Interview by Amod Shah from Land Rights Now with Ghanimat Azhdari (Cenesta).
CENESTA is a non-profit, civil society organization which has worked for almost 40 years in Iran with indigenous peoples, different nomadic pastoralist communities and other local communities, such as marine and coastal communities. We work in around 15% of the land area in Iran and with more than 50 communities. Our work focuses on three kinds of assessment: territorial, ecological and governance.
For territorial assessment, we use participatory Geographic Information System (GIS) with communities to map and delineate their customary territories by themselves. For indigenous nomadic pastoralists, their territories include their wintering and summering grounds, as well as migration routes, stopovers and midway stations. All of these areas need to be mapped. They are different for different groups. For instance, some nomadic pastoralists migrate vertically between highlands and lowlands, while others migrate horizontally. In addition, we look at threats to their territories, such as declaration of protected areas by the government, establishment of factories, agricultural development and urbanization.
From the ecological point of view, we work with these groups on the ecological assets in their territories, like the vegetation and plants which are important for their livelihoods and medical use, as well as wildlife conservation and sustainable use. We help to gather this indigenous knowledge and secure their rights to these ecological assets.
Governance assessment relates to the system of governance and management of their territories. We gather information from the territorial assessments and use this to empower them to advocate for their rights.