Biocultural Heritage

Promoting resilient farming systems and local economies

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About this website

Biocultural Heritage (BCH) refers to the knowledge and practices of indigenous people and their biological resources, from the genetic varieties of crops they develop, to the landscapes they create. As indigenous peoples have adapted to harsh climates over many generations, this heritage is important for food security in the face of climate change.

This website shows how the concept of biocultural heritage can be used to protect the bundle of rights that support indigenous peoples and local communities. It provides tools to protect and promote biocultural heritage, such as community protocols and Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) partnerships. It shares research developed through Protecting Community Rights over Traditional Knowledge and Smallholder Innovation for Resilience. It reviews policies to protect BCH at international and national level.

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Latest news and blogs

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed huge vulnerabilities and inequalities in food systems. They are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change: to droughts, floods, typhoons, sea-level rise – the current locust outbreak in East Africa. But they are also part of the problem, contributing about one third of global greenhouse gas emissions and being highly inequitable too. Krystyna Swiderska spells out what needs to change.

2020 is being hailed as a ‘super year’ for nature, with a series of major international events looking at how we can stop the decline of wildlife and natural ecosystems. IIED’s Krystyna Swiderska argues that saving biodiversity can’t succeed without working to save indigenous cultures. 

Biocultural heritage and indigenous people's capacity for climate adaption were highlighted in the latest Green Heritage Futures podcast, a digital audio programme that focuses on cultural heritage and climate change.
Ahead of an intergovernmental forum on biodiversity and food security, the International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples has published a report highlighting the importance of biodiversity and indigenous knowledge for climate adaptation.

Projects and outputs

A herbalist providing information on medicinal and food plants occurring in Kaya Kinondo

This five-year project (2012-2017) aims to strengthen biocultural innovation for food security in the face of climate change, in China, India, Kenya and Peru.

Indian musicians

This participatory action-research project in China, India, Kenya, Panama and Peru (2004-2009) developed the concept of Collective Biocultural Heritage as its common framework for research.