Globally, there has been more focus on the need to include and scale local knowledge and action over the past decade. This ambition was reflected in the CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 under Aichi Target 18, and appears in the draft post-2020 global biodiversity framework in targets 9, 13, 20 and 21, for example. These targets make clear that traditional knowledge and the participation of local communities in natural resources management is a key driver of change, however turning targets into nature-positive reality has proved challenging.
Communities’ traditional knowledge, values and practices are rooted in a history of sustainable use of natural resources, and offer ways to understand and better address socio-ecological challenges. But the sustainable use of nature, especially within food systems, depends on legal ownership and the security of tenure of users’ rights. Many laws, traditional and modern, enshrine sovereignty to the owner of the land, with rights to enforce protection against illegal activities. Community-based management of natural resources, be it of land, wildlife, forests, fish or wetlands, depends on the ability of securing ownership, of establishing secure tenure of the natural environment and of the right to exclude illegal behaviour and poaching.
Turning targets into nature-positive reality has proved challenging, but communities’ traditional knowledge is rooted in a history of sustainable use.
In Kenya, however, the territorial rights to wetlands and water rest with the State, so communities’ claims to ownership can be challenged. Historically, fishing off the Kenyan coast has been traditional, small-scale, and artisanal in nature; conventionally for subsistence with some fish sold or bartered for other food. Ownership of fishing rights was given by the Indigenous, territorial chief, and enforced by village elders. They established rules on when, where and what kind of fishing could take place, protecting critical ecosystems and breeding areas. This traditional system is known as Tengefu.