Biodiversity loss exacerbated by climate change puts Indigenous food systems at risk of slow erosion, if not sudden collapse. Sustainable farming practices, such as regenerative agriculture, intercropping, and polycultures are several ways that Indigenous peoples sustain the gifts of Mother Earth, such as soil and water, while growing crops to feed people. These farming practices are also being put into place by non-Indigenous farmers for sustainable development.

Regenerative agriculture is about revitalizing, rather than, degrading soil through farming. Regenerative practices promote energy sequestration in the soil and offsets greenhouse gas emissions. Planting the Three Sisters (i.e., beans, corn, and squash) is a form of intercropping, a practice where certain plants are sown and grown next to each other to build symbiotic relationships rather than competitive relationships with each other for water, oxygen, and soil. Polyculture contrasts with monoculture and industrial, commercialized farming practices whereby different crop species are planted next to each other at the same time to increase soil nutrients and reduce the risk of pests and rampant disease. Intercropping is a form of polyculture too. Together, these practices also combat food insecurity among Indigenous peoples, which is historically the result of land dispossession due to colonization.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has pointed to the importance of including Indigenous voices and agricultural practices in policy and planning. As noted in the FAO’s recent report, “the world cannot feed itself sustainably without listening to Indigenous Peoples.”


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image Credit: Doan Tuan, Unsplash)

Adaptive capacity and adaptation are both crucial to addressing the impact of environmental change and degradation on the health and well-being of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. After all, nurturing a connection with Mother Earth is fundamental to the well-being of humankind.

Indigenous peoples have tremendous adaptive capacity to health risks associated with climate and environmental changes. However, social and economic stressors such as “poverty, land dispossession and globalization” are proving to be major obstacles to the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines adaptive capacity as “[t]he ability of a system to adjust to climate change (including climate variability and extremes) to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with consequences”. Adaptation involves an “adjustment in natural or human systems” as they respond to climate change, and then either manage the harm that is caused by the change, or exploit the benefits of the change.

Understanding how communities make decisions can enable more effective community responses to the health consequences of climate change, and potentially reduce risks for, as well as protect against, disease, injury, disability poor nutrition, and death, which are all possible health impacts of extreme weather events (e.g., floods, hurricanes, landslides, etc.). Therefore, to reduce health impacts and vulnerability of Indigenous communities to climate change, different strategies must consider socio-economic factors as well as environmental factors that ultimately influence a community’s ability and capacity to adapt.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Photo Credit: Zdenek Machacek, Unsplash)