Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Natural Justice contributes towards the OCSD Network 2015 Progress Update

Natural Justice’s “Empowering Indigenous Peoples and Knowledge Systems Related to Climate Change and Intellectual Property Rights” project, is one of twelve sub-projects within the Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network (OCSDNet).

The network recently released a funder progress report and a summary blog which highlights some emerging results. These include considering ethical issues engrained in processes of openness especially when working with communities that have been traditionally marginalized from mainstream processes of knowledge production – this is a key issue Natural Justice’s project is exploring with indigenous Khoi communities in South Africa.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Community Conservation Resilience Initiative, Ethiopia

“The assessment was a wake-up call, and each of us saw what we had lost”, this was how Adam Haji-jarso, a community member from Dinsho-02 kebele (an administrative unit), in the Ethiopian Highlands described how the results of the Community Conservation Resilience Assessment of which he was a participant, highlighted community conservation issues within his own community.

Mr. Haji-jarso, was referring to the results of a participatory mapping assessment facilitated by Tesfaye Tola, from the Ethiopian NGO MELCA, which was conducted in 3 neighbouring kebeles in the Bale Mountains area, Ethiopia. This assessment aimed to determine the status of Sacred Natural Sites (SNS) in the area. SNS are biologically diverse natural cultural centres where local communities gather to help one another, resolve conflicts, establish common law, and worship. Local communities in the area have stewarded their natural resources through SNS for generations.

The assessment revealed that historically there were 72 SNS within the kebeles, however over the last 50 years, 54 of these had been destroyed and only 18 currently remain. Through participatory processes communities analysed threats to the sites, challenges they currently face, and possible solutions. The assessment process facilitated communities to develop preliminary recommendations, and these included local issues such as creating a local network of SNS custodians, targeted financial and technical support, and advocacy at all levels including with national government.  Each of these could help to strengthen community conservation and resilience in the area.
Natural Justice’s Dr Cath Traynor assisted MELCA to produce the preliminary findings of the assessment, and a flyer is available here. The Ethiopian assessment of one of ten similar community assessments being carried out globally, and the preliminary results were presented at the recent Fostering Community Conservation Conference, earlier this month in Durban, South Africa. Further details of this global initiative are available on Global Forest Coalition’s webpages here. The multi-stakeholder conference produced key recommendations to policy makers which were disseminated at the 14th World Forestry Congress, 7-11 September in Durban.

Participatory Action Research into Traditional Knowledge and Climate Change

Dr. Cath Traynor of Natural Justice travelled to the Namaqualand area of the Northern Cape, South Africa to carry out Participatory Action (PAR) research with pastoralists and stock keepers in the area. She was accompanied by Reino Le Fleur, the project’s Community Co-Researcher from the Griqua community in Vredendal.

The PAR undertaken is part of the ‘Empowering Indigenous Peoples and Knowledge Systems  Related to Climate Change and Intellectual Property Rights’ project.  This project aims to assess how climate change is impacting communities, and how communities have produced indigenous knowledge related to addressing climate change and alternative strategies. The researchers interviewed an elder pastoralist and his son who is a stock farmer, and discussed similarities and differences in their livelihoods, and the impact of weather on their approaches and strategies to maintain healthy animals. Other elderly stock keepers were also interviewed and they shared their histories and experiences of stock keeping under changing environmental and socio-political conditions.

This research will contribute towards a process whereby the communities themselves will develop their own protocols regarding how they wish to collaboratively address the challenges of climate change in their own areas. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Adivasi Applied Theatre Workshop

In August, 2015, NJ explored the use of participatory theatre in the efforts to explore participatory ways of engaging with communities. The aim of using participatory theatre was to develop facilitation skills and deeper engagement with community members through tools from Forum theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed. The workshop was facilitated by Evan Hastings, a theatre artist and drama therapist who integrates Theatre of the Oppressed in his work.  Communities we work with in Odisha use forms of song and dance as a medium of expression, and hence it was felt that beginning our exploration in the use of theatre tools would be most appropriate with facilitators of processes in these communities.

This workshop is part of the ongoing process in Odisha of developing a community protocol with communities in the context of mining, and building capacity within community members and facilitators of the process to use creative practices to engage the community in critical thinking and reflection about their interests and priorities, to listen to the complexity of multiple viewpoints, and enable dialogue. This training used music, movement and theatre to facilitate meaningful community interactions, while grounding the process in cultural practices that honor traditional ways of knowing.

The three day workshop explored concepts of breaking and unlearning habits, power dynamics, meta-analyses of reactions from activities, and facilitating dialogues to address issues. There was also focus on breaking the ritual was used to give meaning to archetypal conflicts in relation to struggles faced by the community. The participants also created forum scenes in small groups with impossible tasks and the audience (the other participants) worked on resolving what they saw as the issues/problems within the scene.

Sharing from the participants was highly positive, with everyone feeling that there had been a good amount of unlearning and relearning during the workshop. To quote from what one of the participants said, “I learned that the first step is to respect and understand the community. What is my role and responsibility in the context? As NGOs, we suggest solutions – the community has ideas on how to solve problems, we just have to facilitate it.” Many participants were keen on using some of the tools in the community and further building their skills.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Bwabwata National Park BCP – Khwe residents

Natural Justice co-hosted a three day, biocultural community protocol (BCP) focused workshop in partnership with Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC,, and the Khwe Custodian Committee members, supported by the Benelex project (, the Legal Assistance Centre ( and the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). Over the three days, 4 half-day village meetings were held, facilitated by the Khwe Custodian Committee in their Khwedom language. The meeting was preceded by short presentations by Natural Justice on the BCP as a legal instrument; the Legal Assistance Center on the Namibian legal framework and the Namibian Ministry of Environment & Tourism on the pending Traditional Knowledge Bill and the BCP.  Each half day aimed to validate the aspirations and priorities as set out in the draft BCP framework document. It is also intended to be an accountability measure to ensure the representatives’ account to the villagers and get feedback on the decisions and representations inside the draft BCP framework document.

The evenings around campfire were used to de-brief with the Khwe Custodian committee and the different partners present. The Namibian government officials namely the ABS focal point, Ms. Kauna Schroder, indicated their support for the development of the first BCP in Namibia in line with the Nagoya Protocol, which Namibia ratified during 2014.
The overall feedback from the different villages emphasized the importance of the recognition of their customary institutions; access to their veld food and medicinal plants.  They also strongly voiced the importance of “teaching through doing” with the children inside the core wildlife area.  The challenge therefore is how the biocultural conservation practices that are drafted coincide to a greater measure with the Khwe community’s traditional ways.

The next steps are to invite the Khwe Custodian committee as well as the Kyaramacan Association representatives to come to Cape Town for a weeklong legal training. The Benelex Project in collaboration with Natural Justice and the Namibian government will also be co-hosting a national government stakeholder meeting to discuss the different challenges outlined by the Bwabwata National Park BCP.

Study confirming the Traditional Knowledge associated with Rooibos and Honeybush in South Africa

During 2014 the Department of Environmental Affairs conducted a study to verify the traditional knowledge associated with Rooibos and Honeybush endemic species in South Africa.  
The major conclusions of the study are as follows:
·         There’s no evidence to dispute the communities’ perceptions that traditional knowledge rests with the communities where the species are endemic and/or with the Khoi and San people of South Africa; and
·         Any individual or organization engaging or planning a bioprospecting project involving Rooibos or Honeybush species must engage with the Khoi and San people of South Africa.
The Department of Environmental Affairs informed the affected industries to engage with the National Khoi & San Council (NKC) and the San Council with an intention to negotiate a Benefit Sharing Agreement in the context of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) 2004 and the Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing Regulations, 2008. The NKSC and San Council will now initiate the process with the affected industries.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

International Workshop in Guatemala Highlights Importance of Community Protocols in the Context of the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol

From 8-10 June 2015, the Convention on Biological Diversity and several partners, including Natural Justice, hosted an international training workshop in Panajachel, Guatemala on Community-based Monitoring, Indicators on Traditional Knowledge and Customary Sustainable Use and Community Protocols, within the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. The first day of the meeting was dedicated to discussing community protocols.

Jael Makagon of Natural Justice gave a presentation providing background on community protocols in the context of the Nagoya Protocol. He explained how community protocols can assist in the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol and the CBD. While there is language in the CBD, the Programme of Work on Article 8(j), and the Nagoya Protocol that supports the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, a large implementation gap remains. Community protocols can help fill that gap by allowing communities to articulate local rules for access to their traditional knowledge and resources, helping to define the "community," providing a basis for free, prior and informed consent, and creating transparency and certainty for users, among other things. He also shared examples of community protocols that address ABS issues, as well as some lessons learned in the development of community protocols.

Several other presenters addressed issues relevant to community protocols, including the experience of the Kuna people in Panama and traditional healers in the Cerrado region of Brazil. Two members of national governments--Brazil and Bolivia--also presented on actions their governments are taking regarding community protocols. Brazil passed a law in May 2015 that recognizes community protocols as an instrument that manifests the will of indigenous peoples. The law also provides a definition of community protocols and will provide support for development of protocols from a government-held fund for access and benefit sharing. Control of the fund will be under a board that will have seats for indigenous peoples and local communities. In Bolivia, the government is also developing a law that deals with community protocols, including by setting forth a "model community protocol" that communities can use to develop their own protocols.

The workshop demonstrated that there is a robust practice of development of community protocols at the local level. Additionally, governments are beginning to recognize that supporting and respecting community protocols can be an important element of fulfilling their international and national obligations. As more governments develop legislation relevant to community protocols, however, it will be important to ensure that their policies uphold the fundamental elements of community protocols, including that protocols be driven by communities in a manner that is participatory and with sufficient time given to ensure appropriate processes are undertaken.

The results of this workshop will be fed into the new CBD Subsidiary Body on Implementation, which will hold its first meeting in May 2016.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Global Land Forum 2015

The Global Land Forum 2015 (GLF) facilitated by the International Land Coalition (ILC) and CICODEV took place on the 12th to 16th of May 2015 in Dakar, Senegal.

Panelists representing the governments of Senegal, Cameroun, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Togo make presentations on Africa Day at the GLF on May 12.

Taking place exactly 20 years since the ILC’s creation, members of the coalition – including Natural Justice – from everywhere on the planet gathered to assess and continue charting a path forward towards ensuring that those who live on and from land have their rights and dignity protected.  The theme this year was “Land Governance for Inclusive Development, Justice and Sustainability: Time for Action”. The Forum presented plenty of opportunities for interaction, debate, and mutual learning over a three day period from distinguished speakers, accomplished organizations and innovative individuals.

The first day, May 12th, Africa Day was celebrated at the GLF. Various government officials and other international organizations spoke towards the continental land debate – zeroing in on issues touching on how land is mainstreamed in institutions, women’s land rights, and investments in land. The following day, the theme surrounded inclusive development and justice for communities. The panelists noted a need to ensure that economies all over the world take note of the potential power of small-scale farming systems and urged communities to come together and harness their collective power around this cause in their fight for justice.

Ikal Ang’elei of the Friends of Lake Turkana gives the Keynote Address on Sustainability: Making Land Governance Work for Sustainable Development.

On the final day of the GLF, Ikal An’gelei – from the Friends of Lake Turkana, one of Natural Justice’s key partners in Kenya – gave a presentation on how proper land governance can ensure sustainable development. She highlighted the need to acknowledge various imbalanced and competing needs for land use and ensure that equitability still happens despite this challenge.  The meeting ended with a call for action spurred on by various civil society actors, community members, public officials and international diplomats – particularly identifying key areas of focus, essential takeaways and better ways to strengthen networks and collaborations in the work around land issues globally.

One of Natural Justice’s biggest focus areas is land. We therefore recognize a need to continually maintain relationships through the larger ILC coalition, share the experiences of the work we do in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and learn lessons from all over the world on matters land, all for the benefit of the communities we work and engage with.

2015 SEED South Africa Symposium

SEED works towards a world of flourishing communities where social and environmental entrepreneurship drives sustainable development. The SEED annual awards identify and support the most promising and innovative social and environmental start-up enterprises in developing and emerging economies. Since 2005, 175 SEED Winners have been selected by SEED International, and in 2009 Natural Justice was a Gold Winner for their Biocultural Community Protocols Initiative.

Cath Traynor represented Natural Justice at the 2015 SEED South Africa Symposium: Entrepreneurship: A solution for climate change and green growth, held at the Birchwood Hotel, Johannesburg, 27 May. The symposium focused on two main issues: building bridges for partnerships, especially between entrepreneurs and academia for development and innovation, and adapting the policy and financing landscape to better support the development of social and environmental enterprises.

During the interactive sessions, it was discussed that Social and Environmental enterprises face challenges as they are not recognized as specifically different entities compared to other small and medium enterprises, yet they try to address wider issues and are not solely profit-driven. In terms of science and technology, many entrepreneurs commented that research is often driven by the needs of academia, and they recommended that a closer working relationship could produce research designs and results which could then contribute towards improving products and processes. Furthermore, publicly funded research should be open and accessible to all, so that entrepreneurs could access it and feed into in to their activities. In terms of policy and procurement, participants commented that certification schemes and consumer information could assist to show the value and quality of the products and processes produced by social and environmental enterprises.

During the Symposium SEED launched its Virtual Exhibition and SEED Winners’ Case Studies, which allows one to look into all aspects of SEEDs activities and see how the enabling environment that is being built for social and environmental entrepreneurs.

Side Events at the Bonn Climate Change Conference

Photo: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Natural Justice is co-hosting a Side Event on the ‘Preliminary results of the International Savanna Fire Management Initiative’ together with the Australian Government and the United Nations University-Institute for Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS). This Initiative is testing how Northern Australia’s experience of savanna burning projects - combining traditional indigenous approaches and fire management with emissions accounting methodologies - can be used in other counties. The Side Event will take place on Wednesday 3rd June between 18:30-20:00 hrs, Bonn I. Cath Traynor of Natural Justice will present on approaches to realize biocultural rights in this initiative.
Natural Justice has also contributed to a feasibility study on an independent citizen-based complaint review and referral mechanism under the Green Climate Fund. This study forms the basis for a Side Event co-hosted by Both ENDS Foundation and Transparency International, the ‘Environmental and social accountability for results based finance – lessons learnt and way forward’ session takes it’s point of departure that the need for safeguards and accountability mechanisms are widely recognised in international financial institutions (IFIs). This event will discuss how lessons from IFIs can inform the design of appropriate redress mechanisms for the GCF and other private and public climate finance flows. This event will take place on Monday 1st June at 16:45-18:15 in the Kaminzimmer room (113). For more information on the conference see the UNFCCC webpage.