What follows are a few brief snippets (edited for length) from a much longer conversation with Marina Apgar of the Asociacion ANDES. I´ll be writing more about native potatoes, indigenous peoples and adaptation next week after a visit to the Potato Park on Tuesday!
Can you give a brief history of ANDES and its work?
ANDES has been around [for] 10 years. The focus [is] on indigenous conservation and development models. Most of the work has been in what we call the Potato Park, which is six communities of the district of Pisac in the Sacred Valley. For the last 10 years ANDES has worked on developing-- or I should say re-developing-- a traditional system of territorial governance and conservation…They work a lot on agro-biodiversity and on….the native potato…There's [also] a participatory tourism homestay program.
One of the [other] objectives is to influence policy…in the Cuzco region, in Peru and internationally. That’s done through working with the regional government in Cuzco and developing several ordinances, like one…against bio-piracy [and] one declaring Cuzco a GMO free zone…A few years ago ANDES [also] implemented the first stages of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a sub-global assessment which was carried out in the Ausungate area... ANDES was[also] chosen to host the secretariat for the Indigenous People's Biocultural Climate Change Assessment Initiative.
Is the idea with the IPCCA that you're providing training and access so that [indigenous peoples] can have influence on the UNFCCC?
No, it's much bigger than that…The core of what we do is to support and undertake local assessments…Currently we're in nine countries worldwide: Peru, Ecuador, Panama, North America with a Pacific Northwest tribe, Finland with the Sami, Kenya with the Masai, India…and Thailand.
The local assessments…empower communities to use their own frameworks and methodologies to conduct an assessment of climatic conditions and trends…leading to the development of adaptation strategies…The idea is that through the assessment they bridge traditional knowledge and…science.
…The thing with the indigenous [communities] and climate change is [that] it’s a very paradoxical situation. On the one hand you have historical resilience and the other hand you have clear vulnerabilities-- because of extreme events, [their] very direct relationship to the ecosystems, [their] traditional ways of life and…the historical discrimination they’ve faced…There's a lot of knowledge and practice in terms of dealing with climatic change but on the other hand…there's also vulnerability.
…Through that grounded action, we then--we being the secretariat-- synthesize what emerges from those local assessment[s] and feed that in to policy--- the IPCCC Fifth Report, the UNFCCC processes…The objective is to include local and traditional knowledge as an important part of understanding and deciding what to do about climate change.
…The other part [of the IPCCA] is the implementation of adaptation strategies or mitigation measures.
Within Peru, have those assessments been happening within the Potato Park?
And what have been some of the results?
Local assessments are a three year process, so here it's been about a year of implementation. So the first stage is about organizing the governance of the assessment, establishing a baseline.
[The baseline] is a starting point for what you're going to be analyzing or assessing. We do look at historical knowledge of climate change impacts, and that is something indigenous communities are very good at because they have collective memory, which has been passed down orally… So that is part of the baseline. Another part of it is using national meteorological data to look at trends...[We’re] trying to take a picture of where things are at, a little bit of where they've come from. There's a debate on how far back you have to look. Traditional knowledge gives you a very long timeframe, whereas …the meteorological data we can only look back for the past ten years.
There is more data, but it's difficult to access, it's not very reliable and it's very expensive. The other part of the baseline is the current situation [based on]…socioeconomic data. So then when you start to look at climactic trends…you're taking it from that starting point.
There's also parallel work [on adaptation]…We have for example a World Bank funded initiative…working on adapting native potatoes. Simultaneously, the Potato Park has worked for many years with the International Potato Center in Lima….Another initiative is to send botanical seeds (true seeds) to the Svalbard Seed Bank, so that's related to climate change work as well.