Posts Tagged ‘Africa’


Cultural Survival Launches New Indigenous Rights Radio Website!



Cultural Survival Launches New Indigenous Rights Radio Website!
Indigenous Rights Radio uses the power of community radio to inform Indigenous communities of their rights. We envision a world in which Indigenous communities, equipped with knowledge of their rights, are empowered to protect their lands, languages, and cultures.
Cultural Survival’s Indigenous radio producers gather stories from Indigenous Peoples around the world. In English, Spanish, and a growing array of Indigenous languages, we bring the voices of the Native peoples of Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas into dynamic dialogue about the meaning of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, their common struggles, and their evolving and innovative solutions to the problems they face today.

Source: Cultural Survival


World Bank Pressured to Dilute Indigenous Peoples Policy

According to the Bank Information Center, some African governments are pressuring the World Bank into restricting application of its Indigenous Peoples Policy in Africa, arguing that the term “Indigenous” is not applicable to their countries. Doing so would reverse decades of progress made by Africa’s Indigenous Peoples to gain recognition, and accelerate the onslaught of land grabs, evictions, and other irresponsible development tactics on the continent. Indigenous identity in Africa is certainly complex, but there are communities that unquestionably fit the UN’s working definition of Indigenous Peoples. The Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee has a network of more than 155 Indigenous organizations in 22 African countries.

The World Bank promised that the current overhaul of its social and environmental safeguards would not result in a dilution of its policies. Enabling African governments to “opt out” of its Indigenous Peoples Policy would violate that promise, and the implications would extend far beyond World Bank projects. Given the World Bank’s role as a global standard setter, this would allow governments and companies to justify continued disregard for the rights of some of the most marginalized communities in the world.

Sources: Huffington Post


Land Grabs Persist in Africa

In February 2013, Cameroon issued a decree returning a portion of illegally-seized forest to 18 Indigenous communities.  The land was leased by the government to United Forestry Cameroon (Private: Cameroon) in 2008 without FPIC from the communities.  The communities aligned with the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) and pressured the government into returning 14,000 hectares of their land.  The communities were unable to reacquire an additional 32,000 hectares that were taken from them because they could not prove their ownership.

According to RRI, some African governments are attempting to curb the land grabs that are sweeping the continent by strengthening their legal protections for communal land rights.  These protections often uphold communities’ rights to access and use their traditional territories, but not to own them, creating loopholes through which land grabs can still occur.  98 percent of forestland in Africa remains under the legal ownership of governments, compared to 67 percent in Asia and 36 percent in Latin America.  When companies obtain land from African governments for resource extraction, they must note the high probability that the land was taken from its original inhabitants without FPIC.

Sources: Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources


Who Are the Indigenous Peoples of Africa?


By Britnae Purdy

Ask someone to name an Indigenous People and they will likely say the Maori of New Zealand, the American Indians of North America, or the Aboriginals of Australia. These groups were the First Peoples that were colonized, marginalized, and all too often demonized. For better or for worse, membership to these groups is now government-regulated and they are widely recognized culturally and politically by the surrounding society.

However, who are the Indigenous Peoples in Africa? The term “First Peoples” is unhelpful since it applies to most Africans. It is important to identify Indigenous Peoples in Africa not to call them out as different, but to call attention to the marginalization and discrimination these people suffer, and recognize their unique cultural heritage that they want to maintain.

Therefore, in Africa, the term “Indigenous” is defined by a collection of shared characteristics among certain communities. These characteristics, as outlined by the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) and expanded upon by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) include:

Political and economic marginalization rooted in colonialism – Indigenous peoples’ cultures and ways of life differ considerably from the dominant society and are often under threat, with some to the point of extinction.

Particularities of culture, identity, economy, and territoriality that link hunting and herding peoples to their home environments in deserts and forests – Most indigenous groups in Africa today maintain a living through hunting and gathering, transhumant pastoralism, and traditional drylands horticulture. These groups are often geographically isolated or live in inaccessible regions. Survival of the indigenous  way of life depends on access and rights to traditional lands and the natural resources on them.

De facto discrimination based often on the dominance of agricultural peoples in the state system , and institutionalized or blatant societal discrimination, domination, and marginalization – These groups are vulnerable to domination and exploitation by national political and economic structures designed to reflect the interests and activities of the national majority. These forces violate indigenous peoples’ human rights, threaten the continuation of their cultures and ways of life, and prevent them from being able to genuinely participate in decisions regarding their own future and ways of life. This discrimination has a variety of effects on the indigenous communities:

– Some groups, such as the San and Pygmy, are physically distinct, which makes them subject to specific forms of discrimination.

– Indigenous peoples are often regarded as less developed and less advanced than the dominant sectors of society. They may be stereotyped as backward, primitive, uncultured, or embarrassing to national identity, and these stereotypes help legitimize official discrimination.

– Indigenous peoples are routinely victims of dispossession and eviction from land, which aggravates poverty levels and disrupts traditional knowledge systems,

– They are more likely to be denied the right to justice due to arbitrary arrests, unjust punishment, beatings, and harassment, suffer a lack of representation and legislation as few countries recognize the existence of indigenous peoples or include protection for them in their constitution.

– These groups also often face a lack of access to health and education due to lack of infrastructure, services, and the unsuitability of mainstream curriculum. Indigenous communities in Africa have low literacy rates and school attendance often 50 percent below the national level. These communities may suffer from high rates of domestic violence, crime, and depression as a result of the above-mentioned factors.

Though many characteristics overlap with those assigned to minority groups, it is important to note that referring to indigenous peoples as “minorities” is inadequate, as minority rights are formulated as individual rights, whereas indigenous rights focus on collective rights, e.g. a group’s right to their land, culture, language, religion, and resources.

The most common misconception when discussing the indigenous movement in Africa is that indigenous groups are seeking special rights. This is not true – groups that label themselves as “indigenous” adopt the term to bring attention to the fact that they have been routinely marginalized and discriminated against as a people. The modern usage of “indigenous” does not carry the patriarchal connotations that it was ascribed when used by settlers or the government, nor does it seek to establish hierarchy based on “who was here first.” Rather, according to IWGIA, “indigenous” today refers to a “global movement fighting for rights and justice for those particular groups who have been left on the margins of development paradigms and whose cultures and lives are subject to discrimination and contempt.” Self-identifying as indigenous “is a way for those groups to try to address their situation, analyze the specific forms of inequalities and repression they suffer from, and overcome the human rights violations by also invoking the protection of international law.”

The indigenous movement in Africa, in general, is still weak, with minimal capacity, though the movement is clearly growing. East Africa, in particular Kenya, has the strongest indigenous network with groups such as the Pastoralist Development Network of Kenya, the Pastoralists and Hunter Gatherers Ethnic Minorities Network, the PINGOS Forum, and the Tanzania Pastoralist and Hunter Gatherer Organization. The movement is weak in central Africa with some success in Rwanda and Burundi. The San of southern Africa are weak but mobilizing under the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in South Africa, while the indigenous movement is basically non-existent in West Africa. IPACC is currently the only pan-African indigenous organization.

Some fear that identifying groups as indigenous will lead to increased tribalism and ethnic conflict within Africa, but in fact the opposite is usually true – recognizing all groups, respecting their differences, and supporting their goals only enhances the democratization and stability of the region. Though the state of indigenous peoples in Africa remains tenuous, establishing a clear understanding of who is indigenous and the commonalities between indigenous groups is crucial to these groups gaining recognition, protection, and status from their governments.

(Photo: Cabell Brand Photos 2006)


Ethiopia’s Development Agenda Threatens Indigenous Livelihoods

by Nick Pelosi on Making the Business Case

A January 2013 report published by International Rivers details the negative impacts that the Gilgel Gibe 3 Dam, currently under construction in Ethiopia’s Omo River, is expected to have on an estimated 500,000 Indigenous Peoples in the region.  Communities in the Omo Valley, including the  MursiSuriNyangatomDizi and Me’en, practice a sophisticated system of flood-retreat agriculture and seasonal grazing that allows them to gain subsistence with minimal environmental impacts and coexist with Ethiopia’s large wildlife population.  The dam will compromise the agricultural productivity of the communities’ land by curtailing the Omo River’s annual floods, thus jeopardizing food security and creating potential for conflict among communities over strained resources.

Flood-retreat cultivation on the Omo River (Source: International Rivers)

Flood-retreat cultivation on the Omo River (Source: International Rivers)

The dam will also disrupt the flood cycles and increase the salinity levels of Lake Turkana in neighboring Kenya, the world’s largest lake, to which the Omo River is a tributary.  The dam’s negative impacts will be further exacerbated if Ethiopia moves ahead with large-scale sugar plantations in the region, which will require significant water resources to be used for irrigation.  Salini Costruttori, the Italian firm constructing the dam, announced plans to release annual controlled floods that will “fully compensate” for the loss of natural floods.

The European Investment Bank (EIB), which considered funding the dam, commissioned an independent study finding that the controlled floods were planned without an adequate assessment of the problems they are intended to solve or their likely effectiveness.  International Rivers, Friends of Lake Turkana, and other civil society groups engaged with the EIB on behalf of the affected communities.  The EIB’s Statement of Environmental and Social Principles and Standards require companies to pay special attention to Indigenous Peoples’ sensitivity to changes in socioeconomic contexts brought about by development projects, and to adopt policies that reflect the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  In 2010, the EIB announced that it would stop funding the dam.

International Rivers hailed the decision as a breakthrough for the affected communities and the environment, and called on the dam’s other potential funders, such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the Italian government, to do the same.  The EIB later released a statement declaring that its decision was based on the Ethiopian government’s obtainment of alternative financing sources, rather than the results of social or environmental impact studies.  Regardless, the case exemplifies how negative impacts of development on Indigenous Peoples can be mitigated when projects receive funding from the growing number of multilateral lending institutions that have incorporated Indigenous Peoples’ rights into their operating guidelines.


First African Land Forum

By Rachel Martin

Check out this article on the first African Land Forum held in Yaounde, Cameroon last week.  The forum was organized by the Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association of Cameroon  (MBOSCUDA), an organization dedicated to resolving the social problems of the Mbororo people, and the International Land Coalition, an organization that promotes equitable land access. The forum addressed the theme ‘Securing the land rights of indigenous people and rural communities’ and was attended by 95 participants from 22 different countries.

The attendees viewed presentations from nationally renowned land rights experts and activists, including Dr. Manu Ibrahim of the University of Dschang,  and Mr. Abdoulaye Harrissou, author of “Land, a Human Right: Micro-properties, Social Peace and Development.”

The event’s keynote speaker was MBOSCUDA’s National President, El Hadj Manu Giado. “The rich are becoming more interested in the land that belongs to the Indigenous and rural poor communities, who are considered as everlasting strangers who must leave their land,” said Giado in his speech addressing the importance of indigenous land rights.  “We are saying no, we are all Cameroonians, we are all Africans, and all of us have the same rights.”

The Forum also held a discussion on land reform and Indigenous Peoples, and the importance of gender equality and women’s land rights was present throughout the forum.

One of the most important events at the forum was the unanimous approval of the Yaounde Declaration, a document which identifies emerging problems related to land issues, and provides eight recommendations for African governments to ensure the protection of land rights for indigenous peoples.

Yussuf Nsengiyumva (International Land Coalition) and Fati Hassan (Grassroots Ghana) attend the African Land Forum (source: International Land Coalition)


Why do you think it’s important to talk and learn about Indigenous land rights? How are they different from other land rights? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!


Indigenous Anuak Submit Complaint to Inspection Panel over Forced Villagization

By Andrew Alesbury

The Anuak, an Indigenous group inhabiting the Gambella region of southwestern Ethiopia and southeastern South Sudan, recently submitted an appeal to the World Bank Inspection Panel to demand accountability for the organization’s contributions to grave human rights abuses. The complaint, accompanied by a legal submission drafted by Inclusive Development International (IDI), holds the World Bank responsible for human rights infractions against the Anuak and other natives groups of the Gambella, and demands to stop.

The Anuak claims the Protection of Basic Services Project (PBS), which is financed and administered by the World Bank, has directly donated $1.4 billion to an Ethiopian program of forced villagization since 2006. The complaint claims that officials whose salaries are paid by PBS are enacting villagization plans and that villagization is one of the major channels through which PBS is being carried out in the Gambella Region.

According to the Villagization Action Plan of the Gambella regional government, villagization is a voluntary process which affords people better access to basic services and food security, but the Anuak claims it is anything but that. Forced into refugee camps in Kenya and South Sudan, some Anuak give accounts of rape, extra-judicial murders, and other intimidation tactics. The camps provide little of the promised services and access to food. Meanwhile, much of the Anuak’s ancestral homelands has been sold to investors.

IDI has written the Bank’s Board of Executive Directors to advocate the prevention of PBS Phase III “until a thorough and impartial investigation has been conducted by the Inspection Panel into the links between PBS and forced villagization and robust safeguards and accountability mechanisms are put in place to ensure that PBS funds are not used to harm marginalized and vulnerable Ethiopian groups.”

 How might governments offer more services to Indigenous populations without relying on villagization? Read the IDI’s full report here and let us know what you think in the comments section!


Land Grabs Damage Indigenous Communities in Uganda

By Carol Dreibelbis

A report released earlier this year by Friends of the Earth International uncovers the widespread environmental and human rights costs of land grabbing—the buying or leasing of land that previously belonged to local communities by corporations, governments, or other outside investors. The report focuses on the Kalangala district of Lake Victoria, Uganda, but land grabbing has been recorded in more than 60 countries around the world.

According to the report, “we are now witnessing a new aggressive land grab, driven by high food prices and growing global consumption.” Some wealthy nations are interested in land grabbing to secure food supplies, whether due to their own lack of arable land, their resource-intensive eating habits, or—as in the case of Saudi Arabia—the damaging impact of climate change on their land. As a result, fertile agricultural land is increasingly undergoing privatization in land-rich developing nations. Additionally, companies and countries are grabbing swaths of forested land and replacing them with tree plantations in order to garner carbon credits through programs like the UN-REDD Program.

In the interest of increasing foreign investment, the Ugandan government has allowed a private sector consortium to develop oil palm plantations on large areas of land in Kalangala. Nearly 10,000 hectares have already been planted, covering almost a quarter of the land area in the district. Despite the fact that these lands have been occupied by Indigenous communities for generations under customary ownership, most landholders do not have—and have never before needed—land titles or certificates. As a result, residents are vulnerable to eviction and exploitation.

The report finds that oil palm plantations in Kalangala come at the expense of families’ livelihoods, food supplies, and water access. Farmers who lose their agricultural land also lose their incomes. Meanwhile, with oil palm now planted on land that had previously been used for food production, local food supplies have been reduced. This has caused more food to be imported to the island, increasing both food prices and food insecurity. There have also been reports of blocked access to communal wells and the destruction of wells due to the expansion of oil palm plantations. (To view video testimonials and photos of the affected communities, visit the Friends of the Earth International website.)

The report also reveals the serious effects that oil palm plantations have had on the environment. Forests have been cleared and wetlands have been drained, resulting in the loss of biodiversity and native habitats for monkeys, snakes, antelopes, water bucks, and other animals. The loss of forest cover has also led to increased problems with soil erosion, while the loss of wetlands has led to siltation problems in Lake Victoria. Remaining forested areas are now under increased strain as Indigenous Peoples continue to harvest wood for firewood and building materials. Water supplies have also been contaminated by pesticides and fertilizers used on the plantations.

David Kureeba of Friends of the Earth Uganda points out that the severe consequences of land grabbing threaten  local communities while benefitting foreign companies: “Small scale farming and forestry that protected unique wildlife, heritage and food of Uganda is being converted to palm oil wastelands that only profit agribusinesses.” In light of this, the report calls for a renewed dedication to small-scale, agro-ecological agriculture projects to promote the wellbeing of Indigenous peoples and their lands.

Land being cleared for a palm oil plantation in the Kalangala district of Uganda. Credit: Jason Taylor/FOEI

Do you know of any other land grabs that have threatened local communities and habitats? Please let us know in the comments section.


Combating the Effects of Climate Change with Indigenous Knowledge

By Andrew Alesbury

Meteorological experts in Tanzania are conducting research on Indigenous knowledge of weather forecasting and environmental protection to combat the effects of climate change. The Tanzania Meteorological Agency (TMA) is working with four other organizations to incorporate Indigenous knowledge with scientific data to generate strategies on how to cope with the effects of climate change.

Funded by the Norwegian government, four additional institutions will be participating in the research including the Sokoine University of Agriculture, University of Dar es Salaam, Ardhi University, and University of Life Sciences and Environment of Norway.

Dr. Agnes Kijazi, Director General of the TMA, explains that the research will document how Indigenous Peoples used the entities of nature, such as soil, water, plants and animals, to predict the weather. The research will also focus on how the knowledge can be used to address the effects of climate change, including droughts and floods.

What are some other ways that Indigenous knowledge could be applied to combat climate change? Tell us in the comments section!



FPW and the Africa Grantmakers Affinity Group Host Teleconference on “Approaches to Grassroots Direct Funding to Indigenous Communities in Africa”

Next Friday, September 28, 2012, funders and donors are invited to a conference call hosted by the Africa Grantmakers Affinity Group and First Peoples Worldwide (FPW) on “Approaches to Grassroots Direct Funding to Indigenous Communities in Africa.” Neva Morrison, First Peoples Worldwide’s managing director, and two FPW grantees, Richard Leiyagu and Mosses Ndiyaine, will present on the call.

Neva Morrison will discuss our Keepers of the Earth Fund’s approaches to grassroots direct funding to Indigenous communities in Africa.  She will talk about what sustainable development and grassroots funding means to Indigenous African communities, and how funding in Africa might compare to other areas of the world.

Richard Leiyagu, chairman of the Loiborkineji Self Help Group in Kenya, is retired from the Kenya Defense Forces and served in several United Nations peace-keeping missions. Currently, Richard volunteers in several Samburu communities helping them address historical injustices, especially land rights. Richard will speak about the Samburu community’s current land battle in Kenya.

Mosses Ndiyaine, the executive director of the Indigenous Heartland Organization of Tanzania, will speak about the current evictions of Maasai in Tanzania. The Indigenous Heartland Organization (IHO) is registered in Tanzania as a national non-profit organization, to facilitate the empowerment and development of Indigenous People living in or adjacent to protected areas by forging unique partnerships between conservation initiatives and local communities. Mosses works in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of Tanzania.

The Africa Grantmakers’ Affinity Group (AGAG) is a network of funders whose mission is to promote increased and more effective funding in Africa through building and sharing knowledge.  AGAG is a project of the Tides Center.

This call is only open to funders and donors. The call begins at 1 PM Eastern on Friday, September 28, 2012, and you must RSVP by sending an email to to participate.  Call-in information will be sent to participants upon RSVP.