Third INMIP International Horizontal Learning Exchange
Biocultural Adaptation in Mountain Communities
Stone Village, Yunnan, China
In May 2016, more than 50 indigenous peoples and traditional farmers representing 18 mountain communities from China, Nepal, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Peru gathered in the Stone Village mountain valley in Yunnan province, southwest China for INMIP´s Third International Learning Exchange. The aim of the international exchange was to assess the effectiveness of biocultural heritage-based approaches for climate adaptation, share experiences, key methods and tools for adaptation, and strengthen the adaptive capacity of indigenous mountain communities.
China is a center of origin for Japanese millet, rice, buckwheat and soybean. Stone Village is rich in crop diversity, including maize, buckwheat, soybean and wild relatives, and the ancient capital of the Naxi people. Settled in the Jinsha River Valley, 126 km northwest of Lijiang City at an altitude of 1720 meters, the Stone Village has over 1300 years of ancestral mountain farming history. It was originally built during the Mid-Tang dynasty on a giant mushroom-shaped stone, where three sides of the giant stone are cliffs. The remaining side faces the Jinsha River, the Chinese name for the upper stretches of the Yangtze River. The minority Naxi people manage the landscape using traditional systems of crop diversification and indigenous water management that are adapted to their environmental conditions. The community has expanded in population and now incorporates higher-altitude terrains to satisfy the growing demographic. Today, upwards of 220 Naxi families live in Stone Village.
The exchange involved 3 events:
1) A bilateral walking workshop involving the Potato Park (Peru) and Stone Village communities to conduct a Biocultural Heritage Landscape Appraisal as the basis for establishing a Biocultural Heritage Territory like the Potato Park in the Stone Village.
2) A wider walking workshop involving all 18 communities from 5 countries, focusing on traditional water management systems, participatory plant breeding (PPB), out-migration and biocultural products/services.
3) A ‘policy dialogue’ with participants from the workshop on ‘Landscape Approaches for Community Sustainable Development in a time of Climate Change’, where the communities shared five Key Messages.
The communities stressed the importance of crop diversity to maximize productivity in heterogeneous mountain environments and to reduce the risk of crop failure in the face of climate change. They visited the Stone Village Community Seed Bank which has 108 varieties in total – community seed banks provide options for adaptation and enable recovery from extreme events. They learnt about participatory plant breeding (PPB) as a tool for climate adaptation by mountain communities – farmers and scientists work together to develop more resilient and productive varieties tailored to local conditions. The communities involved in PPB (in China and Peru) reported that PPB varieties perform much better in mountain environments than uniform hybrid seeds. PPB also conserves resilient landraces for adaptation. In Guangxi, soy landraces are being quickly replaced by hybrid maize – there needs to be more recognition of the ecological and social value of crops, rather than just considering the economic value.
Walking Workshop participants also learned about the Stone Village traditional water management system that provides water for drinking, irrigation and fire control to 14 villages in the watershed. In the Stone Village, customary laws ensure fair water allocation to all households, by day or night, depending on their location in the valley. This system has prevented water scarcity and conflict despite recurring drought in Yunnan for 9 years out of the last 10, whereas neighboring villages without such a system have been more affected by drought. The system is overseen by a water management committee and integrates related rituals.
The workshop culminated in the Stone Village Declaration that calls on governments, researchers and the international community to recognize the value of traditional knowledge and biocultural heritage, provide support for strengthening traditional resource management systems, especially water, and recognize gender differentiated roles and climate change impacts. It calls for support for preventing the rapid loss of traditional knowledge and enhancing inter-generational transmission; and for recognition of the role of traditional knowledge in providing low-cost, low-carbon alternatives to energy-intensive modern technologies. Finally, it calls on governments and the international community to recognize the International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples at the global level as an important mechanism for knowledge exchange and innovation for enhancing biocultural heritage and the adaptive capacity of mountain indigenous peoples.
Access the Stone Village Event Report for additional information on the workshop.