Indigenous peoples lead adaptation efforts through IFAD’s dedicated funding

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Indigenous peoples lead adaptation efforts through IFAD’s dedicated funding

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
IFAD/Michael Benanav

Over the millennia, indigenous peoples around the world have developed practices that safeguard their environments and honour the interconnectedness of people and nature.

Their food systems are rooted in their environment. Living deeply intertwined with their ecosystems, they’ve learned how to harvest and produce what they need sustainably. For example, we’ve seen time and again that, when forests are governed by indigenous peoples, there’s less deforestation and biodiversity loss. It’s no wonder that their role as responsible environmental stewards has been documented on every inhabited continent.

Yet indigenous peoples disproportionately struggle with poverty. In the 23 countries where most of the world’s indigenous peoples live, they make up 9.3 per cent of the population, but over 18 per cent of those in extreme poverty.

Meanwhile, their contributions are frequently overlooked and devalued. All too often, indigenous peoples’ communities aren’t able to participate in economic and food systems without giving up their traditions and knowledge. They’re left out of decision-making about the lands and resources they know better than anyone. They don’t have the agency, financial resources or capacity to take charge.

And today, with climate change affecting every part of the globe, their knowledge and practices are more important than ever.

Empowerment for change

IFAD is committed to working with indigenous peoples to support them in overcoming poverty and showing the way to meeting global challenges through building on their identities and cultures. We confirmed our commitment in 2009, with our ground-breaking Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples, and we convert this commitment into action through the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD, at which indigenous leaders set the direction for our engagements with their communities.

And, for the last 15 years, the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IPAF) has served as IFAD’s flagship funding instrument for indigenous peoples, putting the power to find and implement solutions directly into their hands.

The IPAF aims to empower indigenous peoples’ organizations. It helps them access climate finance so they can direct funds where they see the greatest need, and promotes the implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights frameworks, in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

At the global level, IPAF is directed by a board, the majority of whose members are indigenous leaders. At the regional level, it is managed by three indigenous peoples’ organizations, who are responsible for overall coordination, assessing funding proposals, channelling resources to grantees, and monitoring projects. They also build connections between IPAF-funded projects and IFAD-supported country programmes.

Stewards of the earth

Over its 15 years of operation, IPAF has supported a total of 159 projects in 45 countries across South America, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region.

IPAF grants go to grassroots projects designed and implemented by indigenous peoples themselves. They have been used to confront the challenges of climate change, protect traditional culture and knowledge, ensure land rights, and build food security and better livelihoods.

Colombia’s Pijao people, for example, are affected by desertification and growing water scarcity. With support from an IPAF grant, an indigenous women’s organization, Asociación para el Futuro con manos de Mujer, designed adaptation measures in partnership with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. The Pijao community now plants native caupi beans and drought-tolerant fodder, and uses renewable energy sources to store and distribute water.

In Cameroon, the Bedzang people were suffering from forced settlement, discrimination and assimilation, causing them to lose their identity. The Centre d’Appui aux Femmes Et aux Ruraux arranged a conflict management workshop for dialogue between the Bedzang and the dominant Tikar community. As a result, the Bedzang obtained 248 hectares of land on which to practice agroecology.

And in Indonesia, the Satunama Foundation worked with the Orang Bathin and Orang Penghulu peoples to protect their village forests by developing forest management plans. By the end of the project, the participants had produced a book that catalogued their traditional knowledge of the local forests, rivers, lands, and animals, and described challenges in natural resource management and potential solutions. The insights of the communities’ youth and women were invaluable for the completion of the book.

Showing the way forward

In 2022, IFAD is issuing its sixth call for proposals under IPAF. With a US$4.5 million contribution from Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and resources from IFAD, grants of up to US$70,000 will be allocated through the facility. This funding will enable even more indigenous communities to devise their own solutions to the challenges they face.

Indigenous peoples, especially women and youth, are already showing the way forward. They’re drawing on their unique identities, cultures and ways of life to enhance biodiversity, and taking the lead in global struggles to sustainably manage ecosystems and adapt to climate change. With the right resources and support, they can go even farther.


Learn more about the sixth call for proposals.