The Protection of Forest Biodiversity can Conflict with Food Access for Indigenous People
Olivia Sylvester1, Alí García Segura2, Iain J Davidson-Hunt3
1 Department of Environment, Development, and Peace, Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada; University for Peace, Ciudad, Colón, San José, Costa Rica
2 Escuela de Filología, Lingüística y Literatura, Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica
3 Department of Environment, Development, and Peace, Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
Department of Environment, Development, and Peace, Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg; University for Peace, Ciudad, Colón, San José, Costa Rica
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
International protected area (PA) management policies recognise the importance of respecting Indigenous rights. However, little research has been conducted to evaluate how these policies are being enforced. We evaluated whether Indigenous rights to access traditional food were being respected in La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, Costa Rica. By examining land management documents, we found that PA regulations have the potential to restrict traditional food access because these regulations ban shifting agriculture and heavily restrict hunting; these regulations do not address the harvest of edible plants. By working with Bribri people, we found multiple negative impacts that PAs had on: health, nutrition, passing on cultural teachings to youth, quality of life, cultural identity, social cohesion and bonding, as well as on the land and non-human beings. We propose three steps to better support food access in PAs in Costa Rica and elsewhere. First, a right to food framework should inform PA management regarding traditional food harvesting. Second, people require opportunities to define what harvesting activities are traditional and sustainable and these activities should be respected in PA management. Third, harvesting regulations need to be clearly communicated by land managers to resource users so people have the necessary information to exercise their rights to access food.