Day 10 - March 30
Community Taba, daily report, 3/30/06
The day’s session began with a review of the Local-Global leaders dialogue which was featured in the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (www.iisd.ca/biodiv/cop8/enbots). The Brazilian local community members expressed their disappointment that there was no representative from the Brazilian government. Overall, the Local-Global dialogue was deemed successful.
Presentation from pastoralist communities of South America followed. There are over 200 million pastoralists living in the world today and lands used for livestock grazing cover 40% of the earth’s land surface. Pastoralists are nomadic people, moving their herds of goats or other livestock from region to region to allow them to graze.
The pastoralist and their countries of origin are as follows:
- Gabriel Palmili (Argentina)
- Mario (Argentina)
- Silvia (Argentina)
- Enrique Soto Neuguen (Argentina)
- Jorge Villalobos Castillo (Chile)
- Luis and Higinio Porto Huasco (Peru)
Gabriel from Argentina opened by introducing the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism (WISPA). This initiative is driven by UNDP and IUCN and supported by the World Bank, USAID and FAO. The objectives are to allow self-determination for pastoral communities and to educate people on the social, economic, and environmental aspects of these communities.
The presentation focused on several myths surrounding pastoral communities. The first myth discussed was that the mobility of these communities is unnecessary. Gabriel explained that the movements are necessary to reach areas where melted snow provides water for the grasses to grow and for subsequent grazing.
The second myth mentioned was that grazed fields are ecologically degraded. He cited recent research indicating limited environmental impacts, possibly because during extremely dry seasons, many goats die preventing overgrazing of vulnerable lands.
A third concern is the Tragedy of the Commons, whereby it is thought that because the fields are open with no definitive owner, shepherds will not care for them. However, many of these shepherds have strictly followed unwritten agreements that ensure protection of the land. An example was given of a community restoration project allowing soil regeneration. He stressed that this project is community not private work.
The fourth myth is that shepherds contribute very little to the gross national product (GNP). He stated that there is great value but it is not quantified. In the high plains of Peru, Alpaca are raised for leather, meat and fur. All these contribute to the economy. In Mongolia the activity of shepherds makes up 70% of the economy.
The final myth is the belief that shepherds need to stay in one place to benefit from social services such as education and healthcare. However, there are many mobile health services and alternate schedules for schooling. Women are instrumental in these services. There are still some difficulties in people understanding the nomadic way of life and acceptance of them.
A participant asked what threats these communities are facing. International Oil companies were mentioned as a problem in Argentina. There is a lack of clear political understanding between the oil companies and the shepherds. The companies buy huge areas of land from the state and make it very difficult for the shepherds to move through these areas. The governments fail to consider shepherds from an economic perspective.
In Chile, the problem is with companies mining for gold and silver. These companies own much of the land and work with dynamite causing ecological damage. Mining is also a problem in Peru where the companies also damage the soils.
Some positives were mentioned. In Peru there is an Alpaca cooperative with approximately eight family communities that have a direct partnership with the state government and private sectors. There is no middleman involved. A factory is being made that will be able to process cheese for sale. As of now, regulations do not allow the communities to sell locally produced cheese.
Willy Atu asked for clarifcation on the issue of health care and education. The response was that there are health centers in many different places. There is a contribution from the state that they get but they have to fight for it. Jorge stated, “these companies give nothing to the local communities, and they destroy the land” and “we are the ones that take care of the environment and we hope that our voices are heard.”
Esther facilitated a discussion entitled “Scaling Up, What is it?”
Esther stated that we need to go from a local to a national context by scaling up. One of the pastoralists stated that if they were not a part of a international organizations, they would not be present at meetings such as the Taba dialogue space. The local groups present at the Taba are here because they come from organized communities. This kind of organization requires a lot of work. At present, they stated that “if communities don’t do it, it won’t happen.” The organizational challenge is great. In Argentina, many of the communities are 150 km from each other. Communication and networking is very difficult in these instances.
Owaldo Andracle of Brazil mentioned four possible directions to take. First, he explained that it is important to increase local partnerships in order to optimize the variety of forces present. Second, constructing local markets to allow, for instance, a supply of family agriculture to the city breaking a dependence on external goods can solve some of these issues. Third, improving and strenghtening the autonomy of these communities can be key. Finally, he suggested looking for alternative sources of income and creating saving accounts in a community managed Trust.
Isabel shared that during her time at the Taba, she has listened to so many presentations and has always compared these with her own experiences. Where she works, there are other products such as fish and forest goods. Other groups though, such as rubber-tappers, are dependent on the market for rubber because it is their only resource. Several community members echoed the idea that it is extremely important for local initiatives to diversify their products.
Sunia Delailg of Fiji stated that at the end of the day there only are the people that live on the land and the current government. NGOs will come and go, so it is necessary to work very hard to strengthen the local and government connections.
Another participant noted the importance of having well-defined projects.
A concern was raised that as communities scale up they may lose their uniqueness and connection with nature. In response Willy Atu noted that communities are dynamic and that change is something that cannot be avoided. Another participant from Brazil warned to be careful not to be contaminated by the business and reaffirmed the goal of communities not to be rich or gain capital but live in balance. It is important to determine what the maximum size of project should be because many of these initiatives have a niche at the small scale.
Higinio Porto from Peru reaffirmed the importance of commerce. These communities in the grasslands do not have all the products to survive. They have meat, leather and fiber but need commerce to buy shoes, notebooks, medicine, sugar and many other things necessary for livelihood. The day’s session concluded on these notes.
Evening: Thank you party and Reading of the Community Taba declarations
After a lazy afternoon, the community Taba representatives, staff, delegated from the COP meetings, and volunteers alike gather one more time under the Taba space to participate in the Thank you and Farewell party organized by the Equator Initiative.
GTZ launched a book entitled “The MDG Poster Book:Contributions by Local Communities to attaining the UN Millennium Development Goals.”
Community participants alternatively read different sections of the community declarations to everybody present. The group then acknowledge the importance of such declarations. Sean Southey, manager of the Equator Initiative group thanked everyone (participants, partners, volunteers, staff) involved in the Taba, and made it a successful event.
The festivities continued with a local theater group exhibiting a show for the Taba. Directly following the theater troupe, a group of Brazilians performed Capoeira, a traditional dance / martial arts form invented by the Afro-Brazilian slaves centuries ago. Another traditional folk songs and dance followed the exhilirating Capoeira dance. The music and dancing did not end till late the following morning. It was a successful thank you and farewell party.