Article | 13 Juil, 2018

Evaluating indigenous and local peoples’ connections with nature: an ecosystem services framework

CEESP News - by Kamaljit K. Sangha; Research Fellow, Charles Darwin University, Australia

Indigenous and local peoples’ connections with nature are not only limited to the benefits or services people derive from ecosystems, as considered by international frameworks, but also entail peoples’ capabilities (knowledges and skills) that enable people to derive those benefits. (Read the full abstract below).

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Photo: Namo Buddha Association

Photos of the sacred landscape of Namo Buddha: (a) Hill top showing important shrines including modern monasteries, (b) The oldest Namo Buddha stupa (tomb) where Prince’s bones were buried, (c) Statues of the Prince and tigress near the tigress’s den, (d) A site where Prince offered his body to the tigress. Source: Namo Buddha Association 


ECOSYSTEM SERVICES JOURNAL       Photo: Ecosystem Services: Science, Policy, & Practice

Applying Sen’s (1993) Capability Approach, this paper proposes an ecosystem services framework that underscores peoples’ capabilities along with well-being benefits, to inform policy decision-making about the value of natural resources towards Indigenous and local peoples’ well-being.


We offer an economic perspective of considering Indigenous and local estates as a source of opportunities, and construct an integrated framework based on six case studies across the globe.

We argue that supporting Indigenous and local peoples to utilize and build capabilities to manage natural systems will deliver manifold benefits to them - as well as to the wider public.

Moreover, learning Indigenous and local ethics to care for nature will help many of us to better manage and value our fast depleting natural resources.


Indigenous Specific Ecosystem Services Framework       Photo: Sangha, et al.


Fig. 4. An Indigenous-specific ES framework, reading from bottom to top, demonstrating natural landscape (traditional estate/land) as a pivot for opportunities and well- being for people, however requires appropriate valuation measures to inform policy decision-making. The temporal scale on the left represents time, and the spatial scale at the bottom represents place, linked relationships to peoples’ stories through connections with land, embracing various socio-economic, cultural, spiritual and natural perspectives, and caring ethics. Means, offered by the landscape, and ends of lifeline, on the right, represent the natural landscape as a provider and recipient, ‘merger,’ for people as spiritual beings. However, natural landscape from Indigenous and local perspectives is a much bigger diffused entity (orange shade) than what we consider as a source of opportunities (green abstract). 

Thank you very much to CEESP member Kamaljit K. Sangha for sharing this paper.