Today the world celebrates the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples to highlight the achievements and contributions that indigenous people make in the world. This year the theme focuses on the Tenth Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a key milestone for cooperation and solidarity between indigenous peoples and governments. According to the UN, the declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well-being. However, despite major progress, indigenous peoples continue to face exclusion, marginalization and challenges to enjoy basic rights.
For example, in South Africa, SGP worked with the Namas indigenous peoples of the Wupperthal and Nieuwoudtville areas, in the Northern Cape region, to conserve natural and cultural resources along the Rooibos Heritage Route within the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor – a tourism circuit poorly known in the region. The project partnered with seven small business enterprises in setting up eco-infrastructure including local biodiversity information, a website, and a podcast to showcase the indigenous heritage of the area. Marketing information captured the attractions along the RHR, the natural environment and local conservation initiatives pertaining to Rooibos (Aspalatusli-nearis), known locally as red bush. Training workshops, field research and meetings were also held to enhance nature and culture-based tourism in the area. As a result, tourism agencies have agreed to support the ongoing marketing of the Rooibos Heritage Route, which is expected to increase the total number of tourist visitors in the target landscape.
Ever since the GEF Small Grants Programme was created more than two decades ago, indigenous people’s issues and the recognition of their value in natural resource management have been at the core of the programme. In the last two years alone, SGP supported over 300 projects from indigenous peoples’ organizations (IPOs) and countries accepted proposals in local languages, participatory video and/or alternative formats to increase their participation.