SFYN Podcast: Forest Peoples and Land Rights

03 November 2020

The indigenous population doesn’t destroy, we’re only looking for conservation, the preservation of the environment. Indigenous people are the biggest protectors of the Earth. We’re the greatest defenders of nature, of animals, of biodiversity, of the waters… — Murilo Juruna

Today, the SFYN Podcast dedicated to Terra Madre 2020 kicks off its journey of ecosystem exploration with an episode dedicated to forests and in particular to forest peoples and land rights. The urgency of this particular episode is due to the following target set by the Convention on Biological Diversity in the ‘zero-draft’ Global Biodiversity Framework:

By 2030, protect and conserve through a well connected and effective system of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures at least 30% of the planet with the focus on areas particularly important for biodiversity”: in other words, the Convention aims to increase the amount of our planet treated as “natural reserves” from the current 17% to 30%, almost doubling the total area.

An Ogiek man climbing a tree – photo: Roots of Afrika

What we may not consider is that creating natural reserves often means removing the indigenous peoples that live there, who are then forced to move to “somewhere else”, which is often not specified by the local authorities. In some areas the natural reserves are managed by local paramilitary groups who act violently towards local people, as described in this study conducted by the Rainforest Foundation UK and the University of Helsinki. Sometimes natural reserves are also created next to mining sites, hydroelectric complexes or other sites of extractive industries: industries which the local indigenous peoples may have been fighting against for years because of their huge impact on the sustainability of natural resources. Evicting these people with the excuse of creating a “natural reserve” can be a convenient of removing these dissenting voices. 

We discuss this issue from both a theoretical and grassroots point of view with:

  • Michele Fontefrancesco, assistant professor in anthropology and Dauro Zocchi, PhD researcher at UNISG. Together they carried out different studies, in particular regarding the Ogiek indigenous people in Kenya, in which they highlight a methodology to protect forests and improve the livelihoods of forest peoples by restoring value to activities rooted in the local culture;
  • Winnie Sengwer, an indigenous Sengwer woman from the Embobut forest in Kenya. She speaks about the land grabbing issues her community has been facing in the past decade and how they live in harmony with the forest;
  • Imanul Huda, an indigenous leader in the forest area of Kapuas Hulu, in Indonesia. He explains how four indigenous villages have managed to obtain their forest management rights from the government;
  • Murilo Juruna, spokesman for the indigenous Juruna community in the Brazilian Amazon. He speaks about the issues his people are facing due to the deforestation and construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric complex. 

Listen to the episode in the SFYN Podcast on:



Google podcasts 


Extra materials, such as pictures, additional interviews and documents can be found on the Slow Food Youth Network Patreon page

This topic will also be addressed by indigenous leaders at the Terra Madre Forum on November 21: Forest Peoples’ Food Systems and the Threat of Land Grabbing.

by Valentina Gritti, SFYN Podcast host

Financed by the European Union

The contents of this podcast are the sole responsibility of the author and the EASME is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.