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The Role of Traditional Knowledge and Crop Varieties in Adaptation to Climate Change and Food Security in SW China, Bolivian Andes and coastal Kenya

Paper prepared for the UNU-IAS workshop on Indigenous Peoples, Marginalised Populations and Climate Change: Vulnerability, Adaptation and Traditional Knowledge, Mexico, July 2011

Indigenous peoples and local communities often live in harsh natural environments, and have had to cope with extreme weather and adapt to environmental change for centuries in order to survive. They have done this using long standing traditions and practices – or traditional knowledge (TK) – relating to adaptive ecosystem management and sustainable use of natural resources.

The three case studies presented provide evidence of the crucial role of traditional crop varieties, knowledge and practices in enabling adaption to changes in climate. The question is whether the climatic changes observed in these cases are human induced climate change or just natural changes. The findings show that indigenous farmers in SW China, coastal Kenya and the Bolivian Andes are already severely impacted by changes in climate, including drought, with serious consequences for crop production and food security. The scale of the changes, and the fact that they have occurred quite recently (in the last 10 or 20 years), suggests that they may be the result of human induced climate change.

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