Panel presentations from indigenous and peasant farmer representatives. St. John’s University, New York City, September 20, 2014

Panel workshop at St. John´s University,  New York City, Saturday September 20 , 2014

Report by Stephen Bartlett,Coordinator for Advocacy and Education, Agricultural Missions, Inc (AMI)

(This panel took place during the week of the Climate Justice Convergence with the Historic Peoples March of Sept 21, 350 to 400,000 strong, and the High level conference at the UN of the indigenous peoples Sept 22-23, the Flood Wall Street civil disobedience on Sept 22, etc…)


Indigenous families in Peoples March Sept 21, 2014


Perspectives on adaptation and mitigation of climate change, as remembered by Stephen Bartlett who acted as interpreter for the two Spanish speakers.

Cook organic food, not the planet!   (organized by the Organic Consumers Association, and introduced by Alexis Baden-Mayer)

Land, self-determination of the peoples and communities is vital to slow the impacts of climate warming.

Presentation by Jaime Mariqueo, of Mapuche territory (southern Chile):

Jaime Mariqueo, Mapuche communicator from what is today called Chile , started the workshop with an historic retelling of the arrival of people from Europe. The indigenous peoples of that epoch, including the Mapuche People, came to know about a Sacred Book that the Europeans brought with them, that told how long ago there was a garden, an Eden, with everything beautiful, pleasant and delicious for the human being and for the other creatures of nature.  What then happened, due to the arrogance of the human being who wanted to be like God and eat of the forbidden fruit, God had to throw the humans out of the Garden.  Well, as Jaime tells it, after observing the behavior of these people from across the sea for the last 522 years, we now understand why God threw them out of the Garden!  And despite the fact that today it would be impossible to throw all of these people from the Americas, yet there absolutely remains the need for the behaviors and ways of thinking and acting of those people to change.

To live in harmony with the ancestral lands and their abundant life is the most basic, and most important thing for indigenous people.  Without that, the culture and identity, the ¨good living¨, all vanish.  This has been the tragedy of the European conquest of Abya Yala (indigenous name for the Americas).  Today not only the indigenous peoples, but every single person and every community, is in danger of losing the most fundamental thing, basic autonomy as human beings and as communities.  Jaime says that each person, each family and each community requires having access to healthy land, clean water, diverse forest, seeds, in short, the basic goods of life.  To live in cities on other peoples´ land, earning salaries or income as they can and paying for their basic needs with money, causes people to lose their fundamental autonomy.  The indigenous peoples, with their cosmovision of unity with all living things of Mother Earth (not only humans), believe in such autonomy and self-determination as a right of everyone in the world, regardless of what the so-called ¨market¨ dictates, where the goods of nature are bought and sold.  Such a paradigm of autonomy and self-determination, when it becomes the norm again, will resolve all the multiple crises we face: the food crisis, the housing crisis, education, impoverishment, climate change.  The Mapuche peoples are doing this work, recovering ancestral territories to help Mother Earth and all its creatures recover their health by means of biodiversity, including the forests, the natural plants and animals, including medicines and things of beauty.

Links to Abya Yala news service, blog and facebook:

Presentation by Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, of Chad:

The panelist from the pastoral peoples of Chad, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, spoke of the life of their nomadic communities, people who live with their animals in a territory ranging from 500 to 1,000 kilometers long and wide, an expanse visited each year as nomads, according to the prevailing conditions, rainfall, vegetation, etc… Hindou described how her extremely marginalized peoples have been ignored by the governments of the day for decades, simply because they are not sedentary.  The nomadic peoples, however , have been observing climate change, in terms of the appearance of certain insects and critters of the earth, the behavior of birds and other animals, depending on the experience of the elders who understand the signs and secrets of weather and the climate of their area.  As for adaptation to climate change, they continue to observe nature to guide them on where to go, when to return to their traditional resting places, and what to do in order to avoid failure, hunger and death.  The prolonged drought of recent years has had a huge negative impact, in addition to the land conflicts which are deepening due to the usurpation of portions of their territories by wealthy actors in alliance with local and national governments.  This has caused a shortage of food for their animals and therefore for themselves, as well as erosion damage to the lands being cultivated in their traditional migratory routes.  Hindou´s nomadic Mbororo- Fulani people have developed systems of predicting the weather using traditional methods together with more modern mapping technologies offered by academics, to try to advocate legally for their territorial rights.  After centuries of survival on these lands called Sahel, these pastoralists have profound knowledge of what is sustainable and what is not in their ecosystem, and the transmission of such knowledge is important for humanity in general, and not only for the nomads.

In order for humanity to survive, the human being must respect the peoples who have kept that ancient knowledge and culture alive, to co-exist in the Sahel and produce the basic necessities to maintain their culture of freedom within the ecology of their ancestral lands.  The diversity of human cultures must be respected, because diversity is adaptability and strength in the face of blows.  The nomadic life is part of a culture developed over centuries, well adapted to the Sahel ecosystem, and teaches us the limits of agricultural life which in such lands tends to degrade the environment over time, whereas the nomads do not mistreat the lands because they are always moving when vegetation becomes scarce and their cattle have a symbiotic relationship to that ecosystem recycling nutrients in a beneficial way.

Hindou is Coordinator of the Indigenous Women and Peoples Association of Chad a community based organization. Hindou is a member of the Executive committee of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee, IPACC.


Presentation by Yvette Aguilar, of El Salvador:

Yvette Aguilar, the third presenter, represents the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Small Fair Trade Producers (CLAC) and facilitates the development of strategies among these farmers in the face of climate change. She has a great deal of experience with farmers and peasant communities that cultivate fair trade products as well as their own foods and fibers.  These peoples are often called  ´peasants´ but  in reality descend from indigenous people who have lost their languages and who were displaced from their original territories.  Nevertheless, they often continue to live with a vision very similar to the cosmovision (worldview) of indigenous peoples, and enjoy a degree of autonomy and self-determination in their rural places especially when they have enough land to meet their needs.  Yvette observed that following disasters such as hurricanes, landslides, etc.. that the farmers using traditional agro-ecological practices were much better adapted to resist and recover from the impacts of these climate-related disasters than are those farmers who have adopted more modern farming methods, that is, growing monocultures that require more extensive tillage and larger fields, using so-called ´improved¨ seeds, etc..  it happens that the traditional heirloom seeds and the traditional cultivation methods using intercrops and diverse crop rotations are better adapted to events such as droughts, floods, insect plagues, etc… and that the ancient practice of maintaining natural fertility in the soils and in the ecosystem is a key element in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

At the same time, the farmers well know that they need help in adapting and surviving the new challenges of prolonged droughts, changes in when it rains, in the quantity and intensity of downpours, etc… In the negotiations on climate at the U.N., Yvette insists that the countries historically responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, ought to invest proportionally in supporting all kinds of green technologies including the efforts of family farmers, in the spreading of the agro-ecological practices through training, in improving marketing opportunities for farmers, and not the contrary of continuing to concentrate lands into fewer hands, in privatizing seeds, in pushing governments to abandon their agricultural support services, etc…  Today, in contrast, it is essential to focus support on the campesino producers, to assist them in flourishing, since it is they who feed us so that we will have healthy and sufficient foods to eat in the future.  Fair trade has allowed some strengthening of cooperatives and solidarity relationships, but there is much more needed to confront the global challenge of climate change.  The countries of the global south should not be the only ones burdened to reduce emissions, while the rich countries of the north continue to emit at high levels.  Global south countries should not be integrated into carbon trading schemes  whereby global south countries are paid to sequester carbon so that polluters of the north can continue to pollute more than their fair share.   This strategy creates more hunger, dispossession and misery for the campesinos and indigenous peoples, without slowing the emissions of greenhouse gases.  They are false solutions and the clock keeps ticking.   Each country, Yvette insists, should be sovereign and work to reduce their emissions as an autonomous society.

Link to CLAC:


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