Self-strengthening processes for community custodians of territories of life

Throughout history, custodian communities have done all they can to strengthen themselves and care for the territories that underpin their livelihoods and identity. Their on-going self-strengthening efforts are, and have long been, part of the flow of everyday life, shaping socio-cultural, economic and diplomatic approaches to the betterment of each community and its environment. Today, custodian communities and their ICCAs—territories of life face unprecedented stresses and threats arising from socio-ecological changes sweeping the world. Concerns for the conservation of nature merge with concerns for the conservation of cultural diversity, knowledge and wisdom still found (albeit diminishing) in human communities living close to nature.

The ICCA Consortium is determined to support custodian communities in their efforts to strengthen their capacity to govern and manage their conserved territories. These efforts usually begin by increasing self-awareness and knowledge about their territories of life’ significance, which usually involve an enhanced appreciation and documentation of one’s own history, culture and governance institutions. Further, the journey may lead to an analysis of issues, trends, opportunities and threats. It may lead to enhanced communication with other communities, partners and allies. It may lead to joining or establishing new relevant #networks and collective advocacy efforts for improved national policies and appropriate support. If the process is successful, the communities become not only stronger but also wiser, more united, responsible and active. As a consequence, their territories of life are better conserved (e.g., protected, sustainably used and/or restored) and provide better support for the custodian communities’ livelihoods and well-being. Finally, and importantly, self-strengthening processes are expected to enhance the connection between the custodian communities and their territories.

While specific approaches vary, for the ICCA Consortium a self-strengthening process is necessarily grounded in one main method: grassroots discussions. These are discussions that provide occasions for collective reflection and analysis, which take place in ways consistent with the everyday life of a community. Examples include a traditional general assembly, gatherings among elders or in existing women’s groups or youth associations. Such discussions can be initiated spontaneously, stimulated by a new problem or opportunity or encouraged by facilitators from within or outside the community. Grassroots discussions need to find a meaningful balance between letting the discussion flow freely and keeping it focused to ensure that the key issues at stake are covered in an exhaustive and meaningful way. Ideally, they are an integral part of community life and of the institutions that govern territories of life.

Key reference:

Borrini-Feyerabend and Campese, 2017,

See also: