Yakutia CBM Lessons Learned
By Martin Enghoff, Nikita Vronskii, Vyacheslav (Slava) Shadrin, Rodion Sulyandziga, Finn Danielsen
The organisations involved in the Yakutia Community Based Monitoring (Yakutia CBM) programme are the Centre for Support to Indigenous People of the North (CSIPN), the Republic Indigenous Peoples’ Organisation of Sakha Republic (RIPOSR) and NORDECO (Nordic Foundation for Development and Ecology) from Denmark.
Pilot phase in Nenet Autonomous Okrug 2012–2016. Ongoing in Yakutia since 2017.
To achieve more sustainable and more democratic management of the natural resources in Yakutia, thereby improving the way resources are being used, improving the livelihoods of the Indigenous communities, and strengthening their rights to the use of the land. It is also an objective of the programme to discuss and share lessons from the CBM activities in Yakutia with other initiatives in Russia and beyond.
See also the Wiki on Participatory Monitoring.
The programme is still under development. During 2017-2019, the Yakutia CBM process has involved 20 workshops and meetings in the districts, with an average of some 10-15 people involved in each one. The workshops and meetings have focused on introducing CBM, building capacity to undertake CBM, and on how concrete CBM activities are being implemented in the respective communities. As of December 2019, eight CBM groups are actively observing their environment.
The data on the environment are compiled by community members and used by the Republic Indigenous peoples organisation and the District and Republic government for guiding their work with protecting Indigenous communities’ rights to land and resources and securing sustainable development of the land.
Probably the most important achievement has been that the programme has engaged both the local communities, the local Indigenous peoples organisation and the District and Republic government in developing a monitoring programme based on the peoples’ needs, so as to begin to include local communities’ voice and opinions in the natural resource management decisions made by the government.
Examples of the impacts of the Yakutia CBM activities during 2017-2019 include:
The CBM work is linking well with the process of seeking to put the territories of traditional land use into practise and activating the local Indigenous peoples organisation. The work with the CBM groups is helping the communities to become more the subjectsof the development of the traditional land rather than just the objectsof its development. It also contributes to monitoring of, and to having a dialogue with, the various industrial developments (mining) that are being undertaken and planned on traditional territories.
An obshina(community) in Zhigansk has obtained the rights to a traditional fishing ground partly because of its active participation in the CBM group. This work empowered the obshinaand gave extra clout to their process of obtaining the rights.
The CBM groups have documented that two of the most important fish to the communities – Siberian cisco and Arctic cisco (Coregonus sardinella, C. autumnalis)– are found at greater water depths in the tributaries to the Lena River perhaps due to higher water temperatures. The fish are difficult to catch with the permitted net types. This observation has been used by the Indigenous peoples organisation to influence changes in permitted net types.
Information on brown bear problems has been promoted at several meetings with the Republic’s authorities in order to seek better solutions by which local people can protect themselves from bear attacks.
The information on wild reindeer hunting shows that reindeer hunting is very important to the communities and that local people are worried about its future due to industrial development (mines). The Indigenous peoples organisation has taken this to the mining company and agreed on a monitoring programme. Information on changes in the wild reindeer population, as well as a mismatch with the set hunting quotas, is also being used to influence the authorities’ decisions on management of reindeer hunting.
Monitoring has raised problems of water pollution around the Alrosa diamond mining sites. The Indigenous peoples organisation has taken the problem of water quality monitoring to the District- and Republic-level authorities.
Establishment of the CBM groups has generally resulted in much more important information reaching the Indigenous Peoples’ organisation from the communities, and this is proving useful in dialogues with the authorities.
CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS
Over the course of the programme, there has been logistic challenges related to arranging travel permits and visas but these were mitigated through improved planning and administration of timetables. Another challenge is difficulty in finding long-term funding. During 2012-2016, funding (for the time and travelling of facilitators) could only be secured for one year at a time. The programme partners therefore were continuously seeking other funding opportunities and simultaneously adjusting administration and implementation of the programme for the best possible sustainability.
Local involvement and relationship building is important in any CBM programme. The Yakutia CBM programme works through local partner organisations who are well-known in, and very familiar with, the local communities.
In the rural communities in Yakutia, like in many rural areas of the Arctic, there islow internet speed and bandwidth. We therefore use analogue (not digital) tools for data collection, data storage and reporting.
In the long run, the expected results of the Yakutia CBM programme are that the Indigenous communities will be better able to communicate their knowledge of the changes in the resources, and the way that challenges in relation to resource use and resources should be addressed. The results are improved dialogue on resource use on District and Republic level and with other stakeholders. The results are also better regulations, better implementation of regulations, better decision-making on resource use, and better management actions implemented where the local knowledge is used more effectively.
We think the Yakutia CBM approach and materials can be very suitable for use in other areas of the Russian Arctic. It will however be an important task to make sure that other institutions and actors involved understand and support participatory approaches to resource management. We think this could be ensured by regularly briefing Republic and Federal government agencies about the plans and progress of the work.