive, locally appropriate policies and conservation actions.

Indigenous and Local Knowledge in National Ecosystem Assesments

Indigenous and local knowledge can make significant contributions to national ecosystem assessments. Many indigenous peoples and local communities hold detailed and diverse knowledge of biodiversity and ecosystems due to their sustained connection with nature over many generations, including through resource-based livelihoods and spirituality. As they often live in remote and highly biodiverse areas, they can have knowledge of ecosystems that are little studied by science. Indigenous and local knowledge also holds distinct philosophies and spiritual underpinnings that can interpret environmental challenges and solutions in novel ways.

With the support of UNESCO, the national ecosystem assessment teams are collaborating with indigenous peoples and local communities to co-produce knowledge for the assessments in ways that bring benefits to the communities themselves and provide the best available knowledge for a national ecosystem assessment.

Photo Credit: Nigel Crawhall


BES-Net is committed to upholding gender equality and leaving no one behind in its work. Amplifying women’s voices in the Trialogue process and including gender perspectives in its work, BES-Net also benefits from the wealth of experience that local biodiversity and gender organizations bring to its Network.

Read about one such organization, a women-led CSO called LEAD Tchad, from our Francophone Africa Virtual Trialogue in 2020, working with technology to empower rural women in the Sahel region.

Learn more here.

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