Aligning traditional culture and science for a better future

This page in:
Indigenous women from Mexico are working on communitie´s corn fields Indigenous women from Mexico are working on communitie´s corn fields

According to the International Labor Organization, there is an estimated 476.6 million indigenous traditional communities worldwide. These traditional communities, who have a strong connection with the land and natural resources on which they depend, linking their identities, cultures, livelihoods, as well as their physical and spiritual well-being to it, account for about 19 percent of the extremely poor and are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and other natural hazards. 

We knew by experience that these populations are living in a very complex situation, where there is a lack of basic services and all development projects are not only necessary but of urgent implementation. Considering that, and how single are each ethnical minority group is, we understood that it was not a “one size fits all” situation and that the designed to promote inclusive growth should be implemented by aligning the power of tradition with the power of science. 

To promote the creation of solutions to improve sustainable growth among this target group and aiming to empower the youth to explore innovative ideas to tackle development challenges, the World Bank Group (WBG) selected young leaders from around the globe to discuss Unlocking the Power of Inclusion for Equitable Growth during its Youth Summit 2022 .

The participants were divided into groups based on their regions of interest and had to choose between solving one of the three case challenges developed by the Youth Committee. The case related to the promotion of inclusive growth for ethnic minorities in a rural community of an undeveloped country appealed to us given the similarities to the reality of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries and our previous experiences with the subject. Based on this case, we have identified some of the key-challenges and designed mitigation strategies, which we present below:

  • Difficulty for rural communities to access innovative agricultural approaches and new technologies, so to mitigate it we would have to create awareness campaigns, based on community communication strategies. These should be focused on the advantages of using climate-smart seeds, together with the implementation of agroecological practices developed through the ancestral knowledge of the producers to avoid the use of pesticides based on agrochemicals
  • Abrupt governmental chances that can create a lack of political will to implement the project - so we would have to build negotiation strategies to make Inclusive Growth for Ethnic Minorities a national matter and incentive legally binding actions
  • Most of the land is owned by large companies that produce genetically modified soybeans and corn, with many agrochemicals, as well as companies engaged in extensive livestock farming, which can damage the quality of organic production. To mitigate this, the private sector must be part of the solution, understanding the importance of the project for regional economic improvement in general.
  • Especially in vulnerable communities, where the largest percentage of poor people on the planet is concentrated, people have urgent needs, we must take that into account, so it would be necessary to find ways to generate income that contribute to improving the quality of life, while the project is developed.

To create a project that would be truly diverse and inclusive, we came up three main approaches:  

  1. Social - Community will be part of the project during the whole cycle; workshops for planning should be held inside their territories, so they would feel confident, and above all, their problems can be addressed effectively through the actions of the project and see the other stakeholders truly making a move towards understanding. The project management team would better understand the territory's strengths and vulnerabilities, what would improve the decision-making process. 
  2. Environmental - The solutions should value traditional experiences and be sustainable. The resilience building would be done by designing an implementation strategy that promotes sustainable land use: align science and technology for the creation of more resilient crops, implementation of productive backyards and agroecology plantations that are adapted to climate change and can increase local farmers' production and diminish poverty. There should be online tools for the community to engage and see the ground transformation, as a “Sustainable Territories Radar” , a digital social cartography, using a lack of software so people could access (not everybody has a good cell phone or internet connection) and understand the situation and relate their territory situation to the 2030 agenda. With these tools they would be able to find the nearest organic fair to their houses, to understand medicinal value of each plant, and improve the supply chain of sustainable/organic products. 
  3. Economic - Young people would be encouraged to stay (or return) in their territories by increasing access to land through financial aid from the government and creating scholarship opportunities  to study in sustainable development and land-related fields and developing policies specific measures to increase decent and dignified work. There were also to be implemented hackathons financed by the government to fast develop technological devices to support the farmers, for example, with the drain of their production.


Financial and other resources considerations:

  • The project team will be also built based on Diversity & Inclusion standards and whenever possible locals should be hired. For that, the job requirements should also be considered an inclusive approach.
  • Most families are led by single vulnerable women that work with agriculture for subsistence in not regular lands. The land regularization process should take that into account and assure the are the landowners.
  • Considering the country situation, financial aid for the government would be provided, thought low-interest loans provided by the international organizations, that would also deliver trainings on project management as part of the Environment Social and Governance/ Diversity & Inclusion implementation
  • Community representatives would be elected by their own community members
  • At least 60% of the group must be composed by indigenous people, representatives of other ethnic minorities and women.
  • Digital transformation and inclusion would be considered though all the processes
  • All project supply chains, as the ones from the farmers supported, will have their carbon print monitored and they will be highly incentives for sustainable use of resources as energy, water, and land.

Key success metrics would be measured by quantity and quality, considering the number of ethnic groups represented in the project decision making; the number of ethnic people included in sustainable agriculture economic activities; the decrease of conflicts and inequality in the region; high level reports elaborated; and the analysis of level of trust that the population has in the government.

Sharing our ideas with young people around the world and exploring solutions in a high-level environment such as the WBG Youth Summit 2022 boosted our awareness as young leaders and made us even more sure about our mission of creating a more resilient and sustainable future, leaving no one behind. 



Flora Oliveira Fonseca

Specialist in sustainable governance and management

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000