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Newsletter 24 - In the Spotlight 1

Tuesday 15 December 2015, by Manu

The importance of forests, wild plants and the commons to people’s and communities’ food sovereignty

Indigenous peoples have lived in harmony with Mother Earth for thousands of years – depending on her for our food, shelter and medicines – making us part of her and not her master. The earth is populated by trees of every type which give life and strength. The earth is root and source of our culture; it is our guardian mother who looks after all which exists. For this reason caring for woodlands, forests and wild plants through our traditional knowledge and as common goods are of huge importance to our peoples and communities.

Forests are pharmacies

The forest provides us with herbs and plants which cure our sicknesses – plants which since time immemorial have occupied an exceptional place in the lives of our peoples – we should remember that more than 25% of modern medicines come from plants from the the tropical forests.

Forests are habitats for plants and animals

Jungles and tropical forests have taken more than 60 and 100 million years to evolve and are believed to be the most complex and ancient ecosystems on earth, being home to more than 30 million species of plants and animals. This represents half of the fauna of the planet earth and at least two thirds of her vegetative species – on top of this they provide all that is required to maintain our world. The forests are vital ecosystems for life, considering their protective, regulating and productive functions for Food Sovereignty.

Forests regulate our climate

Jungles and tropical forests absorb water like a huge sponge. Trees in tropical forests extract water from the ground and free it into the atmosphere in the form of clouds and mist. It is well known that trees absorb carbon dioxide which we exhale, and provide the oxygen we need to breath. Deforestation is regarded as the second of the principle causes of climate change. Climate change is already having negative impacts on our lives and lands – for example through the loss of biodiversity or water shortages – provoking a forced displacement of our peoples towards other regions of our country and resulting loss of our rights.

As Indigenous Peoples and local communities we understand that nobody loves what they cannot learn to understand – so to protect our environmental space human beings must love it and to love it they must know it and understand it. We, our communities have all the liberty to use what mother earth has gifted to us, but never using more than what is necessary and never damaging her. In our oceans and seas we fish what is necessary, in our forests we cut just what is needed – and thus we know the value of our lands, territories and natural resources – our commons – because without them we are nobody and there is no Food Sovereignty for the world.

Mother Earth contains our memories and receives our ancestors - as such she requires that we honour and return with tenderness and respect the gifts she has offered us. For this reason it is important to transfer to our own future generations our Traditional Knowledge in caring for Mother Earth so our peoples can continue to benefit from her generosity.

Taina Hedman, International Indian Treaty Council