Since 2000, Global Diversity Foundation has carried out vibrant applied collaborative research programmes with Indigenous communities in Mesoamerica, North Africa, Southeast Asia and southern Africa. In collaboration with local and national institutions, we provide training and advocacy to support communities as they design and implement their own initiatives to maintain local environments and enhance their livelihoods and wellbeing. Our areas of focus depend on community interests and priorities. To date, we have worked on community-based biocultural diversity conservation, sustainable livelihoods, community access to lands and resources, the continuity of ethnobiological knowledge, community health and wellbeing.
In 2016, we consolidated our regional activities into two programmes: the North America regional programme, which expands from our Mesoamerica programme to include the U.S. and Canada; and the Mediterranean regional programme, which grows out of our North Africa programme with a view to include countries on the Northern and Eastern shores of the Mediterranean sea. Our Southern Africa and Southeast Asia programmes, which ran for five and ten years respectively, are no longer active but form part of GDF’s legacy.
Global Diversity Foundation started working in the Mediterranean in 2000 with the launch of its Morocco programme. In collaboration with local and national institutions, we documented local knowledge systems and identified plant species sold in southern Morocco marketplaces, helped maintain agricultural and horticultural traditions in the Marrakech medina and assisted in establishing participatory ethnobotanical and educational gardens in schools throughout the Marrakech region, with a view to supporting the transmission of traditional knowledge. We are currently collaborating with Amazigh communities in the Moroccan High Atlas seeking to sustainably manage their changing environments while enhancing their livelihoods and wellbeing.
Global Diversity Foundation’s early work in North America principally focused on the Chinantla region of Oaxaca state in Southern Mexico. In response to a local request for assistance, we collaborated with Anima Mundi – Investigación y Acción Biocultural, a local NGO working with Chinantec communities. We supported community endeavours to secure their rights to their territories and resources, to protect their food sovereignty and to enhance management of biocultural diversity and extensive community conserved territories. In 2013, we began working with Indigenous collaborators in North America to foster networking, mutual learning and exchange between emerging community leaders through North American Community Environmental Leadership Exchanges.
Beginning in 2004, Global Diversity Foundation work in Southeast Asia with Dusun communities in the Crocker Range and Mount Kinabalu areas focused on supporting them in establishing forest and resource management approaches that respect traditional livelihoods and knowledge systems and to design endogenous development pathways compatible with the objectives of these protected areas. Through a blend of participatory research and action and interactive training programmes, we explored the issues between parks and people to uncover ways protected areas and Indigenous communities can converge to support both biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods.
Global Diversity Foundation’s involvement in southern Africa began in 2006. We worked principally with San communities in the Omaheke region of Namibia to create home gardens and promote San use of wild food and medicinal plants to promote healthy lifestyles in sedentary settlements. We implemented an integrative approach to conservation and development, balancing the need for increased livelihood opportunities, food security and education with the ecological considerations of the Kalahari eco-region.
Between 2000 and 2011, Global Diversity Foundation’s International Programme promoted biocultural diversity through training, documentation and networking opportunities. We established the Biocultural Diversity Learning Network, organising seminars, workshops and trainings at regional and international scales on the topic, while maintaining an online repository of resources on biocultural diversity and active engagement through social media. In 2012, we created the Global Environments Network (GEN), through which we now channel most of our international work.