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Brazil’s first Indigenous Minister underscores importance of indigenous knowledge in combating climate change


For the first time in Brazilian history, Sonia Guajajara assumed in 2023 the leadership of Brazil’s Ministry for Indigenous Peoples, a historic milestone created by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. About a year later, participating in COP28 in Dubai, the Brazilian Minister highlights the importance of indigenous knowledge in combating climate change in an interview with the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

“We have been saying a lot that the future is ancestral, not for people to be indigenous, but to respect and consider this knowledge as one of the alternatives to address the climate crisis the world is facing,” said the Minister during her visit to the WAM studio at COP28.

For Sonia Guajajara, the world took a step forward when the Paris Climate Agreement, signed in 2015, recognised the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and traditional communities as scientific knowledge. “This is already a recognition of the indigenous way of life, living with respect, in harmony with nature, taking care of wa
ter, taking care of trees, animals, and taking care of the land. Our indigenous culture is naturally linked to everything that exists in nature; our songs, dances, and rituals depend on this living nature,” she noted.

Despite these advances, the Brazilian Minister emphasised the importance of demarcating indigenous lands in Brazil to advance in the fight against climate change. “We are fighting for them to understand that the demarcation of indigenous lands is not bad just for us; it will be bad for them too, for their crops, for their businesses. Because if there is no balance that we need, this whole climate crisis will also affect these businesses and, in fact, directly impact the lives of everyone, regardless of what they defend,” Sonia Guajajara explained.

According to COP28 data and figures, indigenous peoples make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population; however, they protect 80 percent of global biodiversity. Deforestation rates on tenured Indigenous forestlands were two to three times lowe
r than outside these areas, and indigenous and community lands store at least 24 percent of the above-ground carbon in the world’s tropical forests. They are critical agents in creating the right conditions. In this sense, the presidency of COP28 created a dialogue with indigenous peoples, as they are also part of the solution to the climate crisis. This is also the agenda that Sonia Guajajara takes to sensitize Brazilian politicians and society. “In Brazil, we are currently in the process of reforesting people’s minds. If we reforest minds, we reforest territories,” the Minister said.

Brazil’s Minister for Indigenous Peoples shared that in the last three years, the country has created the National Articulation of Indigenous Women Warriors of Ancestry, a collective of women present in Dubai as the largest delegation of indigenous women in the history of COPs. Sonia Guajajara described the group as ‘a call to indigenous women for all women worldwide’. The next step now is to expand the group to Latin America
and arrive at COP30 with a significant increase in female presence at the climate conference. “It is only from this ecological and political awareness that we will be able to make decisions that will truly achieve the transformation we need,” concluded Sonia Guajajara in her interview to WAM.

Guajajara is Brazil’s first-ever Minister for Indigenous People. She is indigenous to the Guajajara/Tentehar people and was appointed Minister of State by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, assuming office in January 2023. During COP28, Sonia Guajajara became the first Indigenous person to head the Brazilian delegation during a climate conference. The minister stands out for her historical struggle for the rights of Indigenous peoples and the environment. She has international recognition for advocating for Indigenous peoples’ rights, territories, and socio-environmental causes, being elected one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2022.

Source: Emirates News Agency

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