The Indigenous World 2022: Indigenous Peoples at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

The Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD was established in 2011 as a permanent process of consultation and dialogue between representatives of Indigenous Peoples’ institutions and organizations, IFAD and governments. The global meeting of the Forum convenes every second February in conjunction with IFAD’s Governing Council, the Fund’s main decision-making body. A series of regional consultations lead up to each global meeting, ensuring that the Forum reflects the diversity of perspectives and recommendations gathered from Indigenous Peoples around the world.

The overall process is guided by a steering committee (SC) composed of representatives of Indigenous Peoples’ organizations from the different regions, representatives of Indigenous youth, the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IPAF) Board, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) and IFAD. A unique process within the United Nations (UN) system, the Forum aims to improve IFAD’s accountability, enhancing its development effectiveness for Indigenous Peoples.

The Global Forum process, including its preparatory processes, enables participants to assess IFAD’s engagement with Indigenous Peoples, consult on rural development and poverty reduction, and promote the direct and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples’ organizations in IFAD’s operations at the country, regional and international levels. These activities help IFAD to implement its Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples and translate the policy’s principles into action on the ground.[1]


In late 2020, in preparation for the Fifth Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD, regional and subregional Indigenous consultation meetings were held in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Pacific.[2]

The Fifth Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD took place virtually on 2, 3, 4 and 15 February 2021,[3] in conjunction with the 44th session of the IFAD Governing Council. The meeting brought together 150 Indigenous Peoples’ representatives from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, to exchange views on developments in their partnership with IFAD. Representatives from partner organizations such as NGOs, foundations, international organizations, UN agencies, research institutes and universities joined the meeting as observers or speakers during side events and Indigenous Peoples’ Week. Overall, the Forum saw the participation of 700 attendees, including over 370 live viewers through YouTube.

The Forum’s opening

The global meeting was officially opened by IFAD’s President, Mr Gilbert Houngbo. The President highlighted the fact that the fifth global meeting represented a milestone in the partnership between IFAD and Indigenous Peoples as it marked 10 years since the first meeting of the Forum. He stressed IFAD’s commitment to contribute to a world without poverty and hunger by joining forces with Indigenous Peoples, who are partners in development and stewards of nature and of a vast reservoir of traditional knowledge around the world. At the same time, IFAD’s President recognized that working with Indigenous Peoples requires a commitment to social justice and to leaving no-one behind.         

While the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the lives of millions of people across the globe, “It also drives us to find ways to live more harmoniously with nature,” he said. Bringing Indigenous knowledge and practices into global food systems “can spur new and creative solutions to the challenges we face, especially climate change. And it can help put an end to bad practices that harm Indigenous Peoples and nature.” He concluded by emphasizing that the ideas and insights to be shared during the global meeting were extremely relevant to shaping the partnership with IFAD over the next two years, making a valuable contribution to the Food Systems Summit (FSS), and delivering the 2030 agenda.

In their opening speeches, members of the Steering Committee of the Indigenous Peoples' Forum at IFAD (SC) further focused on the results achieved in the partnership between Indigenous Peoples and IFAD, and on expressing deep appreciation for IFAD’s commitment and support over the years.

Partnership in progress

As is the practice at the global meetings of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum, IFAD presented a report analyzing the trends and developments in IFAD’s partnership with Indigenous Peoples over the biennium (2019-2020) and taking stock of IFAD’s various experiences in collaborating with Indigenous Peoples, while investigating the forms of ongoing collaboration and highlighting success stories and achievements.[4]

Results achieved so far in the implementation of projects under the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IPAF) in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia and the Pacific respectively were presented. The added value of the Facility was emphasized by all speakers as a unique instrument for supporting Indigenous Peoples’ self-driven development, empowering Indigenous women and youth, and promoting the systematization and dissemination of Indigenous knowledge and practices.[5]

The theme of the Forum: the value of indigenous  food systems – resilience in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

Many interventions and presentations by Indigenous Peoples’ representatives, IFAD staff, and partners enriched the discussion and enabled participants in the Forum to engage in dialogue on issues of relevance to the Forum’s theme, strengthen mutual knowledge, and assess opportunities for developing synergies and partnerships.

Ms Myrna Cunningham introduced the theme of the Forum and provided context to guide the discussion. She emphasized the relevance of Indigenous food systems and knowledge and urged IFAD and development partners to consider Indigenous Peoples as “game changers” for healthier and more inclusive, sustainable, and equitable food systems. She reminded participants of the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit (FSS) as an unique opportunity for transforming food systems and she welcomed the presence of Dr Agnes Kalibata (UN Special Envoy for the FSS) at the global meeting.

The reports from the regional consultation meetings held in preparation for the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum strongly emphasized the linkages between promoting Indigenous Peoples’ food systems and Indigenous Peoples’ food security and sovereignty. They reiterated how Indigenous Peoples’ livelihoods – small-scale farming, pastoralism, shifting cultivation, fishing, hunting and gathering – have ensured the food sovereignty and health and well-being of Indigenous communities for generations and contributed to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development benefiting all humankind. They emphasized that their livelihoods and traditional practices should be adequately valued and supported. Speakers unanimously emphasized that ensuring the exercise and protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, including access to and management of land, territories and natural resources for Indigenous Peoples, is necessary to ensure the existence of Indigenous Peoples themselves and their self-determined development.

Another aspect considered vital was related to the need to value Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge and cultural heritage and to promote knowledge generation and sharing on Indigenous food systems and traditional practices, with a particular focus on intergenerational learning and transmission.

Indigenous representatives highlighted the importance of recovering and strengthening the production of traditional medicines, seeds, crops and Indigenous food with high nutritional potential, and of supporting access to markets for Indigenous products through community-based social enterprises and economic initiatives of Indigenous Peoples, the recognition of Participatory Guarantee Systems, and improved access to market information and infrastructure facilities for Indigenous communities. Strong emphasis was also placed on improving youth and women’s participation and capacity-building and the need to enhance and ensure access to and use of information and communication technology by Indigenous Peoples.

Finally, all the speakers underlined the need for Indigenous Peoples to meaningfully engage in the FSS process and ensure that their voice is heard and integrated in global commitments. They urged that the recommendations of the Forum be integrated into the Summit’s final deliberations and brought to the highest level of decision-making to ensure achievement of the SDGs.

The 2021 Indigenous Peoples Awards Ceremony[6]

For the first time in the Forum’s history, IFAD launched the Indigenous Peoples Awards, which aim to recognize the achievements of development projects that have effectively engaged with Indigenous Peoples. The three winners among the candidate proposals were announced. The project “Rural development: Public services improvement for sustainable territorial development in the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro river basins,” implemented in Peru, received the award as Best-Performing IFAD-Funded Project. The award as Best Performing IPAF-Funded Project was given to the project “Gender and climate change community-based adaptation, through conservation of the environment and drilling of a borehole equipped with a solar-powered pump.” This project is being implemented in Cameroon by the African Indigenous Women Organization  Central African Network (AIWO-CAN). The Best Performing Non-IFAD-Funded Project was given to a project in India, “No-one shall be left behind initiative: Biodiversity for food, nutrition and energy security for 3,000 households in Meghalaya and Nagaland,” which is being implemented by the North East Slow Food & Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS).

Synthesis of deliberations

Based on the discussions and contributions from the debates, the Synthesis of Deliberations of the 2021 global meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD was adopted.[7]

In the synthesis of deliberations, Indigenous Peoples stated that:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has increased existing vulnerabilities and exacerbated underlying structural inequalities, socio-economic marginalization, and pervasive discrimination of Indigenous Peoples.
  • The pandemic is disproportionately affecting and impacting Indigenous communities and posing enormous risks to their physical and cultural existence. The situation of Indigenous women, who are often the main providers of food and nutrition to Indigenous families, is even more serious.
  • Indigenous Peoples called on IFAD, governments, development partners and the private sector – including investors – to help change the narrative and to recognize that Indigenous food systems hold a wealth of knowledge, experience, values, traditions and development concepts which – if adequately supported – can contribute to the well-being and health of all humankind.
  • They also urged IFAD, United Nations agencies, governments and development partners to look at Indigenous Peoples as game changers for healthier and more inclusive, sustainable and equitable food systems that offer sustainable solutions for developing a more caring and equitable post-pandemic world, while preserving and safeguarding the health of the planet.

The synthesis of deliberations concluded with 28 recommendations addressed to the United Nations Food Systems Summit, IFAD, governments, and Indigenous Peoples.[8]

Closing of the Forum

In his closing remarks, Mr Dominik Ziller (Vice-President of IFAD) stated that IFAD was not blind to the situation of Indigenous Peoples and was aware that Indigenous communities are more than twice as likely as the non-indigenous population to live in extreme poverty. He noted that many face an additional threat from the mechanisms developed to help the world recover from the COVID-19 crisis, and which may further deprive them of access to land and natural resources. He underlined that, as a UN specialized agency, “IFAD is aware that the exclusion and marginalization of Indigenous communities threatens the central tenet of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind.”

He concluded by affirming IFAD’s commitment to keep the momentum going, to make every effort to translate the Forum’s deliberations into meaningful, timely and concrete actions, to ensure that the key messages of the Forum are brought to the FSS, and to actively support the implementation of the regional action plans and the enhancement of the IPAF.

Indigenous Week 2021

The Indigenous Week took place from 8-12 February 2021.[9] It hosted thematic and cultural events to enrich the dialogue between Indigenous Peoples, IFAD and development partners on a wide range of themes, including Indigenous food systems, languages and cultural diversity; Indigenous Peoples’ rights to land, territories and resources; best practices in the application of FPIC; and biodiversity conservation and agroecology.

The International Land Coalition (ILC) and IWGIA organized a virtual event on Advancing Indigenous Peoples’ land and territorial rights, which was attended by more than 90 participants. During the event, Indigenous representatives from different parts of the world shared and discussed strategies to advance support to Indigenous Peoples in their struggle to defend their lands, territories and resources. The session was particularly oriented towards understanding current trends and what needs to be done to scale up political and financial support for this cause.

The Indigenous Week was accompanied and complemented by the Indigenous Peoples’ Film Festival,[10] where documentaries and films on Indigenous Peoples were made available to the public during the week.

Indigenous Peoples at IFAD’s Governing Council

On 17 February 2021, the Synthesis of Deliberations of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum was delivered to the 44th session of the IFAD Governing Council by Ms Rayanne Franca from the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus (Brazil). Following the reading, the President of IFAD took the floor to recognize all the Indigenous representatives who had brought the voices of their peoples to the Forum and to reiterate IFAD’s commitment to further strengthen the partnership with Indigenous Peoples and to support the effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in the planning and organization of the Food Systems Summit.

Lola García-Alix is IWGIA’s Senior Adviser on Global Governance.


This article is part of the 36th 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 2022 in full here


Notes and references 

[1] More information about the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD: IFAD. “Indigenous Peoples’ Forum.”

[2] More information about the Indigenous Peoples’ regional and subregional consultation: Indigenous Peoples’ Steering Committee of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD. “International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).” In The Indigenous World 2021, edited my Dwayne Mamo, 720-725. Copenhagen: IWGIA, 2021.

[3] IFAD – IWGIA. “Fifth Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD. 2, 3, 4 and 15 February 20 21.” IFAD – IWGIA, 2021.

[4]:  IFAD. “IFAD’s progress in its engagement with indigenous peoples in the biennium 2019/2020.” IFAD, 2021.

[5] IFAD. “Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility.” IFAD.

[6] IFAD. “IFAD Indigenous Peoples Awards 2021.”

[7] IFAD. “Indigenous Peoples Forum at IFAD. Fifth Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples' Forum at IFAD. 2, 3, 4 and 15 February 2021. Synthesis of Deliberations.”

[8] All recommendations can be found in: IFAD – IWGIA. “Fifth Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD. 2, 3, 4 and 15 February 20 21.” IFAD – IWGIA, 2021: 30-32.

[9] IFAD. “Indigenous Week 2021.”

[10] IFAD. “Indigenous Peoples’ Film Festival. 8 - 12 February 2021.

Tags: Global governance



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