The Indigenous World 2021: International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

IFAD’s Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples aims to enhance its development effectiveness in its engagement with Indigenous Peoples’ communities in rural areas. As a key instrument for implementing the IFAD Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples, the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum was established at IFAD in 2011. The Forum is a permanent process of consultation and dialogue between representatives from Indigenous Peoples’ institutions and organizations, IFAD and governments.

The Forum enables participants to jointly assess IFAD’s engagement with Indigenous Peoples, consult on rural development and poverty reduction and promote the participation of Indigenous Peoples’ organizations in IFAD’s activities at the country, regional and international levels. Overall, these activities help and guide IFAD in implementing its policy and translating its principles into action on the ground.

The global meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum convenes every other year in conjunction with IFAD’s Governing Council, IFAD’s main decision-making body. In preparation for each global meeting, regional consultation meetings are organized to ensure that the Forum reflects the diversity of perspectives and recommendations gathered from Indigenous Peoples in the various regions where IFAD operates and to track progress in past agreements.

A unique process within the UN system, the Forum institutionalizes IFAD’s consultation and dialogue with Indigenous Peoples’ representatives at all levels and provides an opportunity for Indigenous Peoples and IFAD to further strengthen their collaboration for rural transformation.[1]

Preparation for the fifth global meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD: regional & sub-regional consultations

In late 2020, regional and sub-regional consultation meetings were held in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Pacific in preparation for the fifth global meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Forum’s Steering Committee decided to conduct the workshops (both at regional and sub-regional levels) virtually and turn the challenge into an opportunity. Being virtual, the workshops in fact provided an opportunity to broaden participation and engagement of Indigenous Peoples, bringing together over 540 representatives of Indigenous Peoples’ organizations, institutions and communities; representatives from IFAD-funded projects; members of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII); partners of the Indigenous Peoples’ Assistance Facility (IPAF) and participants from IPAF-funded projects; IFAD staff; and development partners (as observers).

All regional consultation meetings were organized by Indigenous organizations in cooperation with IFAD country offices and IFAD staff, and the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).

The objectives of the meetings were to:

  • Exchange experiences and good practices on the main theme of the Forum: “The value of Indigenous food systems: resilience in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic”;
  • Identify the challenges that Indigenous Peoples and their livelihoods are facing during the COVID- 19 pandemic;
  • Review the progress made in implementation of the regional action plans agreed during the last Forum;
  • Identify opportunities for strengthening good practices as sustainable solutions, and the corresponding elements for regional strategies to enhance IFAD’s support to them;
  • Analyze and formulate action-oriented recommendations on the theme of the Forum and draft new regional action plans to be finalized during the global meeting of the Forum; and
  • Identify possible contributions and key messages from Indigenous Peoples to the UN Food Systems Summit.


The consultation meetings

Africa (organized by the Mainyoito Pastoralist Integrated Development Organization, MPIDO):

  • Two regional meetings: two regional consultation meetings covering English and French speaking countries on 5 and 7 November 2020 respectively.


Asia (organized by the Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP) and Tebtebba Foundation)

  • One regional meeting: 26 November 2020.
  • Three sub-regional meetings: South-East Asia, South Asia, Mekong region (18-20 November 2020).
  • One IPAF-related meeting: 17 November 2020 .


Latin America and the Caribbean (organized by the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, FILAC).

  • One regional meeting: 22 October 2020.
  • Five sub-regional meetings: Caribbean, Central America, Andean region, Amazon region, Southern Cone (5-15 October 2020).


Pacific (organized by Partners in Community Development Fiji, PCDF).

  • One regional meeting: 14-16 October 2020.

During the virtual consultations, participants also assessed progress in implementation of the IFAD Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples and reviewed the advances made in implementing the recommendations and action plans agreed at the fourth global meeting of the Forum in 2019.

Participants also prepared the regional participation in the fifth global meeting of the Forum, scheduled to take place online in February 2021, in conjunction with the 44th session of IFAD’s Governing Council.

Further, they reviewed the candidate proposals for the Indigenous Peoples’ Award launched by IFAD in 2020 to recognize the efforts and achievements of development projects that successfully engage with Indigenous Peoples living in rural areas. 

Common issues emerging from the workshops

From their different perspectives, Indigenous representatives who participated in the regional consultation meetings identified a series of issues and recommendations to be further discussed at the 2021 global meeting.

In particular, they shared the challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples during the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighted how it is dramatically affecting their livelihoods, disrupting their economy, causing loss of income for Indigenous families and endangering the food and nutrition security of communities.

The importance of supporting Indigenous farming, production practices and food systems was particularly stressed as key to contributing to the well-being of Indigenous communities, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and overall sustainable development.

Concerning IFAD strategies, policies and operations, participants reiterated the need for the Fund to enhance Indigenous Peoples’ engagement at country level and to guarantee their systematic and effective participation in the design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of projects and strategies. Systematic consultations of Indigenous Peoples and their organizations, full application of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and the establishment of quotas when hiring Indigenous consultants with the appropriate knowledge to engage with Indigenous communities were particularly highlighted as key tools for the improved participation of Indigenous Peoples and their organizations in IFAD’s operations at all levels.

Requests were made to IFAD to reaffirm its commitment to Indigenous Peoples, including by increasing funding for the IPAF and supporting the inclusion of representatives from Indigenous Peoples’ organizations on the advisory committee of the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP+).

Strong importance was also placed on enhancing knowledge generation and sharing on and among Indigenous Peoples (e.g. through South-South cooperation and research) and on the need to support policy processes and dialogues at the national level on issues of relevance for Indigenous Peoples such as land and natural resource access and management.

In relation to the theme of the 2021 Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD, the main recommendations emerging from the regional workshops included the following:

  • Promote organic production, artisanal fisheries and harvesting, and preserve Indigenous Peoples’ traditional agricultural practices in order to ensure the food and nutrition security of Indigenous communities including by mobilizing the necessary financial, human and technical resources. Particularly encourage youth and women’s engagement and participation in these activities as key sources of livelihoods and for preventing youth migration from communities;
  • Facilitate the marketing of Indigenous products by supporting community-based social enterprises and economic initiatives of Indigenous Peoples (including eco-tourism), and improving access to market information, infrastructure facilities, and post-harvest technology;
  • Rescue native seeds resistant to disease and climate change and support the creation of local Indigenous seeds banks;
  • Recover and strengthen the production of traditional medicines, seeds, crops and Indigenous food with high nutritional potential (e.g. chaya, ghongi, izaño, quinoa, llama meat, moringa, wild honey) and facilitate the distribution of Indigenous foods and products in school canteens with the ultimate aim of strengthening the food and nutrition security of Indigenous Peoples based on their knowledge, traditional practices and expertise;
  • Promote knowledge generation and sharing on Indigenous food systems and traditional farming practices, with particular attention to an inter-generational exchange of knowledge and experiences through studies and research, audio-visuals, ICT tools and technologies, exchanges among Indigenous Peoples, food/culinary fairs and festivals, the documentation of Indigenous recipes and traditional medicines, the creation of digital knowledge management platforms. Engage appropriate partner institutions/agencies with the necessary capacities to support these processes;
  • Enhance and ensure access to and use of ICT for Indigenous Peoples for weather advisories, crop planning, pest and disease management, documentation and dissemination of best practices as key to strengthening the resilience of Indigenous food systems;
  • Strengthen the capacities of Indigenous organizations, institutions and communities with a focus on reinforcing youth and women;
  • Support Indigenous Peoples to access and manage lands, water, territories and natural resources, including through policy dialogue and advocacy. Particularly promote the recovery of water management and administration systems for human consumption and irrigation in Indigenous communities, the restoration of forests to preserve traditional practices, community-based forest protection and management; and
  • Support and facilitate policy processes and dialogue at the national level between Indigenous Peoples, governments and the United Nations system on issues of relevance for Indigenous Peoples.

Recommendations formulated during the consultation meetings will be presented and discussed at the 5th session of the Global Forum that will take place in February 2021[2].



This contribution is authored by the Indigenous Peoples’ Steering Committee of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD.

This article is part of the 35th edition of The Indigenous World, a yearly overview produced by IWGIA that serves to document and report on the developments Indigenous Peoples have experienced.  Find The Indigenous World 2021 in full here

Notes and references 

[1] More information about the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD can be found at

[2] More information about the 5th Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD can be found at

Tags: Global governance



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