Indigenous knowledge for water management and conservation

Session Organizer(s): 
Abderrahim Ouarghidi

Climate change is changing the way Indigenous People interact with water around the world. Water scarcity is being experienced primarily in local, usually Indigenous communities. Likewise changes in marine and coastal ecosystems have far reaching impacts on local and indigenous communities. Yet, in many places, decision-making processes and water management are becoming increasingly commoditized and centralized. Centralized management systems rarely aligned with the indigenous communities’ needs and expectations. Governmental policies and high-tech solutions tend to focus on production, yield and off-take and often favour large scale agricultural and fisheries production, rather than sustainable and long-term use of resources. Conversely, indigenous people and their traditional practices have much to offer to sustainable water use: from traditional irrigation and water storage technology to traditional institutions for water and aquatic resource governance. Water is central to Indigenous Peoples, livelihoods, food security and spirituality. Around the world communities are facing changing water resources and aquatic ecosystems creatively and adaptively. Understanding the ways indigenous knowledge and practice around water is changing and evolving can inform new systems of management that recognize indigenous efforts and credibility to co-manage natural resources.

Ethnobiology has given a close attention to understanding the social-environmental systems and the traditional ecological knowledge of natural resources. However, little attention has been given to understanding the power dynamics between the indigenous and the new systems and how this can help impact the policy makers and the decision-making processes. This session aims to explore ways that Indigenous knowledge and practice can inform efforts towards better use of water and aquatic resources.