Going Deeper: Gaia’s Approach to Sacred Natural Sites & Ancestral Lands
Gaia’s work is rooted in grassroots action to build resilience, protect indigenous sacred natural sites and ancestral lands, and assert the rights of custodian communities, together with regional and international movement building and advocacy work.
We are working with partners and indigenous communities from Africa to the Amazon – mainly in Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Brazil and Colombia – growing alliances of custodians, to protect their territories from the many threats they face locally and nationally.
“Sacred natural sites are where we come from, the heart of life… We cannot live without our sacred natural sites and we are responsible for protecting them.”
(Statement by African Custodian Communities, Ethiopia, 2015)
Our experience shows that by working to restore and enhance their indigenous knowledge and practices, communities have a better chance of building their resilience and sustaining their resistance to the onslaught they face.
In our accompaniment, we respond to the needs of the custodian communities, providing a range of support and tools as necessary:
- Trainings for community and civil society leaders: Transformational learning processes to enable participants to chart their own path for reviving their holistic bio-cultural systems. These draw upon tools such as community dialogues and eco-cultural maps and calendars. Some participants can train to become Field Animators; others to develop clarify pluri-legal and advocacy strategies.
- Legal and policy advice, support and advocacy: Based on legal strategy, and working at all levels, we support the development of documentation for legal recognition of Sacred Natural Sites, provide information on global precedents in this field, share inspiring initiatives and alternatives, and prepare for participation in relevant regional or international fora to further advocacy strategies.
- Learning exchanges: We provide unique opportunities for peer-to-peer knowledge exchange to strengthen the work on the ground, as well as the wider movement.
- Small grants fund: We provide strategic support to communities and their allies to respond to opportunities or challenges and to sustain their work, defending their lands and ways of life.
- Communications materials: We develop and design creative tools – from award-winning films and animations, to spoof adverts, postcards and pocket posters – to stimulate thinking from the Earth’s perspective. Our comms team also provides audio-visual trainings for our partners and communities, along with support for media coverage, newsletters and stories from the ground.