How can Traditional Ecological Knowledge support the acceleration of the implementation of the environmental dimension of the SDGs?

Kivi Lydia Vito
Kivi Lydia Vito
Lydia is The Indegenous's Editor and Public Relations Associate. She has a strong desire to be a voice and advocate for indigenous people and communities on social issues.‍

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as Global Goals, are a step toward ensuring that all nations have a more sustainable future. It was formed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 with the purpose of achieving 17 goals by 2030, which include combating climate change and environment management.

The development of the Sustainable Development Goals was a significant step forward for environmental progress in the months ahead, which will be crucial for a collaborative approach to commemorate Stockholm 1972 and define a direction for the planet during Stockholm+50, allowing people of all regions and communities to contribute efforts to conserve the environment and build a sustainable approach to environmental preservation.

Indigenous Knowledge for Sustainability

Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is the traditional and cultural transfer of information and beliefs about the coexisting environment and the natural beings from generation to generation.  TEK from indigenous practices is associated with environmental sustainability and is largely focused on specific geographic regions, but what were once purely ecological concerns for indigenous and native peoples have now become a global concern.

"Indigenous peoples and local communities have accumulated knowledge and values about nature over generations. Over 80% of the planet's remaining biodiversity is stewarded by indigenous peoples" the official page of UN Climate Change stated.

Image credits: East Mojo 

Despite accounting for just around 5% of the world's population, native and indigenous peoples manage at least 11% of the planet's forest, which accounts for about 80% of the planet's biodiversity. Indigenous peoples exist in around 693 of 867 ecological zones, representing about 80% of all terrestrial ecological regions which are home to half of the world's indigenous communities. As a result, environmental preservation is intrinsically linked to their quality of life.

Indigenous religions and animism present a religious concept by revealing fundamental values and beliefs intricately linked to the natural environment. Therefore, when we observe traditional environmental knowledge through the eyes of indigenous and local communities, we see that it originates from religious traditions that consider nature as one.

Many indigenous people in Nagaland also collect and store rainwater in reservoirs along mountain slopes for irrigation and other uses, which helps to reduce soil erosion known as Zabo. These gathered waters are then channeled through animal dung, which provides nutrients, and onto rice fields, an indigenous rainwater conservation strategy cantered on Traditional Ecological Knowledge. 

In Burkina Faso, the ancient practice of Zai was restored in the 1980s, when tiny pits were dug in the ground and filled with compost, manure, and seeds just before the rainy season began. This TEK practice helps conserve precious water while also enhancing soil fertility, which is important given the uncertainty and loss of rainfall. The traditional approach is used in Niger, Mali, Senegal, and Chad, and it is assisting African areas. 

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a strong commitment to the ecology and believe that they are inextricably linked and that they have a responsibility to protect it.  These indigenous people were taught to respect the environment and believed that they should take only what was necessary and not waste anything, thus practising sustainability.

Previously, most activities of traditional ecological knowledge were viewed through colonial perspectives as myths or religious practices related to paganism or animism due to a significant lack of scientific investigation. Most of them were unaware that these indigenous traditions have been observed for years and passed down through generations, and that as newer generations use these methods, they adapt to the changing environment and improve in order to develop a sustainable practice

Since these practices serve the development of environmental management and maintenance and are, by their very nature, archival, traditional ecological knowledge should be widely taught to maintain these approaches since they are so closely linked to the environment. This improved knowledge can contribute to the acceleration of the SDGs, and the methods of traditional ecological practices can also be included in the developmental plans of environmental management projects and plans for the contemporary drive to transform and promote environmental consciousness.


Inclusion of indigenous people in efforts to address environmental issues. 

The Earth Summit of 1992 outlined the value of indigenous peoples and their communities in environmental preservation, and it was at the summit that indigenous peoples gathered to express their concern about environmental challenges. Now the  Stockholm+50, which will take place 50 years after the 1972 Stockholm Conference, will commemorate the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and support the acceleration of long-term environmental recovery.

1. Indigenous Peoples' Human and Environmental Rights

Indigenous peoples have been recognised by the International Labour Organization Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, 1989 (ILO No. 169) and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which would include the rights to lands, territories, and resources, as well as collective rights.

To address environmental challenges, indigenous peoples and native communities from all regions must be included in policymaking and the acceleration of the SDGs' environmental components, which may be accomplished through the Stockholm+50 international conference and forum.

We may also achieve this through assisting and supporting these communities' attempts to secure indigenous rights, as well as integrating indigenous and native communities in environmental solutions.

2. Indigenous knowledge of the environment

David Kaimowitz, Senior Forestry Officer, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and Manager, Forest and Farm Facility stated “We cannot protect forests without Indigenous Peoples. We know that forests do better when indigenous land rights are respected, with lower deforestation rates and carbon emissions. Without them, we cannot win the race to save the planet.”

Environmental degradation has a direct impact on indigenous existence since their way of life has always been inextricably linked to the environment, given that indigenous peoples from all over the world occupy at least a quarter of the land. We must realize that indigenous peoples are the ones most impacted by environmental issues.

Since the majority of indigenous and native cultures' traditions and practices promote the long-term use and protection of land, engaging indigenous and native communities in environmental solutions through the utilization of their TEK methods is a definite plus.

 Pushing for a change through The Indegenous 

 The Indegenous is built on the foundation of working to put the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples' solemn assertions into practice. Through raising awareness of the various indigenous people and showcasing our traditions and history, we advocate for change through young individuals in the domain of education and the environment. The Indegenous has recognized the value of environmental awareness and has recently launched a campus ambassador programme that will advocate for the environment through a variety of projects. 


To summarize, our objective is to build a link for indigenous people to be involved in discussions about problems such as these, where we are at the forefront of seeking to protect and maintain our environment, by working with the Green Forum and Stockholm+50.