Grants Awarded 2009
In 2009, Keepers of the Earth fund awarded grants totaling $198,521.
Friends of the Akwesasne Freedom School (Canada) - Previously funded by Keepers of the Earth Fund, the Friends of the Akwesasne Freedom School acted as the fiscal agent for the Moon Lodge Society - Sisters in Spirit Project on the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation, which straddles the border between the United States and Canada. The Moon Lodge Society exists to support a sisterhood of spiritual women and the practice of Native American ceremonies in honor of the sacred feminine. The Moon Lodge Society exists to support the spiritual and cultural needs of women and youth primarily, and for the community overall, inspiring thought into action. This grant was to provide a space for women to participate in ceremonial activities that renew and strengthen their social status and traditional roles in community and family, and to utilize traditional teachings to guide them in their daily lives.
The Indigenous Peoples’ Restoration Network (Various locations) – This network supports Native and tribal communities in need of technical assistance for environmental restoration and cultural rehabilitation and assists leaders and practitioners in their efforts to apply traditional ecological knowledge within their own vision of political, economic, and cultural sovereignty. This grant allowed representatives from the Indigenous Peoples’ Restoration Network to attend a symposium at the Society for Ecological Restoration’s 19th World Restoration Conference in Perth, Australia. The group’s presentation was entitled “The Complementarity of Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science in the Restoration of Fire-Adapted Ecosystems in Spain, Northern Australia, and California.” The Indigenous presenters included four individuals from California, one from Oregon, three from Australia, one from Spain, and a non-Indigenous presenter from both California and Australia. This group made presentations to Western scientists and Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, striking an innovative balance proving the value of both methodologies.
International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and The Center for Indigenous Peoples’ Autonomy and Development (CADPI) (Nicaragua) – These groups, along with other international organizations, finalized the Cultural Indicators for Food Security, Food Sovereignty, and Sustainable Development at the second Global Consultation on the Right to Food, Food Security, and Food Sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples. These Cultural Indicators were developed with full participation of Indigenous Peoples and provided measurable criteria to bridge the gaps between quantifiable outcomes and the tangible and intangible spiritual and cultural relationships defining the identity of Indigenous Peoples and their relationships with the traditional foods and ecosystems that sustain them. IITC conducted a field-training workshop in conjunction with the development of these cultural indicators in Bilwi, Nicaragua. The workshop and subsequent application of the Indicators by participating Miskitu, Sumu, Rama, and Garifuna communities stimulated collective internal discussions about ways to strengthen the abundance, use, protection, and transmission of traditional food-related resources, knowledge, and practices to youth and future generations to ensure their survival and resilience in today’s world.
The Amerindian Peoples Association (Guyana) - This is the only organization in Guyana that is governed by and for Indigenous Peoples and seeks to promote the social, economic, political, and cultural development of the Amerindian communities in solidarity with each other, and to promote and defend their rights. This project, focused on climate change, enabled the APA to develop training workshops for its communities to promote understanding of the implications of the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) program. Climate change has increasingly put forest-rich nations like Guyana at the forefront of international climate change negotiations, specifically as it relates to REDD. Several communities voiced the urgent need for more information to be provided. To meet these concerns, APA produced a comprehensive manual on Indigenous Peoples' rights, climate change, and REDD/LCDS in Guyana.
Village Earth: The Consortium for Sustainable Village-Based Development (Peru) – First Peoples’ funding supported the development of radio infrastructure for the Shipibo of Peru because radio is a very important means of communication in this region and also helps the Shipibo to preserve their culture through traditional language, music, and stories. Village Earth collaborated with Project Tupa, a group with experience setting up easy to build and maintain low power transmitters for Indigenous Peoples throughout the Americas. Using locally available materials, Project Tupa offered a three-day workshop to teach the Shipibo how to maintain and repair the equipment themselves. The Shipibo people see that being in control of their own media is an important step in their struggle for self-determination because corporate media rules in the cities and extorts exorbitant prices from Indigenous Peoples who want to make radio announcements or have their own radio programs. By maintaining community radio, the Shipibo strengthened their community to protect their lands and culture without the influence of other media sources.
Pachamama’s Path (Peru) – Pachamama’s Path was founded to empower the Quechua community’s endangered way of life through promotion and protection of traditional values and knowledge of Andean culture. The organization creates and supports permanent, multidisciplinary programs aimed at Indigenous children, youth, and adults in the Sacred Valley area of Cusco, Peru. With the Andean Education Alliance (AEA), Pachamama’s Path enabled the creation of two education centers founded and directed by Indigenous Quechua communities. Combining modern teaching techniques with ancestral Andean knowledge, these centers value and promote traditional ecological and cultural knowledge; prepare local people to enter the teaching profession; decrease the number of families leaving their communities in search of education; and prepare generations of Indigenous children to engage as community advocates and leaders in the context of a global world. This group partnered with schools already established in the area to provide classes taught in the Quechua language, and their curricula focused on local history; the traditional arts of weaving, dance, painting, and storytelling; the Andean ritual calendar; and spiritual and geographic knowledge of the Apus (sacred mountains). Additionally, these schools taught Spanish, mathematics, and integrated basic training in video, digital photography, and Internet communications, skills that the community considers critical in advocating for their rights and land. An alliance between the schools provided the more-urbanized Quechua children of Pisac with an opportunity to learn from the traditional Quechua community of Q’eros, while giving the isolated Q’eros access to the training, resources, and guidance critical to establishing a successful school in the remote mountains. This model of reciprocity is called ayni in Quechua and it is a fundamental pillar of their way of life.
Assembly of Guaraní (Bolivia) –The assembly was created in 1989 with the mission to achieve a better quality of life for the people in the Indigenous territory of Itika Guasu by strengthening social and individual resources and through the optimal use of natural resources. Because more than 60 percent of Bolivia’s oil and gas reserves are in Itika Guasu, the organization is dedicated to defending Indigenous rights in light of continuing violations of their rights to territory, identity, and way of life. With this grant, the Assembly of Guaraní identified and documented the social and environmental impacts of the oil industry and verified that these have come at the cost of a violation of their rights. Because their rights have been continually ignored, the community sought legal action to address the violations against them and was successful in negotiating a settlement of over $14 million that now serves the needs of the Guarani people.
Fundación Vida (Bolivia) - As in many other communities around the world, the Sacaca community in Potosí, Bolivia has experienced a change in rain and wind patterns as a result of climate change. Their crop cycles have shifted and food production is decreasing because new technologies are not achieving the same results as traditional knowledge. As a result, people are leaving the area. Fundación Vida examined the idea of a national plan to deal with climate change and, on a local level, supported traditional and contemporary strategies to adapt to climate change. Fundación Vida worked to recover and care for collective agricultural land, restoring traditional practices of shepherding and planting crops and medicinal plants.
Centro de Mujeres Aymaras Candelario (Bolivia) - In this region of Bolivia, climate change is evident in changing weather patterns like hailstorms and frost, and the agricultural calendar has shifted. Water sources have gone dry and there is less food because production has decreased. In the past the community has used traditional knowledge to prevent natural disasters like hailstorms and frosts and to understand the planting season. Traditional knowledge has taught the community to reduce their environmental impact and they are teaching their children to take care of the ecosystem and habitat. With funding from First Peoples, Centro de Mujeres Aymaras Candelario shared their traditional knowledge on a regional level and learned from other communities, followed by investing in conservation and protecting water sources, conserving traditional seeds and native species to prevent them from becoming extinct, and supporting the survival of wild species.
Koiyaki Guiding School (Kenya) - Since 2005, this Maasai-owned School provides training to area youth using traditional Maasai knowledge about the environment so that they can become guides in the local tourism industry, and offers shorter courses for experienced guides. Keepers of the Earth provided bursaries for students to learn about all aspects of ecology and tourism management including wildlife tracking, herbalism, vehicle mechanics, camp management, accounting, tourist cultures and needs, operation of communication and computer equipment, cultural presentation and promotion, and first aid. The goal was to train two guides and provide them with skills highly valued in the local tourism market.
Kole Development Link (Uganda) –This organization promotes production of high-yield crops for food and income security to reduce hunger and household poverty among post-war displaced Indigenous communities in the country’s Apac district. The Langi people worked with KDL to promote access to land as a productive resource. These communities resettled land that has long been fallow, which has lead to insecurity. Land is considered a commodity in government land laws, not a right. Nearly all of the land in the Apac district is communally owned and customary tenure is not recorded. Through this project, the Langi community regained access and ownership of their land, and now use it as a productive resource. Families joined together to collectively farm their lands, sharing responsibilities and outputs. Food surpluses were sold in local markets to generate further income for the community. In restoring land to the community, the Langi people have reclaimed their social, cultural, and natural assets.
Nkwolha Bundibugyo (Uganda) - An Indigenous Batwa organization in Uganda, Nkwolha Bundibugyo advocates for the rights of Indigenous groups by empowering them to improve their lives through economic activities. Through a bio-terra clay fuel project, the Batwa community used agricultural waste products such as coffee, rice husks, and cassava peelings mixed with clay to create fuel pellets for domestic and small scale industrial use. In addition to creating fuel pellets, the Batwa community also made the complimentary clay kilns. Because of the proximity of protected areas, even limited tree felling can result in prison sentences here, so this project served the dual purpose of drastically reducing the number of trees that would be felled for firewood and charcoal products and minimized the risk of prison sentencing. This project was suited to the community because of the immediate and lasting availability of project materials, the constant need for fuel, the ease of production for the community, and the need to further protect important forest resources. In executing this project, the Batwa earned necessary income for their community.
Literacy Action Development Agency (Uganda) - Biodiversity is highly threatened in Uganda and has become increasingly more so as a result of ecosystem conversion, invasive species, and deforestation. LADA’s integrated community biodiversity and wildlife conservation project is an action initiative aimed at reducing environmental challenges through community efforts. The project sought to reduce natural resource conflicts between the Indigenous community living near the Queen Elizabeth National Park and local wildlife, especially in regard to conflicts over water. LADA and the Banyabutumbi began collecting rainwater to provide clean and safe water to 50 Banyabutumbi households and constructed five 5,000-liter tanks. Local Indigenous individuals were trained as masons in order to construct and maintain this technology and share their knowledge with other communities. Because of access to clean water, trainings on the safe use of water, and installation of additional sanitary facilities, the rate of transmission of waterborne diseases has decreased. Although it is not an Indigenous-led organization, LADA worked very closely with the Banyabutumbi, who participated in the project design and implementation.
Uplifting, Promoting, and Supporting Burundi (Burundi) - Batwa in Burundi account for 1 percent of the population and, as in other countries in the region, they have lived a separate life for years. Very few of them have been to school or have tried to live a modern life. The government has shown no concern for them; however, their population has grown very fast and the land is now too small to accommodate the population and they can no longer be ignored. Their traditional skills of pottery-making have fallen by the wayside as cheaper imports are taking their place. The Batwa have often been treated as inferior and are ignored by the dominant society. This grant supported three objectives: to help Batwa people regain access to land through advocacy targeting local administration, people, and leaders; to support the Batwa in obtaining identification cards, marriage licenses, and birth certificates; and to support the preservation of cultural elements of the Batwa community by helping people record and share their traditional songs and dances. This project worked directly with Batwa villages, taking direction from the local village committees comprised of three men and two women in each community.
A World Institute for a Sustainable Humanity (AWISH) (Sierra Leone) – Sierra Leone is recovering from more than a decade of civil war. AWISH works with the Mende People to restore their agriculture related traditional practices to pre-war conditions. With Keepers of the Earth funds, AWISH helped the Indigenous Peoples of Kamboma, mainly women, establish a food storage facility to support cassava production and sales. Undertaking the storage facility project ensured that the chiefs and elders could influence the current chauvinistic social climate to create tolerance and inclusion of women in accessing land for cassava production. The project provided the community with food and the ability to store cassava for later income-generation.
Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association (Cameroon) - This association trained its staff and community facilitators on the impact of climate change and Indigenous and scientific mitigation practices, and using the train-the-trainer model, they developed mitigation strategies to take back to their Indigenous Mbororo-Fulani communities. Access to water in Cameroon is difficult, and this grant supported the protection of three water catchment sources where local plants and water-retaining trees were restored for use by the pastoralist community as medicinal sources for both animals and people.
In May 2009, First Peoples held a Roundtable meeting in Kenya to bring Indigenous Peoples together from across Africa to network, share best practices and challenges, and discuss funding available for community stewardship projects. As part of this meeting, the group was offered funding from the Keepers of the Earth Fund, and the group worked together to decide how to allocate the funding. The deliberations lasted nearly an hour with ideas ranging from giving money to the one community that needed it most (it was hard to determine this since funds were needed everywhere!), to divide it in equal or unequal parts, or to use it to facilitate regional plans. In the end, the representatives of the Mbendjele community in D.R. Congo were so adamant about sharing the funds equally based on their egalitarian values that the Mursi representatives from Ethiopia, who thought they needed the funds most, conceded. The decision was so simple in the end: the Mursi respected the Mbendjele and their beliefs enough to follow their lead to split the funds equally since access to funding is so limited.
Koiyaki Guiding School (Kenya) - A grantee of First Peoples since 2008 and host of the Africa Roundtable meeting at their school facility, the School plays a pivotal role in the Maasai community as it provides the only local curriculum for Maasai students to gain marketable skills in the field of tourism that are based on traditional knowledge and local practices. Because the Maasai community is so extensive in the Masai Mara region, the Koiyaki Guiding School received this grant for the community as a whole to initiate a forum for Indigenous Maasai landowners to co-manage their land and resources through learning exchanges and by sharing best practices to enhance biodiversity conservation and livelihood sustainability. They assessed the Indigenous community groups operating in the Mara region to discuss local visions. A two-day workshop at the Koiyaki Guiding School analyzed community group capacity, identified conservation planning tools and best practices within existing community conservancies, identified ways to integrate traditional Indigenous knowledge into resource planning, and developed an action plan to establish a regional conservancy and scout network among the Maasai. All of these objectives supported the goal of creating a Masai Mara Community Conservancies Network that allows Maasai communities to work together to leverage resources, share best practices, and work across the region to protect their natural and cultural assets.
Saru Enkiteng (Kenya) - This recently founded organization received its first funding from First Peoples Worldwide. The organization works for the promotion, protection, and effective conservation of natural resources through rational and sustainable use of the resources on Indigenous lands and territories for present and future generations. While the Maasai community had appointed a board for the organization, it lacked a central office and point of contact for local communities, so Saru Enkiteng used its very first grant to build its capacity to more effectively serve the Maasai community. Funds helped to formalize an operating office with communications infrastructure.
The Institute of Culture and Ecology (Kenya) - The ICE works to revive and promote Indigenous knowledge for environmental rehabilitation and conservation and to enhance local communities’ resource-based livelihoods and sustainable development using local knowledge. The goal of this project was to promote the role of Indigenous knowledge and sacred sites in protecting natural ecosystems at Kivaa Hill. Kivaa Hill has an important sacred site at the top, with other smaller sacred sites in surrounding areas. When the primary sacred site was being threatened by over-grazing, local elders raised their concern over imminent desecration of the site and eventual loss of natural biodiversity on the hill. The project restored respect for the sacred sites on and in the area of Kivaa Hill as a strategy for conserving local biodiversity and responding to adverse climate changes. This grant promoted the value of protecting sacred sites and assets and the importance of addressing climate change.
Sengwer Cultural Center (Kenya) - The SCC is a Sengwer-led research organization that uses its findings to protect and promote Sengwer Indigenous Peoples’ social, cultural, and economic rights. A key player in the conservation of the Cherangany Hills Indigenous Forests, the Sengwer community used this grant to reduce pressure on the Cherangany Hills Indigenous Forests by curbing deforestation and documenting the human rights violations of the Sengwer Peoples evicted from their ancestral homes in the Embobut Forest in hopes of some redress. In order to achieve these goals, the SCC held training and education workshops on the role of the Sengwer in forest stewardship and examined traditional indicators, impacts, and adaptation measures relevant to climate change. The Sengwer continue to establish tree nurseries, collect Indigenous seeds from the forests, and grow seedlings for reforestation, preventing the need for further deforestation for fuel.
The Indigenous Heartland Organization (Tanzania) - Established in 2003, this Maasai-led organization has been active in advocating for Indigenous Peoples’ rights, their continued relationship with natural resources, and crucial elements like access and benefit-sharing. In the Ngorongoro district of Tanzania, the organization has been engaged in advocacy for the active and effective participation of the pastoral Indigenous Maasai in management of Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Throughout its existence as a multiple land use area, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area has been known for its suppressive style of management which does not provide space for the Indigenous Peoples of Ngorongoro to fully participate in decision-making processes regarding their homeland. IHO thus sought to empower local Indigenous communities to voice their concerns and empower development for the inhabitants of the protected areas. Unique partnerships were forged between conservation initiatives and communities. The Ngorongoro Brotherhood Mission served as an effective mechanism for preventing and redressing any action aimed at depriving Indigenous Maasai of Ngorongoro their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities. The group petitioned the Tanzanian government through the Pastoralists Parliamentary Committee to stop the development of tourist activities in Spiritual Sites. The Maasai of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area prevented the violent eviction of 52,000 Indigenous residents from the area.
Native Solutions to Conservation Refugees (Ethiopia) - Native Solutions has a long-established relationship with the Mursi community, responding to Indigenous and local communities’ wishes when conservation and environmental factors threaten to displace them. It is committed to providing local solutions to local problems. The organization facilitated the development of a Mursi Community Conservancy and with funding from Keepers of the Earth, travel from their territory to urge local and regional Ethiopian government officials in Awassa and Addis Ababa to sign documents officially establishing the organization. They also met with other local Indigenous communities such as the Hamar and Ari tribes to discuss the possibility of joining in community conservation on their own territories.
Association Baaka de la Sangha (Peoples’ Republic of the Congo) – This association empowers Baaka people in the People’s Republic of Congo to engage in co-management of their forest areas with both logging companies and wildlife conservation organizations to address the Baaka needs. This grant from Keepers of the Earth represented this new organization’s first funding. With it, the Baaka built a series of small farms at established education centers so that young attendees would have a necessary lunchtime meal while attending school. At the time, only one Baaka had literacy skills and spoke sufficient French to represent his community to outsiders, so these education centers played a vital role in the Baaka community. Approximately 50 Baaka men and women cleared plots and grew crops from seedlings and the children helped to manage the small farms once they were established. An estimated 400 children benefitted from these farms. First Peoples is extremely proud of the steps the Baaka are taking and is excited to be their first funder.
Circle of the Defense of Environment (Democratic Republic of the Congo) - CEDEN works toward the reorganization of a healthy society, protecting and preserving natural resources for present and future generations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. To achieve these goals, CEDEN works with communities to monitor illegal logging, map Indigenous lands, promote logging alternatives, and ecological education. With Keepers of the Earth funding, CEDEN promoted the traditional ecological practices of the Batwa people using non-wood-based forest products, especially beekeeping, to increase their incomes. Communities were provided with beekeeping equipment and beehives were installed, while CEDEN provided training in monitoring honey production. Additionally, CEDEN worked with the Batwa to document their traditional knowledge around beekeeping activities. This grant enabled, for the first time, formation of a group of Batwa people to capitalize on traditional beekeeping activities. The revenue from these activities supported Batwa children to attend school, and provide for other household needs.
Foundation for the Sustainable Development of Altai (Altai) – This Indigenous-led organization provides the Altai community with environmental conservation and development services. With grant funding, the FSDA launched community-based discussions in four villages in two Indigenous districts of the Altai Republic. Community-driven and organized by elders, these discussions started as information sharing sessions on climate change and adaptation. The meetings included observations of climate change by local leaders, elders, shamans, herders and hunters. These talks are archived via audio and video recordings made by local Indigenous NGOs. The second and main topic of the discussions was the use of traditional knowledge in adapting to climate change. At these gatherings, Indigenous participants discussed traditional forms of land use including livestock breeding (sheep, goat, yak, camel, cattle, and horses), traditional hunting and fishing, and gathering berries, roots, and other non-timber forest products. Attendees examined the changes in these traditional resources, the cause of the changes, and community strategies for coping with drought over a 10- to 40-year cycle. Herd management is particularly important because local people depend on their livestock. Following the four village meetings, a larger forum was held at the Republic level for Indigenous Peoples, NGOs, and government and scientific circles to discuss the local, regional and global implications of the community-based discussions. This project enabled consideration of traditional lifestyles, land use, and knowledge as sources for adaptation to climate change.
Nei Tabera Ni Kai, Inc. (Kirbati) – In the islands of Kirabati, Keepers of the Earth grant funds were used to produce two short documentary films about climate change and its impact on Pacific island communities. The first film was about climate change and the impact of global warming while the second issued a call to the world to act to decrease the impacts of climate change before it is too late. These two films were incorporated into one DVD and distributed among the communities of Kiribati. Together the films created awareness and educated the entire Pacific region about the impacts of climate change.
Tapu Te Ranga Trust (New Zealand) - With funding from First Peoples, the Tapu Te Ranga Trust travelled to Maori communities and conducted workshop to discuss kaitiakitanga, traditional caretaking roles with regard to local environments. These workshops focused on how traditions inform action plans and strategies and ensure that Maori communities can mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. Tapu Te Ranga Trust presented seven major regional workshops during the holiday season when many Maori return home to spend time with their families. They engaged with 10,000 Maori students nationwide.
Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (Philippines) – This Indigenous-led group contributes toward the capacity building and self-confidence of Indigenous youth in the Asia-Pacific region by providing systems of information and exchange and networking. APIYN implemented an environmental campaign called Save Our Mother Earth Now!, aimed at mobilizing the artistic side of Indigenous youth in protecting the environment from further destruction. Through participatory video, educational discussions, capacity building, and training, APIYN furthered its mission among youth and made strides toward educating communities about climate change impacts and mitigation strategies.
Organisasyon Dagiti Nakurapay Nga Umili ti Syudad (Philippines) - As a result of climate change in the Philippines, the seasons are shifting and planting and harvest times must be adjusted to align with the rains. There is often not enough water for agriculture, and landslides wreak havoc on the region. Some of the traditional knowledge the Igorots practice today includes construction of stone walls to prevent landslides in mountainous areas, constructing dikes to prevent flooding in lowlands, crop rotation, seed revival and exchange, and sharing best practices between communities. A grant from First Peoples Worldwide helped the ORNUS strengthen traditional Igorot knowledge to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change through documentation, cross-learning experiences and research.
Federation of Matigsalug Manobo Tribal Councils (Philippines) – This federation used Keepers of the Earth funding to address unfavorable weather conditions due to climate change and its impact on farming, like decreased access to food and increased health problems because traditional medicine is less available. The Matigsalug Manobo tribe implemented a series of learning sessions for youth to pass along the Sunggod te Kamanga ritual to protect crops from rain or drought by receiving blessings from Manama (God) and Kallayag owey Pammula (Goddess of Agriculture). Additionally, traditional knowledge dictates that the community cannot cut trees from watershed areas or the Goddess of Water, Forest, and Mountains will bring illness and calamity such as soil erosion, reduced forest cover, and the depletion of water and medicinal plants. The Matigsalug Manobo elders continue to pass on this traditional knowledge to younger generations so they can continue to appease spirits and adapt to and mitigate climate change.