Indigenous knowledge plays an important role in the way communities interact with their climate in many countries, particularly in Bolivia. It contributes to weather forecasting at the community level, and to the preservation of vital ecosystem functions that help to buffer communities against climate change impacts.
However, the increasing incidence of extreme weather events and disasters is taking a toll. This situation calls for new partnerships between indigenous people and the scientific community – an area where Bolivia could lead the way.
Indigenous people have reported that traditional climatic indicators are no longer as reliable for predicting weather as in the past. Some seasonal variations have become so unpredictable that traditional observations provide little protection against the impacts of severe weather on crops and livestock. Yet, indigenous knowledge can be combined with scientific methods to allow vulnerable populations to better adapt to climate change, such as in the development of early warning systems and new planting techniques to increase resilience to extreme weather. Bolivia’s Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra (Law of the Rights of Mother Earth) is one important tool for indigenous people that helps to protect natural and cultural resources. Such policies, combined with partnerships among scientists and indigenous communities, can also provide useful lessons to other countries and communities.