From Tamil Nadu to Nagoya: Observations from a Sustainable Agriculture NGO

CEC member P.Vivekanandan reflects on his experience at CBD COP 10 with a delegation of the LIFE Network, Local Livestock for Empowerment.

CEC member P.Vivekanandan

SEVA, Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Voluntary Action, our NGO in Tamil Nadu, India, was one of the participants of the eight-member LIFE Network team for a visit to COP 10 at Nagoya from 18 to 24 October 2010. LIFE Network stands for 'Local Livestock for Empowerment' and promotes livestock keepers' rights. It was an opportunity created by LPP.

There was a huge gathering of participants from various parts of the globe symbolically representing their culture, spirit and yearning for an unknown mission. When we see the logo and slogan of CBD COP 10 my doubt in the culmination of cultures become clear. The logo illustrates the harmony of humanity and diverge living beings with a human of parent and child at the centre of a circle of origami plants and animals. The parent and child expresses the desire to pass on abundant biodiversity for future generations. By arranging diverse animals and plants made by origami this logo illustrates the diversity of life on Earth. The slogan for the meeting was “Life in harmony into the future” (Origami symbolizes the culture of Japan and the wisdom of human beings).

We arrived the COP 10 the second day after its inaugural meeting on 18 October 2010. In spite of missing the inaugural we grasped the objectives of CBD: to review its progress in implementation, consider amendments and to consider the adoption of protocols on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS).

There were many parallel meetings and working groups on various field of biodiversity : the Rio convention’s ecosystems and climate change pavilion; the fair on experiences and best practices in communication, education and public awareness; and more than 300 side events slated during 18 to 29 October, plus daily events on Indigenous knowledge and local communities .

We attended an informal meeting on bio-cultural protocol of pastoral communities and we were able to attend few side events and my observations are given as below:

Biodiversity is Towards Sustainable Agriculture

FAO in collaboration with United Nations organized a side event on “Biodiversity + Agriculture” on 20 October. Among the best practices presented were findings that monocropping with tea bushes leads to soil erosion in hilly terrain while intercrop with agro forestry conserves soil from erosion; similarly in banana there will not be risk of “moko” disease incidence if it is planted along with Heliconia sp.

We raised a question that agriculture or forestry without livestock is not sustainable but nowadays pastoralists are being labeled as enemies of forests. To my question on this FAO ( Parviz Koohafhan, Director, Land Division of FAO) has agreed that a case study can be initiated on this aspect, which gave satisfaction to me.

Biocultural Protocols (BCP) and ABS

We had an opportunity to present our experiences of Biocultural Protocols on 23 October during a informal meeting with LIFE Network members in a space provided by United Nations University Stall (through Sunitha Subramanian, Fellow of United Nations University) . Presentations were made on Raikas of Rajasthan, Lingayats of Bargur Hills, Tamil Nadu, Banni pastoralists of Kachchi, and Samburu of Kenya. These traditional communities are rich in tradition, customary practices, conserving local breeds but denied with traditional grazing rights in commons or forests or getting any recognition for the animal genetic resources they are keeping. Nowadays the population of local breeds is reducing and there were no incentives for them. The meeting was facilitated by Hary and Holy of Natural Justice, South Africa. There was a debate on BCP, and it is for communities or for a specific area where different communities use a common land/territory.

BCP is an effort for dialogue in order to reinforce their rich traditional knowledge , practices and genetic resources they conserve. In this process, the community became aware of national or international laws. Based on this they develop their own charter.

Article 8 j of CBD speaks of traditional knowledge, innovations & practices while Article 9 on knowledge associated with genetic resources and propose to develop their own community protocols.

ABS protocol may not cover interests of communities except very commercially potential practices. Under ABS, non - commercial traditional practices are squeezed out. Biodiversity is not for trade. Therefore customary rights are to be secured as per Article 10 of the CBD.

Pachamama (Indigenous Knowledge Newsletter of CBD):

It is a quarterly newsletter of CBD Secretariat which speaks about article 8 ( j ) , rights of indigenous peoples, co–management of resources while respecting indigenous knowledge and innovations. Compared with our Honey Bee Network, we restrict only knowledge or practices but tells the ways of non commercial rights, spiritual values of communities.

In one of the side event there was a debate on definition of terms such as traditional, local, indigenous communities. In Latin America terms such “Indigenous people” or territories apply where as in Africa, Asia it is “local or indigenous communities”.
When we focus our programme only to indigenous communities then the other local communities are deprived of incentives. For example, in South Africa, are whites settled 1652 indigenous or only Bushman of Africa?

In all the presentations land, knowledge and spirituality cannot be separated.

In one meeting, innovation was a product of indigenous knowledge + scientific aspect of practice. The best way to operationalise an incentivized approach is devolve rights at lowest level or in community access to resources.

Land day 3

Mr Ahmed Djoglaf , Executive Secretary of the CBD, stressed the need for a synergy between various actors/conventions, and ultimately touched upon a farmer or community in a Land day 3 event organized by UNCCD. It does not matter much if ‘A’ programme intervenes on a particular theme and other programme on a different theme. But at farmers/community level there will not be any separation.

We had on occasion to tell that soil enhancement without livestock is meaningless and there is no contradiction of land degradation due to over grazing. Now the UNCCD is able to grasp the intrinsic role of livestock in dry land in terms breed or improving the environment or deriving income from sustainable livestock keeping system and reflected in their summary of statements made by facilitators.

In a Landscape conservation event it was said that, “Protected areas will alone not help for climatic change”. In the reality of biodiversity management, agriculture and forests departments do not speak together. We want a holistic approach as stressed .


If ‘Satoyama’ is a successful model of Landscape Conservation that Japan wants to tell others about, then our indigenous knowledge-rich farming system and natural resources are indispensable for maintaining agro-biodiversity and adaptation mechanism for climate change. To my understanding, COP10 is nothing but events of communication on co-management system of commons while respecting traditional knowledge or innovations for finalizing a protocol on ABS. Let us join hands at COP 11 at India in October 2012 and disseminate the Honey Bee Network / LIFE Network model we initiated in our country using indigenous knowledge and innovations.


P.Vivekanandan, SEVA, Tamil Nadu, INDIA, at


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