Florina Lopez Miró | Protected biodiversity through the ancestral knowledge
Florina López Miró

Florina Lopez Miró | Protected biodiversity through the ancestral knowledge

[Regards in Kuna dialect] Good morning, firstly to the table that keeps us company, to each of you brothers and sisters. We are here present in the name of the Creator of Mother Earth, and I am happy to be able to share with you this very important topic for us the indigenous peoples.

As the representative has said, I am Florina Lopez of the Kuna people in Panama; I am also coordinating the Indigenous Women Network about Latin America and the Caribbean Biodiversity.

I want to begin with this topic that is a very important topic for the indigenous peoples, so vital: The protection, preservation -before all- and the conservation of biodiversity, with a great Kuna leader’s quote that when asked what biodiversity meant for him, he answered: << For me biodiversity is life, where the great pharmacy I use every day is at, where my supermarket is at, where I direct myself every day in search of my food and daily sustainability; the factory where I pick up the materials to build my house is there, everything I need to continue living day by day is there and to leave this inheritance to the future generations >>. These are the words of a great leader that is retired today, cacique Gilberto Arias.

Above all, you, experts of this matter, know that the biodiversity that exists worldwide is where the indigenous territories are. It is a sample of how indigenous peoples, since the creation of Mother Earth, have been preserving, protecting this great Mother Earth; because it is precisely the place where we practice, where we live, where day by day we fight so that humankind can continue to live.

In the morning, I was listening to the presentations of each one of those who directed the opening, and I think that each one picked up in a way the great importance of continuing to protect it.

For the indigenous peoples it is the cultural identity, the traditional knowledge, that are linked to the great biodiversity, the existing resources in our territories; and being able to visualize the fundamental role these practices and these knowledge in our territories play, for us is of great importance (as I said), and currently above all, when we know that the major pharmacies, the major food industries are looking for a way to access these resources in these territories.

As I said, it represents life. The forest offers every resource. Also we the indigenous peoples practice, in a harmonious way, the connection with her, and especially framed in the great spirituality all of indigenous peoples have.

The traditional knowledge; precisely the fundamental role women play in this process of oral transmission that we the indigenous peoples practice is fundamental, which has served precisely to protect against the great threats that we are currently facing every day.

These practices, despite that many of them are at risk, and we the indigenous peoples acknowledge that many of them are being lost; in spite of practicing every day, we see how programs, plans intended for indigenous peoples have cultural pertinence absence which each of these plans should have.

In the worldwide scientific field traditional medicine and ancestral knowledge are being of great studies and investigation by the major pharmaceutics, as I said, where the results have been relatively very beneficial.

Therefore we must recognize, as someone said, there is a lot of people that have lost their life protecting precisely this great biodiversity, like sister Berta Caceres, one of the greatest leaders, lost her life for protecting and defending precisely this biodiversity; and many of them, men and women, have done it through the ages.

There are many cases where indigenous peoples have demanded the recognition of these medicinal plants. In the South, we have the case of cat’s claw, ayahuasca, in many cases these ancestral knowledge are not recognized, as the indigenous peoples are not the owners. They are collective knowledge that are precisely to offer humankind the solution to major health problems; but nevertheless, at the time to be used it is not used correctly, those knowledge are not recognized as it should, the indigenous peoples are not recognized as the owners or protectors of these medicinal plants.

Currently, that is why, in major international conventions, when in 1992 these four treaties are signed they righteously speak of and recognize the role that biodiversity plays in the preservation of humankind, its health, and alimentation; then, as of that year in 1992, there is a process in which the indigenous peoples begin to fight for the recognition of the vital role indigenous peoples have in that protection.

Until today, Convention on Biological Diversity has adopted the Nagoya protocol, where the protection of ancestral knowledge related to genetical resources is being talked about; where article 8(j), which is transcendental, and also the article where it is recognized that the vital role of these ancestral knowledge of <<the indigenous peoples and local communities>> has to be promoted, developed and recognized; where the United States has adopted and assumed that responsibility of seeing that each day the indigenous peoples do not have to demonstrate how ancestral knowledge and biodiversity have contributed to humankind; and I think humankind is currently acknowledging it.

Scientific science is acknowledging the importance that the medicinal plants that indigenous peoples protect have, precisely those practices or their own systems that indigenous peoples have through internal regulations, through consuetudinary laws where we protect our biodiversity.

Righteously at level of the Kuna people, for example (I’ll give you an example), we speak of galos, which are sacred sites; that is way of protecting biodiversity. The great grandfathers created these sacred sites precisely so that people would not come and exploit the resources found in those sacred sites. We found those sites as the place where animals come to feed every day, where settlers must not go without permission to those sacred sites, because they thought about it that way, that those sites must be protected in a spiritual way, where indigenous peoples through their practices and oral transmission, have given their generation that line that they must not access those sacred sites without permission.

For example, the traditional doctors, in what way do they protect biodiversity, its medicinal plants? When it comes to resorting to those plants they ask permission to Mother Earth, they speak to the trees, plants, telling them: “I will use you because I must help a brother or sister to heal. I pray to God to give me that wisdom to help this person that needs of me with your help”. He speaks to it, because for us everything has life; even the rock has life for us indigenous peoples.

I am the daughter of a traditional doctor, where ever since I was a little girl I saw how my father spoke to those plants, he sang to them; he used to tell me: “They hear us because they have life; that is why the Great Father while creating each species on Earth, gave it life; because each one of these, even the smallest insect in the world, has life and has a role to play in this world”.

That was not recognized before. Maybe the indigenous peoples were told that they were superstitious, that we were sorcerers; but no. Through our science, in which the great cultures like the Mayans, the Aztecs left a major inheritance, which today despite these great adversities from day to day, that the generation of today is currently immersed in another world, understanding that cultures get transformed, that they are dynamic, despite that we are practicing it knowing that some are getting lost. But our responsibility (as of the scientists, governors, the academy, the universities), us the indigenous peoples also have that responsibility of continuing to protect it, of seeing how those projects through time have contributed to that protection; because if not, if the indigenous people had not practiced, they would not have created their own systems protection, perhaps today the great biodiversity would not exist, maybe today the world would be different.

So, it is our responsibility to leave our children that great well-being that the grandparents left us as well. In that sense, women’s role has been important, without downplaying men’s role; but a woman from the moment she wakes up until she goes to sleep practices, transmits her children the great importance of this biodiversity and her traditional knowledge.

Today we are speaking about the Integral Development Plan of the Indigenous Peoples in Panama, where I am contributing. The great leaders, women who participated in the consultations, the plans that were developed at the 12 territory level speak precisely about that, that every plan that is going to be implemented, developed in their territories, has to have that vision of self-development with cultural relevance; because many programs have come to our territories without acknowledging that we as indigenous peoples have our particularities; those particularities with respect, harmony, complying with the free, prior, and informed consent principle can precisely be integrated with the Western World; that us the indigenous peoples are fighting for their recognition. While there is no respect, that harmony, that unity to be able to work together, there will be no peace.

The indigenous peoples go out on the street to protest so their principle, that right is acknowledged; may it be recognized that those ancestral knowledge exist to be able to contribute to humankind, but having respect and recognition that those knowledge belong to indigenous peoples; that they are collective, not individual.

We have always been taught since we were kids..., since I was a little girl at least I have that one - I could say- that benefit of growing up in a home where a father was wise and a mother was a seer; that is a practice that one produces day by day. Youth is currently studying, they are at universities, in the cities, but how can we regain that youth? That regardless it is, in parenthesis: trying to search for a better level of life, have a greater economic income, how to make those policies aimed at economic, political, social, and cultural level, be able to make that youth also feel their identity fortified every day.

Then we have to see how we contribute with rulers, institutions that have that responsibility. At international level as well.

I remember that a Spain representative, negotiating the Nagoya Protocol asked me: “How can the ancestral knowledge of the indigenous peoples be eaten?” And I told him “Well, for you to understand... because maybe you cannot feel it since you are not indigenous; he who is indigenous, being woman or man, knows of what he is speaking about and knows what he is feeling when defending those rights. Maybe you will never understand; but go to indigenous territory, go coexist a few days, you will understand, you will live it; maybe there you will understand”.

Then, in that journey of the indigenous peoples worldwide, who are fighting precisely so the major megaprojects do not destroy their territories, which day by day is where their children eat, how to understand when someone says indigenous peoples do not want development? We want development: a development with respect, indigenous vision, where we have demonstrated that biodiversity can be protected with self-practices, where indigenous peoples have that governance, where they can determine the food security issue; we also speak about food sovereignty, maybe many times that term makes noise, the food sovereignty issue. Food security in the territories is essential for us, where our great ancestors, brothers and sisters are here (whom are form the South), know what I am speaking of.

The agricultural systems, of agricultural production, how have they developed it over time? Precisely when we speak of climate change, how has every people confronted, in that sense?, how have they created self-systems, upgrading it with new technologies? We do not say that technology coming from the Western world is wrong: it is good, because it also helps us face precisely those changes that we are currently suffering when we speak of climate change; but we tell you: as long as there is respect, balance, harmony, and that respect towards Mother Earth.

Mother Earth is suffering today, precisely because her children are not understanding the great wealth here in this world and that she is offering us every day.

Until now we are in that process; and hopefully in this Summit concrete proposals and works altogether with indigenous peoples come, where their vision towards development and of how to continue protecting this biodiversity which is our Mother Earth will be acknowledged.

Thank you very much.


Primary objective

Acknowledge and value the fundamental role of practice, transmission, protection, and promotion of the Indigenous People’s ancestral knowledge for the preservation and conservation of biodiversity for humankind’s well-being, by building bridges and synergies amongst technology and western science with the purpose of protecting Mother Earth.

Overall content

For Indigenous Peoples biodiversity represents life, the forest is the one that offers their housing resources, their daily food, medicine and territorial space, where their ancestral knowledge are developed, practiced, and preserved. Transmission of these knowledge, which are collective, in an oral way, from one generation to another.

These ancestral management systems have made this biodiversity kept protected despite threats they face more and more. They are kept in customary norms of management and administration of biodiversity. (Systems of sacred sites).

Many of these knowledge and their practices are sacred, that is why the vast majority fight for their protection, acknowledgement, and promotion before different instances, both national and international.

Besides, their worldview is based on the fact that everything is related and interconnected, that nothing is separate. Therefore, indigenous peoples assume their responsibility to be guardians and protectors of Mother Earth. That is why the vision of indigenous peoples is more humanitarian than mercantilist.


Ancestral practices for indigenous peoples to protect biodiversity is key, since the future of our humankind depends on them, these must be respected, recognized as sciences, protected, and guaranteed by all pertinent instances. This respect has to be at line with ILO Convention (No. 160), with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with Article 8(j) of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Nagoya Protocol, the Cartagena Protocol, amongst others.

Modern science and technology must go hand in hand, complementing themselves with knowledge and systems of the Indigenous Peoples, who fight to maintain and protect Mother Earth in a sustainable manner.


access_time Mon, 10/16/2017 - 10:15