Friday, July 13, 2012

Indigenous knowledge 'invaluable' for Andean adaptation

Emily Kirkland in AlertNet:  In Eastern Africa, severe drought is causing massive famines. In the United States, temperature records are soaring due to one of the warmest winters in decades. From pine beetle infestations in the Rockies to thinning ice in the Arctic, the impacts of climate change are inescapable.

Adapting to these changes is not an easy task. In addition to using modern science and engineering, we will need to draw on indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge. This knowledge is an invaluable and often overlooked tool for adaptation.

Indigenous peoples have extensive knowledge of their local environments, gained through hundreds of years of observation and trial and error. They possess a large repository of strategies, skills, and techniques for dealing with climate variability.

Three examples from the Peruvian Andes – included in a Brown University paper - illustrate the importance of the role of indigenous knowledge for adaptation. In the southern Andes, an archaeologist named Ann Kendall is working with local communities to recover Inca-era terraces long abandoned as ruins. These terraces can successfully retain water for prolonged periods, allowing farmers to withstand droughts.

In nearby Cusco, six mountain communities have banded together to conserve hundreds of native potato varieties. Unlike imported white potatoes, many native varieties are resistant to heat, drought, and crop pests making them a more resilient option in the face of climate impacts....

Peruvian potatoes, shot by Edgar Amador Espinoza M., Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license 

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