Grants Awarded 2010
In 2010, Keepers of the Earth Fund awarded grants totaling $305,171.
Literacy Action Development Agency (Uganda) – This agency’s integrated community biodiversity and wildlife conservation project is an action initiative aimed at reducing environmental challenges through community efforts. A previous grant to LADA provided the necessary financial resources to construct five 5,000-liter water tanks, and provide masonry training to youth so they could maintain the tanks. Creating access to clean and safe water decreased the rate of waterborne illnesses, and lessened the time to search for water so that women of the community could concentrate on providing for other needs of the family. This grant enabled LADA to continue its work with and for the Banyabutumbi in constructing water tanks in nine additional villages.
Volunteers for Development Association (Uganda) – First Peoples partnered with VODA to offer its Learn, Document and Act Project to 1,200 students in the Mukono District. These students were given the cultural tools to return to the traditional Kojja and Senga teachings through seminars, debating clubs, Back-to-the-Roots learners’ competitions, Indigenous First Aid documentation, and a model Indigenous resource center. These alternative activities gave kids the opportunity to engage with their elders in meaningful ways that strengthened the social and cultural fabric of the community while learning to apply their learning to everyday life situations.
A World Institute for a Sustainable Humanity (AWISH) (Sierra Leone) - This is the second grant AWISH received to continue its food security work initiated in 2008, in which the Indigenous Peoples of Kamboma, mainly women, established a food storage facility to support cassava production and sales. This second grant enabled the community to expand its food security work and include five additional communities who worked to improve inland valley swamp rice production. The organization engaged directly with the Indigenous communities of the Bambara Chiefdom of Kenema District to listen and identify the communities’ priorities of establishing additional infrastructure for community food security. Although the second project introduced more contemporary methods of processing rice, the installation of mechanized rice processing propelled the community toward self-sustainability through training to manage the equipment and facility, and improved its ability to compete in the regional agricultural marketplace. Technically, the processing machine moved the communities away from traditional rice threshing, but improved the community women’s preparedness to meet their traditional roles in subsistence and domestic responsibilities. As well, AWISH sponsored capacity building for community members to learn how to maintain and manage the new equipment, in order to take total ownership of the project.
Mara Widows Development Group (Tanzania) – In Musoma-Mara, this group implemented its Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge to Manage Land and Natural Resources project. Its purpose was to expand the existing fuel-saving stoves program by forming Village Environmental & Tree Planting Committees in 18 villages. The committees learned stove construction and installation as a way to decrease tree-felling for firewood. The Group also developed and disseminated educational materials about traditional conservation for adapting to and mitigating climate change.
Indigenous Heartland Organization (Tanzania) - Based in Arusha, this Maasai-led community organization was established to empower and implement programs for Maasai Peoples living in or adjacent to protected areas by forging unique partnerships between conservation initiatives and local communities. Indigenous Maasai peoples are natural allies to conservation, having traditional mechanisms to manage biodiversity. However, they pay the high price for being subjects of poverty because of tourism and other influences. This second grant to IHO helped them to partner with Muruna to create the Indigenous Maasai Cultural Center (IMCC), to collect, preserve, and promote Maasai use of traditional knowledge, spiritual values, and pastoralist dignity toward enhanced livelihoods and cultural integrity. The IMCC is a research facility housing information about language and traditions, as well as the documentation of elders’ memories of territorial management. It also serves as a training center for locals to develop skills in tourism (i.e., guides, outfitters, interpreters, etc.), co-management policy development, folklore, and the arts.
Maasai Women for Education and Economic Development, Ogiek Peoples Development Program, and the Ogiek Cultural Initiatives Program (Kenya) - Kenyans had been working to establish a new constitution since attaining self-rule from British colonial power in 1963 (Kenya’s constitution was formulated in London and put in place to govern the country). The constitution reflected the colonial legacy and had often been used by the government to abuse human rights and marginalize Indigenous groups. Neither the Maasai nor the Ogiek have been at the table in Kenya when decisions were made that concerned them. After years of debate on the constitution, endemic corruption in high office, and a recurrence of ethnic hostilities in the last national election cycle, Kenya moved toward a referendum vote on a long-debated new constitution. With only a few months to get organized, First Peoples’ flexibility in its grantmaking made it possible to support these three groups to participate in developing the new constitution. The groups’ civic education activities included poster-making and public announcements, distributing copies of the draft constitution, conducting workshops to help people understand the possibilities that inclusion would provide, and drafting language to be included in the new constitution. In a matter of months, many came to understand that they could regain rights and resources on voting day, and today, the Kenya Constitution recognizes the country’s Indigenous groups, acknowledging hunter-gatherer, pastoral, forest-dwelling, and nomadic groups, as well as their traditions, customs, languages, and livelihoods. The constitution also provides for nominating Indigenous representatives to seats in the national parliament, includes them in land reform measures, authorizes land use according to Indigenous customs, and enshrines the Indigenous right to self-determination. Through a national Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, it commits Kenya to the redress of historical injustices. And by entrusting revenues to county government councils, rather than to an all-powerful central presidency, it will channel regular funding to local priorities.
International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) (Alaska) - The IITC is comprised of Indigenous Peoples from North, Central, and South America and the Pacific. It works for human rights, environmental justice, and self-determination for Indigenous Peoples and the recognition and protection of their rights, treaties, traditional cultures, and sacred lands. The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) agrees that the problem of mercury contamination is a serious global threat and has mandated that a global treaty be created. The IITC received a grant to represent Island Sustainability Alliance Cook Islands (ISACI), California Indian Environmental Alliance (CIEA), and Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) as the lead negotiator in the first working session to prepare a global, legally binding instrument on mercury contamination. The IITC’s participation was to ensure that Indigenous perspectives and needs were reflected in the language used to prepare the final UN Mercury Treaty.
Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority (USA) - The OSPRA serves as the fiscal agent for a well-respected tribal elder and spiritual leader to document his experiences in the promotion and protection of Indigenous resources, based on many exchanges with Indigenous communities in Europe, South America, and Canada. The purpose is to share Indigenous best practices and continued growth of a network of Indigenous practitioners. These experiences served as a learning mechanism and resulted in a new global Indigenous promotion and protection strategy.
Fundación Tradiciones Mayas (Guatemala) - This grant provided funding for FTM to continue developing and offering its Natural Medicine Project in the community. The previous grant supported training of 15 traditional healers and five young adults from 10 communities in the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala. The original trainees received advanced training, and FTM conducted preventative medicine workshops in 10 communities for 300 Maya clinics, and the 20 trainees will be the access point for affordable traditional medicines in their communities.
Arctic Health Research Network (Yukon Territory, Canada) - This organization is a Vuntut Gwitchin (Peoples of the Lakes) First Nations-led organization whose mission is to facilitate and promote community-based, Northern-led, health research activities aimed at improving the health of Yukon First Nations and non-First Nation residents. The community is Old Crow, the northernmost community in the Yukon, Canada, with a population of 280 people; 95 percent are Vuntut Gwitchin citizens. Their lives and culture are traditionally based on the Porcupine caribou herd, the people’s main source of food, tools, and clothing. Fish and other animals have supplemented their diet in nutritionally and traditionally important ways. This way of life is changing every day before their very eyes. The mainstays of their traditional diet, the caribou and the salmon, are rapidly declining in numbers. Their name tells of the peoples’ connection to one of the biggest wetlands in North America. Changes to the land and water are taking their toll on the very existence of the Gwitchin peoples. The lakes are disappearing and the permafrost under the tundra is melting away. The environment in which the people travel, the waterways and the land, have changed drastically in just a very few recent years. The group is increasing international awareness of the effects of global warming on the lives of Arctic Indigenous Peoples, and their struggles to adapt to vast and rapid climate changes. The group produced a 45-minute video documentary, Our Changing Homelands, Our Changing Lives: Increasing Global Awareness on Climate Change and Food Security in the Western Arctic, with contributions from Health Canada. The Keepers of the Earth Fund helped the Arctic Health Research Network to premiere the film on Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, and submit the film to various International film festivals across Canada, such as the Banff Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival.
Friends of Akwesasne Freedom School (Canada)- The Friends of Akwesasne Freedom School, as the fiscal agent for the Moon Lodge Society - Sisters in Spirit Project, received a third grant to support the ongoing practice of Native American ceremonies in honor of the sacred feminine. The overarching goal was to strengthen women’s ability to utilize traditional teachings to guide their daily lives by participating in ceremonial activities that renew and strengthen their social status and traditional roles in community and family. The women used this grant to assess the progress of the society to achieving autonomy and meeting the needs of the women.
Sarstoon Temash Institute of Indigenous Management (Belize) - In 2007, Keepers of the Earth Fund helped SATIIM to design and implement its co-management plan with Maya Leaders Alliance, which affirmed customary land title for the Maya communities of Conejo and Santa Cruz. Since 2008, SATIIM has successfully piloted two Maya Community Forest Enterprises, generating income for the communities and strengthening local stewardship of resources. With additional support from Keepers of the Earth, SATIIM established greater control over tourism in its region as a way to protect the Maya Peoples’ traditional resources and sacred sites. They hired Rangers to monitor threats to biodiversity (i.e., illegal hunting, fishing, and logging) through joint patrols with the Belize Defense Force, and developed a database for cataloguing traditional foods and medicines in the communities.
Asociación Coordinadora de Comunidades Indigenas de El Salvador (El Salvador) - This Nahuat community organization participated in developing a sustainable community through a prior grant awarded to the Indigenous Permaculture Program (IPP). After four years of work in Sonsonate, ACCIES had taken full ownership of the project and community connections are thriving as local communities work together to exchange information and knowledge as a means of advancing toward sustainability. ACCIES continued its sustainable community work and installed solar pumps and composting toilets, and provided training on how to use these new resources. Two additional communities were included, reaching between 60 and 100 more people. Through Indigenous-to-Indigenous networking and empowerment, this project promoted staying “green” using sustainable energy tools to maintain and uphold Nahuat culture.
Karen Human Rights Group (Burma) - The KHRG is an independent local organization committed to improving the human rights situation in Burma by projecting the voices of villagers and supporting their strategies to claim human rights. Their Village Agency Project continues to form a major component of their field research program and has twin objectives, which are to positively influence outside perceptions and understandings of Karen villagers by incorporating a ‘Village Agency perspective’ into KHRG’s reporting and advocacy; and to help villagers identify and strengthen the strategies they are already using to resist human rights abuses through Village Agency Workshops. In order to carry out the project, KHRG trained their field and office staff on the Village Agency concept and its application, conducted Village Agency human rights workshops across the rural Karen State, researched villagers’ resistance strategies, incorporated a Village Agency perspective into KHRG’s human rights reporting, conducted Village Agency advocacy and briefings, networked and provided feedback to villagers, and implemented project monitoring and evaluation.
Independent Bougainville Information Service (Soloman Islands) - This tiny group assistedthe Indigenous Women Landowners Association create infrastructure within its organization, which was formed because in Mekamoui/Bougainville women own the land. Therefore when they are given the opportunity they voice their rights and freedoms. The Association was successful in saying “no” to the largest open pit mine in the South Pacific Ocean, and the mine was closed as a result. Twenty-one years later, the mining company threatened to re-open the mine. The Association purchased additional radio and computer equipment to communicate to the outside world about the environmental destruction and social problems that resulted from the mine’s past operations.
Cordillera Peoples Alliance (Philippines) - The CPA received a second grant for its ongoing efforts to defend and access ancestral domain and resources. The CPA conducted community seminars on mining and human rights; trained community people on public speaking and advocacy; held the Cordillera Regional Forum and Mobilization during International Human Rights Day; and disseminated press releases, held press conferences, published informational brochures, and displayed photo exhibits to support their campaign.
Hokotehi Moriori Trust (New Zealand) - Based in Wellington, this group implementedthe Peace, Sustainability and Respect for the Sacred project. Traditional elders from Rekohu, Hopi, Taiwan hill tribes (Bunum and Tayal Peoples), Tahltan/Tlingit, Native Hawai’ian, aboriginal Australian and Torres Straights, and Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations met and shared their respective peace traditions and collaborated to develop a Statement of Intent on ethical and other matters involving the use of Indigenous knowledge regarding plants and animals. The elders leveraged their participation in the larger International Society of Ethnobiology conference in Tofino, Canada on their quest to further embed respect for the sacred into scientific research and methodology, through both the working session and the Statement of Intent. The Maori word for sessions such as this is wananga, which refers to a concentrated place of teaching and learning.
Gilgit-Baltistan Policy Institute (Pakistan) - This project identified Indigenous Peoples living in isolated valleys and listed their concerns regarding natural resource management. They wanted to establish a network of Indigenous Peoples so that their ongoing concerns could be incorporated into the legislative process. They identified and mapped the locations of their people, established a list of natural resource management concerns, and established an umbrella network of Indigenous Peoples.
Indigenous Knowledge and Peoples Network (Southeast Asia) – This regional network in Southeast Asia was formed to strengthen local networks and the identity of Indigenous communities, and to revitalize, promote and protect Indigenous knowledge. The network comprises Burma, Cambodia, Lao PDR, China, Thailand, and Vietnam. Keepers of the Earth funds supported the Mae Lan Kham and Aub Khan River Basin Network communities to gain capacity in managing, preserving, and using their natural resources based on traditional systems, which are balanced and sustainable. These highland communities implemented and maintained a sustainable land use system that provided for their food needs while preserving the environment and rebuilding soil health. Through zoning activities that identified boundaries within which the people could practice traditional land management, the communities established co-management committees to carry out monitoring and evaluation of these practices that would help them develop land use plans that respect Indigenous knowledge and practices with the National Park System.
Youth Connect (Thailand) - A project of R2G Foundation, this is an organic farming project established at a school in Mae Sot, Tak, to provide education to migrant children, predominantly from Karen State in Burma (Myanmar). There are about two million Burmese refugees and migrants in Thailand and they are not able to practice traditional farming due to their displacement by war. About 100 children were involved in planting a start-up garden, learning organic farming, and making and using effective micro-organisms. The children also learned life and occupational skills through mainly traditional farming practices. Karen people were invited to share Indigenous farming knowledge that contributed to youth learning life skills they can use in Thailand or Burma.
Borneo Resources Institute (BRIMAS) (Malaysia) - This group used their grant to facilitate cross-border exchanges of knowledge on forest and energy-related issues. Borneo is the world’s third-largest and third-highest island in the world and home to some of the last remaining tropical rainforests. In addition to being home to a diverse number of plant and animal species, these forests possess the potential to act as vast carbon stores for the world. The Indigenous Dayak, Kadazandusun, and other forest peoples of Borneo have in various ways acted to ensure that much of these forests remain intact, and are more than guardians to one of the last storehouses of the world’s carbon and biodiversity. They hold the knowledge that enables them and the forests to live sustainably. Adat, or tradition and customary law, represents the Indigenous identity, culture, and way of life, and is how they have long managed their forest resources. Their traditional livelihoods are as subsistence farmers and hunter-gatherers. The most prevailing threat to the forests was logging, but the people now face the wholesale destruction of their lands through the replacement of the forests with palm plantations, spurred by a global demand for edible oils and biofuels. The encroachment of oil palm concerns is more than into territories of Indigenous Peoples, but seems to be across borders between Indonesia and Malaysia. Safeguarding their rights to avoid deforestation schemes has become the number-one priority. The information shared and gathered in these exchanges served as the foundation for a database of community-level knowledge on specific threats to Borneo forests, enabled community-level awareness about global threats, and helped to identify common concerns, share best practices on network building, and create an island-wide network of communities actively involved in the protection of their forests and adat.
Lokhit Pashu Palak Sansthan (India) - This organization was founded to support traditional landless livestock keepers (pastoralists) locally, nationally, and internationally through a combination of rights-based approaches and practical support (animal health services, marketing, training, etc.). Based in Rajasthan, India, the organization advocates policies that support ecologically and socially sustainable livestock production favorable to pastoralists. The Van Vagri people are traditionally hunters and forest-dwellers who lived in isolation until about 30 years ago. Population pressures accompanied by decline of animal resources led to the downfall of their traditional economy, and the Van Vagri, looking for alternative livelihoods, began to settle into villages and new social relationships. Because of its leading role in advocating for Indigenous rights, the LPPS facilitated a community effort to engage government stakeholders in the needs of the Van Vagri Indigenous community. The LPPS facilitated a convening of government officials and politicians with members of the Van Vagri community to create visibility and awareness of the needs of the people, hoping to gain formal recognition and identification of the people by the government, and then begin the process toward land access and ownership.
Foundation for the Sustainable Development of Altai (Altai) - This Indigenous-led foundation helped its Todhzi Peoples make an inventory of their sacred sites and protect their traditional lands from Russian and Chinese industrial companies. The Todzhi are a rare reindeer culture whose language is of Turkic origin. The people, numbering about 600, still migrate in a vast mountain area between Russian Altai, Tyva and Buryatya Republics and lead a nomadic way of life. They inventoried the spring waters, sacred forests, ritual places, mountains, and mineral deposits excavated by industrial companies. The research was conducted by Todzhi Peoples and was provided to the Todzhi elders and community to plan for the protection of their resources.
Forest Action Nepal (Nepal) - Khumbu, the famous Sherpa homeland and site of Sagarmath (Mt. Everest) National Park, has been one of the Himalaya’s most sacred regions for Buddhists for 1,200 years. It is the home of more than 5,000 Sherpas. Khumbu was declared a sacred hidden valley and Buddhist sanctuary (byul) by Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), a founder of Buddhism in Tibet. All wildlife is protected in Khumbu. Sherpa spiritual leaders believe that the Sherpa people have a responsibility to care for Khumbu as a sacred place, including protecting all its life. The Sherpas practice Shingi Nawa, the traditional community management of forests, and Lothok Nawa is the traditional land management system. Their issues include government issuance of climbing permits on the sacred mountain, negative impacts of tourism, ignoring Indigenous resource management practices, eroding culture and tradition, and influence and politics of conservation agencies. They sought recognition and respect of their Indigenous Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs), and recommended that international funding should go directly to the local stakeholders. They wanted more rights and decision-making power for local Sherpa in conservation initiatives, and formed the Khumbu Sherpa Culture Conservation Committee to preserve their culture, traditions, and the natural environment. Through Forest Action Nepal, a non-Indigenous-led organization, the Sherpas implemented the Advancing Rights and Forging Solidarities Among ICCAs project, a short-term project that responded to the needs of the Sherpas, enhancing public discourse on ICCAs in Nepal, synthesizing best practices toward official recognition of ICCAs, and sharing knowledge in workshops to work to develop policies that protect ICCAs, all toward the formation of a national federation of Indigenous Peoples and ICCAs.
Participatory Nature Conservation (Mongolia)– This Nomadic Livestock Herder Community Network used a small grant from Keepers of the Earth Fund to help Indigenous communities to conserve their lands, participate in policy-making, collaborate with other networks, and share experiences and issues.