For over 35 years, Gaia has been at the forefront of struggles to defend and nurture Mother Earth alongside her best custodians- Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
During this time we have supported many communities to revive their Earth-centred traditions and governance systems; elevated the voices of Earth defenders who need to be heard; built long-lasting and radical alliances for systemic change, and effected disruptive policy change from the village to international levels.
The stories and infographics below explore the impacts of this work so far.
We accompany and support local and Indigenous communities who are embarking on a journey to revive their traditional, Earth-centred governance systems and the ecosystems they rely upon.
The Indigenous Bagungu People are turning the tide on the destruction of colonialism. They are restoring their communities and their sacred homeland back to health.
Find out more in Custodians of Life, a film from Gaia and our Ugandan partners ANARDE, AFRICE and NAPE.
In central Kenya, the Tharakan People have embarked on a journey of reviving their traditional seeds and farming traditions, mapping their territory and sacred sites and reconstituting their clan system in order to revive their sacred territory.
Gaia is supporting the process, including through participatory mapping workshops.
Since 1989 Gaia has worked alongside the Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon to secure their land rights and revive their traditions.
Our film, Yagoje Apaporis: traditional knowledge at the heart of protecting the Amazon, tells part of this story.
Through film, photography and creative communications, Gaia elevates the voices and Earth-centred messages of our planet’s best custodians to global audiences of millions, from the UK to South Korea.
For over 35 years Gaia has been the catalyst for alliances and movements, across borders and issues, defending Mother Earth and forging regenerative pathways for systemic change.
Sacred Lands: Brazilian Amazon.
An alliance that united rubber tappers and indigenous peoples for the future of the Brazilian Amazon. Supported by Gaia and led by the inspirational Chico Mendes, with Ailton Krenak and other indigenous leaders, awareness was raised about diverse cultures and their role in maintaining life in the forest.
Sacred Lands: Colombian Amazon and Northwest Amazon Basin.
A network of NGOs, including Gaia, working hand-in-hand with local indigenous communities to restore governance over their ancestral lands and develop their own health and education programmes. COAMA (Consolidation of the Colombian Amazon) became an exemplary model for securing indigenous territorial rights and conserving tropical forests.
Seed and Food Sovereignty: Pan-African.
A radical group of African negotiators brought together by Dr Tewolde Gebre Egziabher, GRAIN and Gaia. The African Group defended the role of smallholder farmers and traditional knowledge, promote resilient and ecological farming systems and local economies, and resist patents on life at international negotiations (CBD, WTO, ITPGRFA) on trade, agriculture and biodiversity.
Earth Jurisprudence: Global.
A network formed by Gaia and global allies to explore the philosophy and practice of recognising Earth as the primary source of law, for the wellbeing of the whole Earth Community. Beginning in 1999, Gaia facilitated a series of dialogues with Thomas Berry and some outstanding visionaries and advocates from Africa, North and South America, Asia and Europe, leading to the development of a number of global learning centres for Earth Jurisprudence.
Seed and Food Sovereignty: United Kingdom.
The first broad-based coalition of UK civil society groups against genetic engineering and patents on life, was initially hosted by Gaia. The call for a moratorium on genetic engineering and patents on life (‘Five-Year Freeze’ campaign), was echoed with similar anti-GMO campaigns led by African partners and allies. The campaign continues independently to this day.
Seed and Food Sovereignty: Pan-African
A regional network of individuals and organisations pioneering African-led responses to protect the continent’s biodiversity and promote the rich diversity of cultures that care for Nature. ABN, of which Gaia is a founding member, connects the dots between culture, seed and knowledge, to protect Africa’s cultural and natural heritage and support resilient local communities.
Beyond Extractivism: Global.
A global solidarity network of with more than 70 member networks, communities and organisations dedicated to supporting the rights of communities opposing mining and seeking alternatives to extractive ‘development’. Gaia is a founding member.
• Frontline communities directly supported to strengthen their campaigns in Myanmar, Finland, Colombia, Galicia, Philippines, Mongolia, Ecuador, Papua New Guinea etc.
• 8 community-activist exchanges, bringing together 900+ people to build new regional and national movements.
• 15,000+ copies of informational materials on mining and community organising distributed globally in more than 7 languages.
Earth Jurisprudence: Pan-African.
A growing network of African civil society leaders promoting Earth Jurisprudence (EJ) in Eastern, Western and Southern Africa. Through community dialogues, trainings from Gaia and collaborative policy engagement, EJ practitioners are growing awareness of nature’s rights and supporting local communities to protect and restore sacred natural sites and territories.
Seed and Food Sovereignty: United Kingdom and Ireland.
A dynamic programme working with farmers, seed producers and partners across the seed sector, to train growers, conserve threatened and heritage seed varieties, and widening access to agro-ecological seed across the UK and Ireland. The programme is hosted by Gaia.
Seed and Food Sovereignty: Global.
A creative communications and advocacy initiative led by Gaia, with images from world-renowned photographers celebrating the small-scale, family farmers who produce 70% of our food. We Feed the World brought together a new alliance of artists, farmers and fisher people to reach millions worldwide with their stories.
Gaia works with global partners and community leaders to advocate for policy change that disrupts ‘business-as-usual’ destruction of Nature and culture. The policies we develop are rooted in the practices and lifeways of Indigenous and frontline communities and are making impact at every level.
Reserva Extrativista Chico Mendes, Brazil– in 1990, Decree 99.144 created a protected area in memory of murder of rubber tapper, social leader and Gaia’s first grantee, Chico Mendes.
Yaigoje Apaporis, Colombia– In 2009, Gaia and our Colombian sister organisation, Gaia Amazonas supported Indigenous communities from Vaupes and Amazonas States to secure governance of their indigenous reserve and the Yaigoje Apaporis National Park.
Sheka Forest, Ethiopia- in 2012 Gaia, our Ethiopian partners MELCA and forest communities from Sheka succeeding in lobbying for Sheka Forest to be declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Bale Mountains, Ethiopia– local communities accompanied by Gaia and MELCA secured local governmental recognition and demarcation of their sacred natural sites.
Buliisa, Uganda- in 2019 Gaia supported the Indigenous Bagungu People to secure a District Council Resolution recognising their customary laws and sacred natural sites.
Decree 1088, Colombia- passed thanks to the work of indigenous leaders and the COAMA Programme, the 1993 Decree for the creation of associations of indigenous authorities was a crucial precedent, recognising Indigenous Peoples’ claim to and governance of the Colombian Amazon.
Permanent Indigenous x Governmental Coordination Table, Colombia – the Table was established in 2005 to create a space for dialogue between the government and indigenous authorities of the Department of Amazonas
Decree of Non-Municipalized Areas, Colombia – the culmination of decades of work by COAMA and our Colombian partners Gaia Amazonas, the 2018 decree fully recognises Indigenous governance in the Colombian Amazon.
Benin Sacred Forests Law – In 2012, Gaia’s Beninese partners GRABE played a prominent role in securing Africa’s first legal precedent protecting sacred forests.
Rights of Nature Article, Uganda- Supported by Gaia, our partners ANARDE were instrumental in introducing the Rights of Nature into Uganda’s 2019 National Environmental Act.
OAU African Model Legislation, Africa- In 2000, African organisations and allies including Gaia secured new provisions protecting the rights of peasant farmers and the seed systems.
Resolution 4.038, IUCN- in 2008 Gaia and an international coalition of allies successfully lobbied the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to pass a resolution calling on member states to recognise and conserve sacred natural sites in protected areas.
Plenary Resolution #12, WILD 10– in 2013 Gaia and international allies convinced the World Wilderness Congress to declare world heritage and sacred land as ‘No-Go Areas’ for destructive industrial activities.
Resolution Motion 026, IUCN– Gaia and an international coalition of allies successfully lobbied the IUCN to declare protected areas and sacred lands as ‘No-Go Areas’ for destructive industrial activities at the Hawai`ian congress of 2016.
Resolution 372, African Commission– in 2017 Gaia supported a delegation of indigenous leaders to secure a new resolution calling on all African member states to protect sacred natural sites, territories and the rights of custodian communities.
We live in a time of multiple, complex crises. There are no easy answers. Working to uphold the health and diversity of our living planet is always rewarding, but we think you’ll agree it can sometimes feel like swimming against the stream. And yet like salmon we leap, and more often than you might expect, we make it. We invite you to make the next leap with us by making a donation of any size. Thank you for your solidarity.