These findings were then distributed to his family, who are distributed in 24 villages in tropical Ecuador, stretching from the Andes to the Amazonian lowlands. The Shure tribe to which he belongs has lived there for centuries.
The 24-year-old Jimbijti (called Shushui by his family) grew up in the jungle with armadillos, monkeys, and pythons. He deeply respects nature and recognizes its fragility. Jimbijti says the community knows that they can make money by developing the land—such as extracting and selling salt from rare brine springs. But it chose not to.
“We eat enough, but not too much,” he said. “This will be disrespect for everything and cause a complete imbalance.”
“When we face all the crises of climate collapse, rising inequality and loss of biodiversity, this is very important for modern times,” he said.
Give back to nature
“Based on balance and cooperation, indigenous peoples and (nature) live in harmony and connect with each other,” Roy said.
In the Roikasi community at the foot of the Himalayas in northeastern India, people are used to making tea with water in the morning and then heading to the fields. Roy said that people then sprinkled the ashes from the fire on public crops as “compost or fertilizer for the land to show their approval.”
When the Baka people in Cameroon collected honey from the hives high above the trees, they scattered fruit tree seeds along the way to mark the way to the hives. According to the FAO report, this contributes to the regeneration of the area and the spread of biodiversity, offsetting the disturbance of vegetation during honey harvesting.
This focus on cultivation and regeneration is in stark contrast to modern agriculture, which usually aims to obtain the highest yields for maximum profits.
For example, fallow land (leave the soil unplanted for a period of time) has long been a tradition of indigenous peoples. But in modern agriculture, it has always been regarded as a wasteland. Roy explained how economic development in India has promoted the conversion of indigenous fallow land to the production of single crops, such as rice, year after year.
“In these fallow lands, there are a lot of nutrient-rich wild foods that are important for trees, bees, pollinators and birds,” Roy said. “We can’t just extract everything, we need to add it even when we use it.”
The influence of modern culture and the increase in market access have also had a devastating effect. Nowadays, indigenous people rely more on agricultural products on the global market. FAO points out that almost half of the food of some groups comes from the global market.
Jimbijti witnessed this firsthand in the Shuar community. He said that since mining companies entered the area, canned and processed foods have been introduced. His community now eats chicken, chocolate, butter and sardines, which has never been done before.
This is not just a change in diet, but also health and lifestyle. “People are becoming lazy,” and gaining weight, he said-adopting a more sedentary rather than a nomadic lifestyle.
“Our culture is undergoing a very strong transformation,” Jimbijti said. “We are losing our roots.”
In order to save these cultures, Roy urged countries to protect indigenous people’s “land rights” and “traditional knowledge and language rights.” He said that if the local language starts to deteriorate because it is not taught in local schools, community members will forget the names of plants and herbs and ancient customs.
The FAO report calls for a more inclusive dialogue with indigenous peoples and their participation in sustainable management decisions. It concluded that “the world cannot sustain itself if it does not listen to the opinions of indigenous peoples.”
Roy believes that the biggest lesson to be learned is the value system of indigenous peoples: the world view of “land and nature are not commodities”.