BC’s Inland Rainforest – Conservation and Community

Conference Proceedings

TEK (Traditional Ecological Knowledge) and Biodiversity Conservation: Strengthening community-based approaches (CBA) to conservation and building equitable partnerships in practice with indigenous peoples

Dan Orcherton +

The use of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) to preserve and conserve bio-cultural diversity 1, builds-on community-based approaches (CBA) to biodiversity conservation and equitable partnerships in practice with indigenous people. Traditional communities adhere to informal, but often diverse rules governing CBA to biodiversity, which serves a dual purpose; meeting the intrinsic desires of indigenous populations to preserve and conserve bio-cultural diversity and the intellectual property, while sustaining ecological public goods and services (Becker, and Ghimire, 2003) 2. Between 2002-2004, the author (as lead-researcher) was funded by IDRC 3 /SSHRC 4 to undertake a detailed ethnographic research project on twenty case-study farms and communities in the Talamanca Indigenous Reserve of south-eastern Costa Rica. Results demonstrated that synergies existed between TEK of the BriBri and Cabecar ethnic groups and CBA to biodiversity conservation. Equitable research partnerships were built by advocating prior informed consent (PIC), common property rights, rights to self-determination, and rights to control TEK and preserve of bio-cultural diversity. The study also found conclusive evidence that the loss of TEK is due to declining roles and responsibilities of elders, acculturation of valley populations, pressure of external market influences and socio-economic drivers that reduce their adaptive capacity 5. CBA to conservation was linked to adaptive co-management, community self-organization (Folke, 2002) 6 and social-ecological resilience; which were key evolutionary characteristics of these two indigenous groups, coinciding with linguistic and kinship relations. The BriBri and Cabecar have an inherent ability to preserve and conserve bio-cultural diversity based on their abilities to maintain traditional roles and responsibilities, and successfully build equitable research relationships with community leaders and decision makers.

Indigenous farming practices have also persevered; continuing to shape the biodiversity of their farming systems through decisions affecting biological, social-processes and land-use, by making effective use of all available TEK. Lessons-learned from this research could be applied to extension and research-related scenarios with First Nations groups in Northern B.C. FORREX (Forest Research Extension Partnership) as well, builds on equitable partnerships in community-based approaches (CBA) to biodiversity conservation.

1 Diversity of life in all its manifestations — biological, cultural, and linguistic — which are interrelated within a complex socio-ecological adaptive system (Wikipedia, 2008).

2 Becker, C.D, and Ghimire, K (2003) Synergy Between Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Conservation Science Supports Forest Preservation in Ecuador. Retrieved from http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol8/iss1/art1/main.html. May 8,2008.

3 International Development Research Centre. (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada).

4 Social Sciences and Research Humanities Council of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada).

5 Adaptive capacity is the capacity of a system to adapt if the environment where the system exists is changing (Wikipedia, 2008). It can also be described as the ability of any social and/or ecological system to respond to change and return to a state of balance.

6 Folke, et al (2002) Resilience and Sustainable Development: Building Adaptive Capacity in a World of Transformations. Scientific Background Paper on Resilience for the process of The World Summit on Sustainable Development on behalf of The Environmental Advisory Council to the Swedish Government.

Contact Information

+ Socioeconomic Extension Specialist, FORREX c/o University of Northern British Columbia, 3333-University Way, Prince George, B.C V2N 4Z9. Email: dan.orcherton@forrex.org

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"Treebeard" (above) is portrayed courtesy of McBride artist Sheilagh Foster.

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