Biocultural Heritage

Promoting resilient farming systems and local economies

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Putting the concept into practice

This section highlights key actors and initiatives that put the concept of biocultural heritage into practice—from indigenous organisations and NGOs, to universities, UN organisations and donors.

Indigenous organisations

Asociacion ANDES (Peru)

The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation for 2020

The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation for 2020 was agreed at the Biodiversity Convention’s 10th Conference of Parties in Nagoya, 2010. It sets out a series of targets to be achieved by 2020. The following two targets are directly relevant for the protection of biocultural heritage:

Objective II; target 9: 70 per cent of the genetic diversity of crops including their wild relatives and other socio-economically valuable plant species conserved, while respecting, preserving and maintaining associated indigenous and local knowledge.

Indigenous Biocultural Territories

‘Indigenous Biocultural Territories’ (IBCTs) aim to protect collective biocultural heritage of indigenous peoples through collective territorial rights. They support the integrity of indigenous territorialities which are under siege from a variety of forces and actors, in a rapidly changing world. These territories are essential for sustaining local subsistence economies, diverse cultures, biological resources, innovation and adaption systems, and ecosystem services.

The Nagoya Protocol and awareness raising measures

The Nagoya Protocol requires that:

Each Party shall take measures to raise awareness of the importance of genetic resources and traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources, and related access and benefit-sharing issues” (Article 21).

Awareness raising measures may include:

  • organising meetings of indigenous and local communities and relevant stakeholders and involving them in implementation of the Protocol;

  • establishing a help desk, and a national clearing house;

WIPO – World Intellectual Property Organisation

wipo logoThe World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) aims to promote intellectual property rights (IPRs) worldwide. In 2000, it established an inter-governmental committee to address IPR issues relating to genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore, including how to protect traditional knowledge from misappropriation and how to share benefits from commercialisation equitably.

Drivers of change

We are facing a double extinction crisis - biological and cultural - as a result of prevailing development models and globalization.

The FAO estimates we have lost three quarters of all crop genetic resources in the past 100 years. Modern farming, based on just a few species and varieties, has spread across the globe, weakening agriculture’s genetic basis and our capacity to adapt to changing climates. Yet policymakers often see traditional farming systems rich in genetic diversity as a hindrance to economic growth.

An evolving concept

Biocultural heritage, as a concept, has evolved in response to traditional knowledge policies that have tended only to protect the intellectual component of knowledge systems, and not the equally crucial biological, cultural and landscape components. It reflects indigenous communities’ holistic worldview, where everything is inter-dependent and inter-connected.

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