High climate variability has been a characteristic of mountain ecosystems, even before climate change concerns emerged. Indigenous cultures of Central America and the Andean region have been living in unpredictable environments for centuries. As a result, they possess a variety of knowledge and technologies that have helped them to adapt their livelihoods to increasing uncertainty and risk. Traditional knowledge has proven to be compatible with scientific knowledge and, includes techniques that demonstrate great potential to meet the challenges of climate change expected over coming decades. These cultures therefore have much to contribute to climate change adaptation processes and should participate in adaptation strategy design and implementation. However, social exclusion, lack of information systems and inadequate protection from governments mean traditional knowledge is slowly being eroded.
This brief highlights a selection of indigenous climate change technologies from across Latin America. It then describes how Latin American countries have successfully harnessed indigenous knowledge to improve climate change adaptation policy, and the challenges they face in doing so. Finally, it describes the main contextual factors that explain how and why traditional knowledge and technologies have been gradually incorporated into climate change adaptation policy and practice in Latin America, and offers lessons learned for other regions.