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  • Increasing Participation Among Indigenous and Local Communities

Increasing Participation Among Indigenous and Local Communities

Boillat, S., & Berkes, F. (2013). Perception and interpretation of climate change among Quechua farmers of Bolivia: indigenous knowledge as a resource for adaptive capacity. Ecology and Society, 18(4): 21. Retrieved from:


An interesting article that looks at a case study involving two Quechua-speaking farmer communities from mountainous areas near Cochabamba, Bolivia. It talks about their perceptions of change and climate change and discusses the interpretations and their adaptive strategies. An example of this mentioned in the article is that some believe that climate change is due to a loss of values that are not necessarily environmental. They show that some people attribute climate change to different causes than do scientists, and that they postulate a direct relationship between values and climate. Another example referenced in the article mentions another study by a Dr. Orlove (the full study mentioned later in this bibliography) that looked at something called Andean ethnoclimatology, which is a rich set of indicators used for indigenous ways of predicting the weather, including plant and animal indicators as well as astronomical phenomena. The article notes that numerous generations of indigenous farmers of the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes have gathered in midwinter to observe the constellation Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters. It is said that if this star cluster appears big and bright, it is understood to predict abundant rains and good harvests the following summer. If the cluster appears small and dim, farmers anticipate poor rains. These predictions are considered strong enough to dictate the choice of crops and areas planted. It highlights the importance of indigenous knowledge as a component to adaptive capacity and to sustainable and cooperative action.


Expert Working Group on Indigenous Engagement with Science. (2013). Indigenous Engagement with Science: Towards Deeper Understandings. Rep. School of Indigenous Studies, University of Western Australia. Kingston: Inspiring Australia. 1-52. Retrieved from:


Though the report is specific to Australia, the approach suggested is relatable and applicable worldwide. In their findings, they authors seek urgent action across a range of initiatives. The group sees significant opportunities for government and industry to engage with indigenous peoples in ways that will maximize the potential for increased productivity in scientific activity. The most challenging recommendations refer to the urgent need to conserve and prevent further loss of Indigenous knowledge. They suggest application of resources to: protecting Indigenous languages; recognition of knowledge holders by tertiary education institutions and industries; facilitating knowledge and skill sharing between researchers and communities; and providing opportunities for Indigenous knowledge to generate economic benefit for Indigenous communities while protecting Indigenous cultural interests. With the protection of indigenous cultures at the forefront of action and explicit from the outset, cooperation is very likely.


Hoffman, A. J. (2012). Climate science as culture war. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Retrieved from:


This article poses interesting arguments on differing beliefs deeply rooted within the United States about the topic of climate change. The author explains cultural dimensions of the climate debate, outlines three possible paths by which the debate can progress, and describes specific techniques that can drive that debate toward broader consensus. The goal is for a broader consensus on climate change to formulate effective social, political, and economic solutions to the changing circumstances of the planet.


Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change in the Andes: An Indigenous Perspective on a Global Problem. Cusco, Peru: ©Asociación ANDES, 1-16. Retrieved from:


The indigenous peoples of the Andes mountains are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to the close connection they have between their environment and their livelihoods, culture, spirituality and social systems.This article focuses on a workshop that brought together indigenous leaders and community members from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile, as well as climate and social scientists, that took place in the Potato Park, Cusco, Peru on November 20-21, 2012. It illustrates the challenges that communities in the Andes are facing due to climate change and looks at traditional knowledge and practices as a foundation for indigenous resilience and includes powerful pictures.


Orlove, B. S., Chiang, J. C. H., & Cane,  M. A. (2002). Ethnoclimatology in the Andes: A cross-disciplinary study uncovers a scientific basis for the scheme Andean potato farmers traditionally use to predict the coming rains. American Scientist, vol 90. Retrieved from:


This study looks at a traditional indigenous practice where they use environmental indicators, in this particular case a constellation, to predict and make decisions about the coming seasons. The practice analyzed in the study is the event that takes place just after the winter solstice, when many indigenous farmers in the Andes gather together to look at the star cluster Pleiades in the constellation Taurus. The farmers believe that they can use the particular appearance of the Pleiades to forecast the timing and quantity of precipitation that will fall in the rainy season months later. Although this may appear to be an odd form of astrology and more like superstition, comparing it to the Groundhog’s Day ritual in the United States, the study notes that research has, in fact, uncovered its scientific basis. The article states that the apparent size and brightness of the Pleiades varies with the amount of thin, high cloud at the top of the troposphere, which in turn reflects the severity of El Niño conditions over the Pacific. Because rainfall in this region is generally sparse in El Niño years, this simple method provides a valuable forecast. Therefore, recognizing the value and validity of indigenous knowledge would make introducing a modern scientific approach less threatening.


Overdevest, C., Orr, C. H., & Stepenuck, K. (2004) Volunteer stream monitoring and local participation in natural resource issues. Human Ecology Review, Vol. 9. Retrieved from:


An approach mentioned in this article about adaptive management encourages citizens to ‘take measures’ and participate in helping to monitor the environment around them. It notes that by involving members of the community in science management, citizens gain understanding, form opinions, educate others on the topic and are able to influence and motivate political support or activity on the issue for new policies or changes. This method creates communal awareness and responsibility to the health of the environment and allows for the involvement of people at all levels in the society. Providing the community with knowledge and understanding in science gives voice to the people and equips for change at the grassroots level.  


Paige, K., Hattam, R., Rigney, L., Osborne, S., & Morrison, A. (2016). Strengthening indigenous participation and practice in STEM: University initiatives for equity and excellence. Adelaide, University of South Australia. Retrieved from:


This is a large report and literature review from a few universities in Australia about programs and initiatives surrounding indigenous involvement in continued learning. It aims to understand how Australian universities are currently developing initiatives to improve successful higher education pathways for indigenous students in the disciplines of science and mathematics. This project arises in response to the substantial underrepresentation of indigenous students studying STEM subjects in Australian universities. Indigenous student enrolments in fields requiring strong mathematics and scientific literacy are low in relation to other disciplines, whereas more visible and longer-established disciplines within Indigenous communities such as Arts, Education and Society and Culture enjoy much higher rates of student participation. Understanding why even modern indigenous peoples such as these university students are more inclined to fields of study that are non STEM related would help make science less threatening and probably gain better background knowledge for how to engage them more in participation.


Pinto, W. (2016, October 5). Social management and governance network of public policies - Co producing a technology in social management with the Calafate Women’s Colletive of Salvador-Bahia Brazil. IMTD.

In response to the question, “How to approach indigenous or local communities successfully with outside knowledge/ideas?”, Walter Pinto Jr. noted several key aspects to the project: he advised to get local leaders to legitimize work, to participate in active listening and hear their stories and their issues, to be sincere in your thoughts and actions, to be flexible to their schedule and hours, to make sure to not to over promise, to be organized but at the same time be flexible if plans fall through, to design strategies to communicate with different parts of the community, to do a lot of observation of the culture, structure and how they organize, to understand that it takes some time to the gain confidence and trust of the target community, to always be transparent with intentions and lastly, he advised to arrive with good intentions but to let the ideas develop with the community and let them communicate and change them in terms of their needs to get the best and most sustainable result.


Salick, J., & Byg, A. (2007). Indigenous peoples and climate change. Oxford, UK: Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Retrieved from:


This article analyzes the different consequences of climate change, how many indigenous peoples are on the front lines of it and talks about the importance of understanding indigenous people’s beliefs on the issue. It emphasizes the importance of an ethnocentric perspective on the issue to gain better understanding and cooperation. It ends with a call to action very similar to that of CCHS: "We propose conjoined research and action with indigenous peoples to afford them more prominence in international climate change discussion and action.