Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Natural Justice contributes towards the OCSD Network 2015 Progress Update

Natural Justice’s “Empowering Indigenous Peoples and Knowledge Systems Related to Climate Change and Intellectual Property Rights” project, is one of twelve sub-projects within the Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network (OCSDNet).

The network recently released a funder progress report and a summary blog which highlights some emerging results. These include considering ethical issues engrained in processes of openness especially when working with communities that have been traditionally marginalized from mainstream processes of knowledge production – this is a key issue Natural Justice’s project is exploring with indigenous Khoi communities in South Africa.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Community Conservation Resilience Initiative, Ethiopia

“The assessment was a wake-up call, and each of us saw what we had lost”, this was how Adam Haji-jarso, a community member from Dinsho-02 kebele (an administrative unit), in the Ethiopian Highlands described how the results of the Community Conservation Resilience Assessment of which he was a participant, highlighted community conservation issues within his own community.

Mr. Haji-jarso, was referring to the results of a participatory mapping assessment facilitated by Tesfaye Tola, from the Ethiopian NGO MELCA, which was conducted in 3 neighbouring kebeles in the Bale Mountains area, Ethiopia. This assessment aimed to determine the status of Sacred Natural Sites (SNS) in the area. SNS are biologically diverse natural cultural centres where local communities gather to help one another, resolve conflicts, establish common law, and worship. Local communities in the area have stewarded their natural resources through SNS for generations.

The assessment revealed that historically there were 72 SNS within the kebeles, however over the last 50 years, 54 of these had been destroyed and only 18 currently remain. Through participatory processes communities analysed threats to the sites, challenges they currently face, and possible solutions. The assessment process facilitated communities to develop preliminary recommendations, and these included local issues such as creating a local network of SNS custodians, targeted financial and technical support, and advocacy at all levels including with national government.  Each of these could help to strengthen community conservation and resilience in the area.
Natural Justice’s Dr Cath Traynor assisted MELCA to produce the preliminary findings of the assessment, and a flyer is available here. The Ethiopian assessment of one of ten similar community assessments being carried out globally, and the preliminary results were presented at the recent Fostering Community Conservation Conference, earlier this month in Durban, South Africa. Further details of this global initiative are available on Global Forest Coalition’s webpages here. The multi-stakeholder conference produced key recommendations to policy makers which were disseminated at the 14th World Forestry Congress, 7-11 September in Durban.

Participatory Action Research into Traditional Knowledge and Climate Change

Dr. Cath Traynor of Natural Justice travelled to the Namaqualand area of the Northern Cape, South Africa to carry out Participatory Action (PAR) research with pastoralists and stock keepers in the area. She was accompanied by Reino Le Fleur, the project’s Community Co-Researcher from the Griqua community in Vredendal.

The PAR undertaken is part of the ‘Empowering Indigenous Peoples and Knowledge Systems  Related to Climate Change and Intellectual Property Rights’ project.  This project aims to assess how climate change is impacting communities, and how communities have produced indigenous knowledge related to addressing climate change and alternative strategies. The researchers interviewed an elder pastoralist and his son who is a stock farmer, and discussed similarities and differences in their livelihoods, and the impact of weather on their approaches and strategies to maintain healthy animals. Other elderly stock keepers were also interviewed and they shared their histories and experiences of stock keeping under changing environmental and socio-political conditions.

This research will contribute towards a process whereby the communities themselves will develop their own protocols regarding how they wish to collaboratively address the challenges of climate change in their own areas. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Adivasi Applied Theatre Workshop

In August, 2015, NJ explored the use of participatory theatre in the efforts to explore participatory ways of engaging with communities. The aim of using participatory theatre was to develop facilitation skills and deeper engagement with community members through tools from Forum theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed. The workshop was facilitated by Evan Hastings, a theatre artist and drama therapist who integrates Theatre of the Oppressed in his work.  Communities we work with in Odisha use forms of song and dance as a medium of expression, and hence it was felt that beginning our exploration in the use of theatre tools would be most appropriate with facilitators of processes in these communities.

This workshop is part of the ongoing process in Odisha of developing a community protocol with communities in the context of mining, and building capacity within community members and facilitators of the process to use creative practices to engage the community in critical thinking and reflection about their interests and priorities, to listen to the complexity of multiple viewpoints, and enable dialogue. This training used music, movement and theatre to facilitate meaningful community interactions, while grounding the process in cultural practices that honor traditional ways of knowing.

The three day workshop explored concepts of breaking and unlearning habits, power dynamics, meta-analyses of reactions from activities, and facilitating dialogues to address issues. There was also focus on breaking the ritual was used to give meaning to archetypal conflicts in relation to struggles faced by the community. The participants also created forum scenes in small groups with impossible tasks and the audience (the other participants) worked on resolving what they saw as the issues/problems within the scene.

Sharing from the participants was highly positive, with everyone feeling that there had been a good amount of unlearning and relearning during the workshop. To quote from what one of the participants said, “I learned that the first step is to respect and understand the community. What is my role and responsibility in the context? As NGOs, we suggest solutions – the community has ideas on how to solve problems, we just have to facilitate it.” Many participants were keen on using some of the tools in the community and further building their skills.