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As an Indigenous community of Algeria and the broader Sahel, the Tuareg hold unique ecological knowledge, which might contribute to broader models of place-based climate change impacts. Between January and April 2019, we carried out semi-structured interviews (N=23) and focus group discussions (N=3) in five villages of the province of Illizi, Algeria, to document the local Tuareg community’s timeline and ecological calendar, both of which are instruments used to understand place-based reports of climate change impacts. The livelihoods of the Tuareg of Illizi are finely tuned to climate variability as reflected in changes reported in the cadence of events in their ecological calendar (marked by cyclical climatic and religious events). Participants reported rain and temperature irregularities and severe drought events, which have impacted their pastoral and semi-pastoral livelihoods. These reports are aligned with scientifically-measured climate observations and predictions. Paradoxically, although participants recall with detail the climatic disasters that happened in the region over the last century, the Tuareg do not explicitly report decadal trends in the frequency of extreme events. The differential perception of climate change impacts across scales can have important implications for undertaking climate change adaptation measures.
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1. Introduction
Climate change is one of humanity's most complex and existential challenges as it impacts both the economy and
the environment, including those environmental aspects that form the fundamental basis of human wellbeing:
clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient and nutritious food, and secure shelter (IPCC,2022; Sofonov,2019;
WHO,2012). Climate change is expressed in increasing frequency of extreme events, it directly and indirectly
impacts on education and health, and alters social relations (IPCC,2022). Climate change impacts have led to
the loss of wealth as well as access to land (Snorek etal.,2017), and thus can contribute to the loss of cultural
heritage, Indigenous and local knowledge, and language diversity in societies intrinsically linked to their natu-
ral environments (Dunn,2018; Eira etal.,2018). Climate change impacts in culture have been reported across
several groups, from Pacific Islanders (McAdoo etal.,2009; Straza etal.,2018) to Sámi reindeer herders in the
Arctic (Eira etal.,2018).
Despite growing agreement among the scientific community about global trends (IPCC,2022), the differentiated
local impacts of climate change as well as the possible responses to these impacts remain contested by different
social groups (Straza etal.,2018). This is so, not only because the physical impacts of climate change have
uneven geographical distributions, but also because people have different perceptions of uncertainty, risks, and
Abstract As an Indigenous community of Algeria and the broader Sahel, the Tuareg hold unique ecological
knowledge, which might contribute to broader models of place-based climate change impacts. Between January
and April 2019, we carried out semi-structured interviews (N=23) and focus group discussions (N=3) in five
villages of the province of Illizi, Algeria, to document the local Tuareg community's timeline and ecological
calendar, both of which are instruments used to understand place-based reports of climate change impacts. The
livelihoods of the Tuareg of Illizi are finely tuned to climate variability as reflected in changes reported in the
cadence of events in their ecological calendar (marked by cyclical climatic and religious events). Participants
reported rain and temperature irregularities and severe drought events, which have impacted their pastoral
and semi-pastoral livelihoods. These reports are aligned with scientifically measured climate observations
and predictions. Paradoxically, although participants recall with detail the climatic disasters that happened in
the region over the last century, the Tuareg do not explicitly report decadal trends in the frequency of extreme
events. The differential perception of climate change impacts across scales can have important implications for
undertaking climate change adaptation measures.
Plain Language Summary Climate change impacts are perceived by communities across the
world. The Tuareg of Illizi (Algeria) have animal rearing livelihoods relying on local resources and have deep
knowledge of the desert environment and its climatic conditions. Here, we discuss that Tuareg communities
perceive a diversity climate change impacts (on climate, vegetation, and fauna) affecting yearly cyclical
activities, but they do not explicitly recognize climate change trends happening over decades. This may hamper
adaptation as these trends are predicted to continue or even worsen in the future.
© 2022 The Authors. GeoHealth
published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on
behalf of American Geophysical Union.
This is an open access article under
the terms of the Creative Commons
License, which permits use and
distribution in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited, the use is
non-commercial and no modifications or
adaptations are made.
Climate Change Impacts Can Be Differentially Perceived
Across Time Scales: A Study Among the Tuareg of the
Algerian Sahara
M. D. Miara1 , M. Negadi1, S. Tabak1 , H. Bendif2, W. Dahmani1 , M. Ait Hammou1 ,
T. Sahnoun3, J. Snorek4, V. Porcher5 , V. Reyes-García5,6 , and I. Teixidor-Toneu7,8
1Department and Faculty of Nature and Life Sciences, Laboratory of Agro-Biotechnology and Nutrition in Semi-arid Areas,
Ibn Khaldoun University of Tiaret, Tiaret, Algeria, 2Department of Natural and Life Sciences, Faculty of Sciences, University
of M'sila, M'sila, Algeria, 3House of Agriculture of the Wilaya of Illizi, Illizi, Algeria, 4Department of Environmental Studies,
Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA, 5Insitut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, Univeristat Autònoma de Barcelona,
Bellaterra, Spain, 6Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), Barcelona, Spain, 7Natural History Museum,
University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway, 8Centre d’Écologie Fonctionnelle et Évolutive, CNRS, Montpellier, France
Key Points:
The Tuareg of Illizi (Algeria) report
on multiple climate change impacts
including temperature irregularities
and severe drought events
These reports are aligned with
scientifically omeasured climate
observations and predictions
The Turaeg do not explicitly report on
decadal trends, which has implications
for their ability to adapt to such
Correspondence to:
V. Reyes-García and I. Teixidor-Toneu,;
Miara, M. D., Negadi, M., Tabak, S.,
Bendif, H., Dahmani, W., Ait Hammou,
M., etal. (2022). Climate change impacts
can be differentially perceived across
time scales: A study among the Tuareg
of the Algerian Sahara. GeoHealth,
6, e2022GH000620. https://doi.
Received 19 MAR 2022
Accepted 8 OCT 2022
Author Contributions:
Conceptualization: M. D. Miara
Data curation: M. D. Miara
Formal analysis: M. D. Miara
Investigation: M. D. Miara
Writing – original draft: M. D. Miara
Writing – review & editing: M. D. Miara
Special Section:
Rhythms of the Earth: Ecologi-
cal Calendars and Anticipating
the Anthropogenic Climate
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urgency (Hulme,2009; Jacques,2012; Oreskes,2004) that result in different distribution of preparedness and
resilience among social groups across the globe (Barnett & O’Neill,2010; Snorek etal.,2014).
Among other factors, place-based knowledge and skills can largely affect societies' capacity to react and adapt
to climate change impacts (Schlingmann etal.,2021). Indigenous and local knowledge and practices are impor-
tant components of climate-related local planning and response to cyclic events and natural disasters (Charan
etal.,2017; Fletcher etal.,2013; Plotz etal.,2017). Through generations, Indigenous peoples and local commu-
nities living in close relation with nature have accumulated very precise knowledge on celestial, meteorological
and ecological phenomena (e.g., Garteizgogeascoa etal.,2020; Orlove etal.,2000). This knowledge has allowed
them to anticipate weather conditions and seasonal events and to accordingly adapt their livelihood activities
(Acharya,2011; Reyes-García etal.,2018; Turner & Singh,2011). Combining Indigenous and local knowledge
with climate science has been beneficial to many communities, as the combination of both types of knowledge
provide a better understanding of climate change drivers and potential impacts (Alexander etal.,2011; Boillat &
Berkes,2013; Jolly etal.,2002; Kassam,2009a; Nickels etal.,2005; Nyong etal.,2007; Rapinski etal.,2017).
However, to effectively incorporate Indigenous and local knowledge to climate and disaster planning, this knowl-
edge must be recognized as valuable, identified, and documented, and included through all stages of the climate
change and disaster risk management planning processes (Straza etal.,2018) and knowledge holders should have
their rights recognized (Reyes-García etal.,2022).
Some of the ways in which Indigenous and local knowledge systems give meaning to time and report changes is
through community historical timelines and ecological calendars. Community historical timelines are analytical
tools to chronologically report on the main events affecting a community by placing them in chronological order
(McNaught etal.,2011). Ecological calendars, also known as seasonal, natural, or phenological calendars, are
based on ecological, phenological, or climatic events observed locally in the physical environment inhabited by
the community (Kassam etal.,2018). Ecological calendars are frameworks that link temporal and spatial scales,
contributing to landscape management and stewardship (Akulki,2004; Franco,2015; Kassam,2009a,2009b;
Krupnik & Jolly,2002; Orlove etal.,2008). While the well-known celestial calendars (e.g., Gregorian) are based
on the movements of the sun and the moon, ecological calendars emphasize the relative timing of environmental
processes. Communities use both ecological and celestial calendars in tracking events that happen with different
periodicity (from daily to inter-annual). When adequately used, community timelines and ecological calendars
can provide a baseline for understanding local perceptions of climate change impacts and support local planning
to adapt to environmental changes (Chambers etal.,2021; Yang etal.,2019).
Dryland ecosystems, which occupy 40% of the terrestrial surface, are particularly affected by climate change. The
area occupied by dryland ecosystem is expected to expand by 10% by the end of the 21st century (IUCN,2019).
The people inhabiting dryland ecosystems have unique strategies to cope with the climatic variability of their
environment, but climate change reduces their capacity to cope with environmental conditions (IUCN,2019).
Yet, how their coping and adaptive capacities are reduced is poorly understood. As state-level climate change
mitigation and adaptation planning is often implemented in participation with local communities, understanding
communities' climate change perceptions can contribute to the plans' success. This research is the first to describe
the community timelines and ecological calendars of the Tuareg peoples of Algeria. The Tuareg are an Indige-
nous pastoral community adapted to the hyper-arid conditions of the Sahara Desert. We enquire whether Tuareg
people have observed climate-related changes across two different time dimensions, a longitudinal dimension
captured by the community timeline and a cyclical dimension captured by changes in the ecological calendar.
Algeria is particularly vulnerable to climate change, with slow-onset impacts such as from increased deserti-
fication and erosion to fast-onset impacts like water scarcity and flash floods (Sahoune etal.,2013). Algeria's
National Climate Plan sets out targets for climate mitigation and adaptation in participation with local commu-
nities including adapting local agricultural calendars. In our discussion, we elaborate on how Tuareg reports of
climate-related changes are reflected within the academic climate change literature and in what ways reports on
climate change impacts can contribute to climate change adaptation planning in dryland ecosystems.
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2. Materials and Methods
2.1. The People and the Study Area
The Tuareg are a pastoral community indigenous to the Sahelo-Saharan region spanning from the Maghreb to
sub-Saharan Africa. Their territories are found across Libya, Algeria, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, with some small
communities in Chad and Nigeria (Bernus,2016). The Tuareg are traditionally pastoralists and raise herds of
camels, cattle, sheep, and goats (Miara etal.,2019). Despite contradicting views around whether pastoral liveli-
hoods have contributed to environmental degradation in the Sahel (Mortimore & Turner,2005; Warren,1995),
the fact remains that pastoral societies have persisted in extreme dry conditions since the end of the African
Humid Period (6,000–5,000years ago) and that Tuareg pastoralism seems well adapted to the Saharan dryland
(Brierley etal.,2018).
Like many Indigenous peoples around the world, Tuareg efforts to preserve their cultural identity and territories
for future generations represent a commitment to what is termed as “indigeneity” (Steeves,2018). Tuareg culture
is rooted in an environmental ethic represented in their lifestyle and traditions and demonstrates an intimate
understanding of their environment honed over generations (Bernus,2016). Tuareg pastoral lifestyle demands
vast knowledge of how to steward the land in a way that perpetuates fodder sources (native trees and grasses)
to enable them to maintain herds of grazing and browsing livestock in resource-scarce environments (Brierley
etal.,2018). While many Tuareg have been forced to transit into sedentary or semi-sedentary pastoral lifestyles,
partly due to the greater frequency of drought events (Snorek,2016), nomadic pastoralism remains an important
part of Tuareg cultural identity and lifestyle (Snorek etal.,2014).
Algeria hosts the fourth largest Tuareg population after Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. This study focuses on the
Tuareg living in the wilaya (province) of Illizi in the South-East of Algeria. Illizi is about 1,800km by road from
the capital of Algiers (Figure1). To the east, the province borders with Tunisia, Libya and Niger. To the west, it
borders with the province of Tamanrasset and to the north with the province of Ouargla (Figure1). The region
occupies an area of 284,618 km2 (∼1/9 of the total surface of Algeria). Most of this area is rangeland (28, 450,
102ha). The land used by cropland agriculture only covers 11,698ha (OTNP,2009). The total population of Illizi
is estimated at 57,100 inhabitants of whom 43% are under 15years of age. Most of the population in the province
are Tuareg who speak “Tamasheq,” an Amazigh or Berber language (Bernus,2016).
Figure 1. Geographical location of the study area.
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The region is composed of three landform types: dunes, plateaus, and
lowlands (NAID,2015). Soils are diverse with various types of edaphic
accumulation: ablation, saline, sandy (dunes and nebkhas), and alluvial soils
(OTNP,2009). Vegetation grows mainly along the wadis or watercourses,
which are the only environments allowing the presence of perennial plants.
The climate of Illizi is typical of the Saharan desert characterized by rela-
tively high air temperature, low humidity, and very little precipitation
(OTNP,2009). The daily average temperature in summer is between 42.4°C
maximum and 25.6°C minimum. In winter, the daily average temperature
varies between and 22° maximum and 7°C minimum. As for most of the
Sahara, the distribution of rainfall in Illizi is irregular (Yan etal., 2016).
The winds are generally light to moderate and the most frequent blow from
the southeast and east. The strongest winds often blow during the months
of March, April, May, and September. Their speed can reach 120km/hr, and they can lead to the formation of
sandstorms that force the local population to take refuge indoors for hours.
2.2. Data Collection and Analysis
Between January and April 2019, we documented the Tuareg community timeline, ecological calendar, and
reports of climate change impacts following a standardized protocol developed to document and compare local
indicators of climate change impacts (LICCIs) across Indigenous Peoples and local communities around the
world (Reyes-García etal.,2020). The protocol used has been developed by the LICCIs project, which aims to
show the potential of Indigenous and local knowledge systems to improve scientific understanding of physical,
biological, and socioeconomic climate change impacts as locally perceived (
We conducted fieldwork in the center and south of the Illizi province, in the villages of In Tourha and Belbachir
(near the town of Illizi), and Bordj El Hawes, In Abarbar and Ifri (near Djanet; Figure1). The research team have
long-term trust relationships with the Tuareg of Illizi, which facilitated the implementation of the pre-designed
protocol. After explaining the project's scope and objectives and after answering all participants' questions, we
requested participants' Free, Prior and Informed Consent to participate. Literate participants signed a written
consent form, and we used an oral script for illiterate people, which was signed by a witness. The research proto-
col was approved by the Ethics committee of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (CEEAH 4781).
To collect qualitative data about the community's timeline (last 120years), the ecological calendar, and observed
climate change impacts, we used semi-structured interviews and discussed interview responses in focus groups
with elder community members.
2.2.1. Semi-Structured Interviews
Two types of semi-structured interviews were conducted with different samples. First, to get a deep understanding
of local livelihoods, important historical events, and the local ecological calendar, we targeted people who had
knowledge about the locality (i.e., local experts). Specifically, we conducted interviews with local elders and
people having a local authority role, including four tribal chiefs of over 67years of age. One of the elders had
tribal and spiritual authority over two villages (In Tourha and Belbachir). All the four interviewees were men. In
these interviews, we asked about local livelihoods, including the activities people do for a living, the timing (i.e.,
yearly, seasonally) and location of the activities, and the household members or community groups in charge of
or participating in those activities. We also asked about the local timeline, including the history of the study site,
important events in the community that everyone remembers, and when these events happened (e.g., in relation
to national events).
Second, to document climate-related changes in ecological calendars we selected informants using a “quota
sampling” (Sudman,1966) aiming at capturing gender, age, and livelihood diversity. In total, 19 people were
interviewed in the five study villages: Ifri (4), Belbachir (6), Bordj El Hawess (3), In Tourha (2), In Abarbar
(4). Sample size differs across villages depending on the number of people available and willing to participate.
Our sampling is biased toward men (12 out of 19) because in the study site strong reservations exist preventing
women to speak to foreigners. Participants included breeders, tourist guides, farmers, and craftsmen (Table1).
Breeder Touristic guide Farmer Artisan Total
Young Men 2 3 0 0 5
Women 2 0 0 1 3
Old Men 5 0 2 0 7
Women 1 0 1 2 4
Total 10 3 3 3 19
Table 1
Participants in Semi-Structured Interviews According to Age, Gender, and
Profession (n=19)
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Both young and old people were interviewed, with the distinction between
the two groups being locally defined. In general, the Tuareg consider people
under 50 to be young.
The purpose of semi-structured interviews was to investigate the perceived
changes in elements of the atmospheric (i.e., temperature, precipitation,
seasons, air masses), biophysical (i.e., freshwater physical systems, soil, wild
fauna and flora, land cover change and degradation), and socioeconomic
system (i.e., livelihoods, species cultivated, livestock, human health, infra-
structure). We inquired about what changes the interviewee had noticed in
the environment and since when they have noticed these changes. We asked
informants to describe the changes observed and to report if they perceived
the change to be directly related to climate change. The protocol's full details
are available online (Reyes-García etal.,2020).
2.2.2. Focus Group Discussions
We organized Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) to validate, through the
group collective memory, observations collected from individuals. The
FGDs meetings were organized with the help of village chiefs who invited a group of mostly elder community
members with a long experience in the community (Figure2). Three FGDs were organized: Ifri and In Abarbar
(seven participants), Bordj El Hawess (four participants), and Belbachir and In Tourha (five participants). In
FDGs, we discussed observations reported in semi-structured interviews that were either contradictory or unclear.
Ambiguous observations were presented to the groups to assess whether there was a consensual perspective, and
we noted the result as “Agreed” or “Disagreed” without the need of or after debate (Reyes-García etal.,2020).
Temporal information on activities mentioned in participants' responses during the first set of semi-structured
interviews were organized and synthesized in a chronological manner to produce the community timeline and
its calendar. The LICCI classification system (Reyes-García etal.,2020) was used to classify responses from the
second set of semi-structured interviews and FGDs.
3. Data
Data for this article was uploaded to the LICCI database and was uploaded to Zenodo (Miara,2022).
4. Results
4.1. Community Timeline
The oldest remembered events are two political events: a war between the Tuareg and the Chaanba (Arab-speaking
tribes from the north of the Sahara) in 1900 and the start of the French colonization in 1911. Nevertheless,
the local Tuareg chronology is mainly marked by natural disasters (N= 10) that have generally afflicted the
region, or that have impacted specific localities of regional importance (e.g., the capital, the biggest oases). The
most common natural disasters mentioned are floods or drought causing significant material and human losses
According to our participants, there was a great drought lasting several years that resulted in a large famine across
the region in 1940. The Tuareg have a clear memory of this period, when many people died of starvation. The first
floods remembered by participants were in 1946, when heavy rains destroyed the city market of Illizi which had
been established in 1945 and where many Tuareg, Chadian and Malian traders operate (Figure3). This market
was destroyed and most of the traders, who settled near the city, died. The following year, other floods enabled the
growth of very abundant vegetation, completely changing the landscape of the region. At this time, several plants
not previously known in the region spontaneously appeared in the landscape (e.g., tourha, Calotropis procera
(Aiton) Aiton fil., nejem, Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers., and diss, Ampelodesmos mauritanicus (Poir.) T. Durand &
Schinz). In 1954, and later in 1964, the floods made the inhabitants flee to the Tassili Mountains. Informants also
Figure 2. Focus Group Discussion with elder Tuaregs.
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remember a strong drought that occurred in 1980, when many Tuareg from Algeria fled to neighboring countries
(i.e., Libya, Niger, Chad and Mali).
The promotion of Illizi as an administrative province (wilaya) and the town of Illizi as its provincial seat in 1984
also mark the local timeline. Informants recall that after these events, the local population of the region benefited
from a large state budget which allowed the construction of roads, houses, and infrastructure.
In 1988, after years of drought, fires destroyed many palm trees in the oasis of Aharhar (near the Tassili Moun-
tains), having an important impact on local date production. A period of repeated droughts lasted until 2001,
when a very severe drought was experienced. In 2006, the region suffered from very heavy floods which caused
the death of many people including the legendary singer of the Tuareg, Othman Badi. The Tuareg say that the
height of these flood waters reached 3m in the city of Illizi. Finally, floods in 2019 also caused significant mate-
rial damage.
4.2. Ecological Calendar
The Tuareg structure their ecological calendar in two seasons divided by temperature and precipitation: a cold
and a hot season (Figure4). Traditionally, the cold season is also rainy and lasts for about 2months. The longer
hot season also includes a rainy period.
For the Tuareg, the beginning of the ecological calendar is the onset of the cold and rainy season, when pastoral-
ists and other livestock owners take their herds of cows and camels into wild pastures in the Tassili Mountains.
This pastoral movement relates to the growth of grass in the mountains. The animals, which have all tribal owner-
ship marks, are left unaccompanied in these grazing lands for the length of the rainy season (Figure4, “Settled
grazing”). At the end of the rainy season owners return to the area to pick them up.The animals do not risk being
lost or stolen as this practice is carefully framed and severely enforced by tribal laws.
During the cold and rainy period, while cows and camels are in the mountains, Tuareg practicing nomadic pasto-
ralism settle in the lowlands, near waterflows (wadis) where they benefit from the availability of water and grass
to feed their sheep.At this time, the Tuareg plant temporary gardens with vegetables such as tomatoes (Solanum
lycopersicum L.), salad (Lactuca sativa L.), and zucchini (Cucurbita pepo L.) for self-consumption. They also
plant bechna (Panicum miliaceum L., millet), a cereal crop widely used as fodder and food. The Tuareg mostly
appreciate millet's nutritional value as fodder for sheep and goats. Millet is also very important to the Tuareg
as food, and it is used in several local food recipes, including local bread (mella). Millet is considered the ally
of Tuareg women who practice force-feeding (a beauty ritual to fatten young women), mixing it with dates and
camel milk. The Tuareg also use millet as medicine, particularly against constipation (Miara etal.,2019).
The period after the cold and rainy season and before the rainy period that occurs during the hot season is consid-
ered as the most difficult period for the Tuareg. This is the season when sandstorms occur, sometimes with an
intensity that can kill livestock and dry out grazing plants. During this period, the Tuareg harvest their millet,
but stop all movements. Animals are placed in shelters to protect them from the very frequent and sometimes
Figure 3. Tuareg community timeline (Illizi). Political events not related to the environment are not colored,
temperature-related events (drought and fire) are colored in yellow, and orange and rainfall-related events (flooding) in blue.
We colored the 1940 Great Famine in gray as it is not a climatic extreme event in itself.
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devastating sandstorms. Despite these potential impacts, sandstorms are also considered an important part of the
seasonal cycle as, according to some participants, they clean the air and the soil and prepare them for the follow-
ing cycle. During this time, community members have to hand-dig shallow wells to obtain the water infiltrated
into the ground from waterflows (wadis) that have dried up.
Just before the start of the rainy period that occurs during the hot season, the Tuareg settle near or in the oases
and villages with their animals and begin the harvests of dates from cultivated date palms in the oases, a practice
called amaris. Such harvest is deeply associated to praying rituals for the rain that should occur during the hot
season. Indeed, for the Tuareg date harvest is accompanied by various religious rituals including prayers and
charity actions (sadaka) during which part of the date harvest is given to the poorest community members. These
practices are preconceived to help ensure good rains. The rains of the hot season are irregular, sudden, strong, and
sometimes devastating, but also make it possible to fill the wells and wadis and ensure drinking water until the
onset of the cold and rainy season. These rains are of great importance to Tuareg pastoral practice. Tuareg think
that the best years are the years when rain falls in abundance during the hot season. After the rains, the Tuareg
move around the desert allowing the livestock to graze on the abundant grass. However, if the hot season rains
fail, Tuareg will migrate away from their tribal lands to near permanent waterflows where the livestock can graze.
In addition to millet, the Tuareg also grow wheat. Traditionally, the Tuareg sow wheat towards the end of the hot
season and harvest it at the start of the rains that occur during the hot season. Like millet, wheat holds a special
importance among the Tuareg for being the base of bread making and other special dishes including couscous,
which is eaten every Friday after visiting the mosque. In the past, when traditional wheat varieties were sown, the
wheat cycle lasted 7months. Currently non-local, short-cycle varieties are being used for which the wheat cycle
is considerably shorter (Figure4).
Tuareg celebrations are linked to the ecological calendar, as well as to daily cycles, and the Muslim lunar calen-
dar. The Tuareg celebrate Muslim religious events including Aid El Kebir, the feast of sacrifice where Muslims
offer sacrifices (sheep, cattle, camels) to God, and Aid el Seghir, which celebrates the end of the youth month
Figure 4. Past and present ecological calendar of Tuareg community of Illizi. The present calendar's seasons occur at a
different period than in the past, but only one livelihood activity has been shifted in time, wheat sowing (presented in the
8 of 13
of Ramadhan. The Tuareg also celebrate El Mawlid Nabawi, the day of Prophet Mohamed's birth. During these
celebrations, Tuareg local tribes have song and dance competitions. The Sebiba is another festive day of Achoura,
where Allah saved the prophet Josephus from the Pharaoh who was drowned in the sea. On this day, the Tuareg
local tribes also celebrate dance and song competitions. Daily at night, the ritual of tindi is practiced by Tuareg
women and men. This ritual consists of singing songs that speak of the courage and strength of men as well as
historical accounts. Women sing and play the drums and men dance to the rhythm of these songs.
4.3. Perceived Climate-Related Changes
Our semi-structured interviews resulted in 20 LICCIs. There was no consensus in the listing of 15 indicators of
climate change impacts, but all the indicators were validated during FGDs (Figure5).
Changes in elements of the atmospheric system, including a higher cloud cover, colder temperature, a delay in
the start of the cold and the hot seasons, less wind, sandstorm intensity, and rain were mentioned by informants.
In particular, respondents mentioned that the fight against drought is increasingly difficult as digging deeper and
new wells or rationing the use of water become less effective in provisioning it. Some local community members,
but not all, also mentioned changes in the physical system around them that were directly linked to climate
change, especially a decrease in the river's volume. The Tuareg also reported changes in abundance of local fauna
and flora, including increased presence of invasive species.
Interestingly, although the visual analysis of Figure3 suggests that floods (a sign of water abundance among
the Tuareg) were more abundant before the 1970s, and have only happened twice since then, a decrease in the
number of flood events was not mentioned by the Tuareg as one of local indicators of climate change impact.
Figure 5. Local Indicators of Climate Change Impacts (LICCIs) identified by the Tuareg of Illizi. The Figure indicates
level of agreement with climate change as main driver each of the three Focus Group Discussions (FGDs): full agreement is
indicated in green, and agreement after debate in orange.
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Similarly, informants did not mention that drought and drought-related events are more common in recent times,
although this trend is evidenced from the community timeline.
In contrast, two of the indicators of climate change impacts mentioned directly relate to temporal seasonal shifts
of the hot and cold season and, in particular, to the seasonality of the rainy periods (Figures4 and5). The Tuareg
have noticed a shift in the cold season and its associated rainy period, which has shifted from mid-December
to mid-February in the past to early February-late March in the present. Informants also reported that the rainy
period of the hot season had shifted from May–August to August–October (Figure4). This change has a direct
impact on agricultural activities, specifically shifting the moment when wheat is shown and thus shortening the
wheat growing season (from October–May to February–May; Figure4). Despite the reported changes in climate
and environment, the Tuareg mentioned that other cultural and livelihood activities are carried out at the same
times as in the past. Some informants believe that the present is a temporary challenging period due to “God's
wrath” and pray that climatic and ecological conditions will soon revert to their former state. However, inform-
ants told us that the number of pastoralists and herds has decreased, as many people have decided to settle down,
transitioning into sedentary or semi-sedentary pastoral or non-pastoral lifestyles. Sedentary or semi-sedentary
Tuareg rely on agricultural activities to a larger extent than nomadic pastoralists.
5. Discussion
The main result of this work is that, while both longitudinal (across years) and cyclical (yearly) temporal changes
are perceived by the Tuareg of Illizi, only cyclical changes are consciously identified and related to climate
As for other Indigenous peoples and local communities (e.g., Leclerc etal., 2013; Ruggieri et al., 2021), the
Tuareg local timeline is clearly dominated by ecological events (Figure3). Both extreme events happening
decades ago and community responses to those events remain anchored in Tuareg collective memory, potentially
informing present and future reactions to similar events. For example, the Tuaregs have a clear memory of the
extreme droughts occurring in the 1940's, which were also recorded by the philosopher Albert Camus (Kassoul
& Maougal,2006), when many people died of starvation after several drought years.
The temporal analysis of the Tuareg community timeline seems to indicate a shift in the periodic occurrence of
extreme climatic events, and specifically a reduction of the welcome floods and an increase in drought events in
the last 50years. This pattern corresponds to observations done with instrumental data. For example, tree ring
record analysis also suggests that the drought events occurring in the 1980s and then in the 2000s have been
identified as the most severe droughts experienced in the region since the Middle Ages (Touchan etal.,2008), in
consonance with Tuareg's perception of the gravity of these droughts. Moreover, according to weather predictions
under climate change models for the region (Barkhordarian etal.,2013; Niang etal.,2014), these patterns will
likely be aggravated in the future, and affect larger areas and neighboring communities as hyper-arid dryland
areas expand (IUCN,2019).
However, it should be noted that the interdecadal trends signaling an increase of extreme drought events are
implicitly inferred from the timeline, and not explicitly identified by community members when directly asked
about climate-driven changes. Informants relate current climate hardship to divine origins, and they consider that
this temporary situation will revert to past conditions with appropriate moral and spiritual behavior. Association
of climate change impacts with God's will and resorting to prayer when crises encountered is given a theolog-
ical explanation, including weather driven crises, has also been observed amongst other African communities
(Cuní-Sánzchez etal.,2012,2018; Haron,2017; Mubaya etal.,2012), in Europe (Gómez-Baggethun etal.,2012)
and in Asia (Byg & Salick,2009).
Climate change impacts the intensity, duration, timing, frequency, or quantity of various elements of the atmos-
pheric system (e.g., sunshine, precipitation, temperature, wind, etc.) leading to temporal shifts in the beginning
and end of locally defined seasons (IPCC,2022). As ecological calendars are used to keep track of time-based
seasonal changes in the habitat, it is not surprising that changes in the succession of cyclical events are quickly
identified, particularly for people who depend on these calendars for their livelihood activities (Ahmed &
Atiqul Haq,2019; Chambers etal.,2021; Keyston Foundation,2020; Savo etal.,2016). For the Tuareg, changes
in the ecological calendar seem to be already impacting agricultural activities, specifically shortening the wheat
growth season. In turn, this shift impacts the yields of most wheat local varieties, which are not adapted to current
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conditions and are being abandoned. Far from being an isolated case, the result dovetails with previous research
showing how changes in climatic conditions can lead to agrobiodiversity loss (Labeyrie etal.,2021; Ruggieri
etal.,2021). Local reports of climate change impacts on the agricultural calendar may facilitate cooperation
between state authorities and local dryland populations around the implementation of the aspects of National
Climate Change plans relating to agricultural planning by establishing a common ground for decision-making
and action.
Perceived cyclical changes also impact pastoralism (e.g., pastoral transhumance itineraries), even though pasto-
ralist activities are carried out at the same time as in the past. Pastoralism is mostly impacted by a decrease of
the number of herders and herds, with former nomadic herders becoming sedentary or semi-sedentary. This
shift is often fueled by an extreme event (Snorek,2016). Semi-sedentary pastoralists complement their animal's
diets with fodder bought from governmental agencies who offer reduced prices to support pastoralist activities.
Tuareg also benefit from subsidies to practice agriculture (e.g., sustained prices for seeds) and to obtain aid for
well excavation (Snorek etal.,2017), which enable new sedentary lifestyles. Sedentary life brings a new comfort,
but informants also mentioned that sedentarism is accompanied by a weakening of old traditions such as tindi.
While the increasing frequency of extreme events may lead to increased sedentarism in the future, conversion of
rangelands to cultivated lands intensifies the degradation of dryland ecosystems (IUCN,2019). National Climate
Change adaptation plans should envision alternatives to this potentially reinforcing feedback loop.
In contrast, for the Tuareg who continue to lead a nomadic life, cultural traditions and religion continue to be
central to their daily activity. The non-urbanized landscape around these mobile Tuareg is considered holy and
pure, especially in contrast to urban areas. The Tuareg believe life in the desert keeps them away from sins and
allows them to better consecrate time to prayer and to God. As in other parts of the world (e.g., Castagnetti
etal.,2021), their ecological calendar interweaves ecological and spiritual cycles. For example, prayers offered
during the date harvest aim both to thank God for the harvest and to ask for rain. Spiritual cycles shape the rela-
tion people have with the land, contribute to respectful and sustainable landscape management practices, and
strengthen local identity (Castagnetti etal.,2021).
Previous research shows that religious and spiritual practices are important to cope with recurrent disturbance
and have contributed to develop institutional devices that are used in environmental extremes, such as sharing
resources with the most needy, a collective response to crises that contributes to the maintenance of long-term
resilience of social–ecological systems (Gómez-Baggethun etal.,2012). Here, we observe that spiritual values
offer some cultural resilience to climate change impacts as they affect some peoples' choices to continue pastoral-
ist lifestyles. At the same time, in Tuareg cultural practice there is little to explain climate change beyond that it is
“God's wrath” or “God's will.” Combined with the lack of perceived decadal trends, a sense of hopelessness can
hamper adaptation and give rise to inaction or feelings of inevitability. As new case studies emerge reporting the
influence of cultural preferences, access to information, and wealth as determinants of the adaptation strategies
taken by Indigenous peoples and local communities (e.g., Amani etal.,2022; Cuní-Sánchez etal.,2012,2018;
Hayati etal.,2010; Kaganzi etal.,2021), further research is needed to understand if being able perceive interdec-
adal trends also determines adaptation at local scales.
6. Conclusions
Indigenous peoples' and local communities' climatological and ecological knowledge has allowed them to adapt
their livelihoods to local, sometimes harsh, conditions. Our study documents LICCIs. This information has the
potential to contribute to the Algerian National Climate Change plan, as one of its goals is to identify climate
change impacts on society. In that sense, our study shows that the Tuareg of the Algerian desert observe changes
in the local weather and ecological systems, although only changes in seasonal cycles are consciously identified
and related to climatic changes. We observe various adaptation strategies to seasonal changes impacting agri-
cultural practices, whereas inter-decadal increased frequency of extreme events seems to lead to a gradual aban-
donment of nomadic pastoralism. These results can inform climate change adaptation planning across expanding
hyper-arid areas of dryland ecosystems.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest relevant to this study.
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Data Availability Statement
Data used in this article has been uploaded to Zenodo (Miara,2022) [Dataset]. Original audio recordings and
notes are not published to ensure anonymity.
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The first author would like to thank the
Tuareg of the Illizi region for their collab-
oration. We also thank Mr. Ghouma and
Mr. Kamel Raki from the Illizi Chamber
of Agriculture. Many thanks also to
Petra Benyei for her help as a member
of the LICCI-Core team (ICTA-UAB).
This work is funded by the European
Research Council (ERC) under Grant
771056-LICCI-ERC-2017-COG. This
work contribute to the ICTA-UAB“María
de Maeztu” Programme for Units of
Excellence funded by the Spanish
Ministry of Science, Innovation and
Universities (CEX2019-000940-M).
Funding to support open access publi-
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Rita Allen Foundation under agreement
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... Second, data collected through this protocol will improve our understanding of the impacts of climate change on local livelihoods, from changes in cropping patterns and damages related to extreme events [33], to disease outbreaks or to the increase in conflicts over dwindling resources [34]. While responding to climate change demands adjusting to weather and climate changes; identifying risks, making decisions on how to respond, and implementing such decisions are all mediated by socioeconomic and cultural factors [3]. ...
... The second challenge is to adequately capture the temporal dimension of change, as neglecting it might lead to conflate climate change and weather variability. For example, in a case study derived from this work [33], researchers found that Tuareg participants reported the impact of rain and temperature irregularities and severe drought events on their pastoral and semi-pastoral livelihoods. Paradoxically, they did not explicitly report decadal trends in the frequency of extreme events. ...
... To overcome the challenge, we put large emphasis in designing a flexible protocol. This strategy also increases the diversity of outcomes from the project, as reflected in the first case studies published by partners who have used data collected through Step 1 [33,34,37]. We also invested in the training of partners to understand the concepts behind the questions, so they could use their experience to locally adapt the protocol. ...
Full-text available
Introduction: In the quest to improve the understanding of climate change impacts on elements of the atmospheric, physical, and life systems, scientists are challenged by the scarcity and uneven distribution of grounded data. Through their long history of interaction with the environment, Indigenous Peoples and local communities have developed complex knowledge systems that allow them to detect impacts of climate change in the local environment. The study protocol presented here is designed 1) to inventory climate change impacts on the atmospheric, physical, and life systems based on local knowledge and 2) to test hypotheses on the global spatial, socioeconomic, and demographic distribution of reported impacts. The protocol has been developed within the framework of a project aiming to bring insights from Indigenous and local knowledge systems to climate research ( Methods: Data collection uses a mixed-method approach and relies on the collaboration of a team of 50 trained partners working in sites where people's livelihood directly depend on nature. The data collection protocol consists of two steps. Step 1 includes the collection of secondary data (e.g., spatial and meteorological data) and site contextual information (e.g., village infrastructure, services). Step 1 also includes the use of 1) semi-structured interviews (n = 20-30/site) to document observations of environmental change and their drivers and 2) focus group discussions to identify consensus in the information gathered. Step 2 consist in the application of a household (n from 75 to 125) and individual survey (n from 125 to 175) using a standardized but locally adapted instrument. The survey includes information on 1) individual and household socio-demographic characteristics, 2) direct dependence on nature, 3) household's vulnerability, and 4) individual perceptions of climate change impacts. Survey data are entered in a specifically designed database. Expected results: This protocol allows the systematic documentation and analysis of the patterned distribution of local indicators of climate change impacts across climate types and livelihood activities. Data collected with this protocol helps fill important gaps on local climate change impacts research and can provide tangible outcomes for local people who will be able to better reflect on how climate change impacts them.
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The warming rates in many mountain areas are higher than the global average, negatively impacting crop systems. Little is known about the climatic changes which are already being observed in eastern Democratic Republic (DR) of Congo, due to the lack of long-term meteorological data. Local perceptions could help us to understand not only the climatic changes and impacts but also which adaptation strategies are already being used by local smallholder farmers. Semi-structured questionnaires were administered to 300 smallholder Bafuliru (n = 150) and Lega (n = 150) farmers living in the Itombwe Mountains. The respondents reported climatic changes and impacts, with the Bafuliru—living on the eastern drier slopes—reporting more changes and impacts. While the Bafuliru were implementing several adaptation strategies (e.g., increased irrigation and use of inputs, more soil conservation, more income diversification), the Lega were implementing very few, due to soft limits (access to inputs, markets, and information) and culture (less interest in farming, less capacity to organize into groups). The results highlight important differences in sociocultural contexts, even for one ‘remote’ mountain, calling for a more collaborative approach to adaptation planning and action.
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Mountain environments and communities are disproportionately impacted by climate change. Changes in temperature are greater than at lower elevations, which affect the height of the cloud base and local rainfall patterns. While our knowledge of the biophysical nature of climate change in East Africa has increased in the past few years, research on Indigenous farmers’ perceptions and adaptation responses is still lacking, particularly in mountains regions. Semi-structured interviews were administered to 300 farmers on Mount Kilimanjaro (n = 150) and the Udzungwa Mountains (n = 150) in Tanzania across gender and wealth groups. Respondents in both mountains reported not only changes in rainfall and temperature, corresponding with meteorological data, but also a greater incidence of fog, wind, frost, and hailstorms—with impacts on decreased crop yields and increased outbreaks of pests. The most common adaptation strategies used were improved crop varieties and inputs. Wealthier households diversified into horticulture or animal rearing, while poorer households of Hehe ethnicity diversified to labour and selling firewood. Despite being climate change literate and having access to radios, most respondents used Indigenous knowledge to decide on planting dates. Our findings highlight how context and culture are important when designing adaptation options and argue for greater involvement of local stakeholders in adaptation planning using a science-with-society approach. Place-based results offer generalisable insights that have application for other mountains in the Global South.
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The Convention on Biological Diversity is defining the goals that will frame future global biodiversity policy in a context of rapid biodiversity decline and under pressure to make transformative change. Drawing on the work of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, we argue that transformative change requires the foregrounding of Indigenous peoples' and local communities' rights and agency in biodiversity policy. We support this argument with four key points. First, Indigenous peoples and local communities hold knowledge essential for setting realistic and effective biodiversity targets that simultaneously improve local livelihoods. Second, Indigenous peoples' conceptualizations of nature sustain and manifest CBD's 2050 vision of "Living in harmony with nature." Third, Indigenous peoples' and local communities' participation in biodiversity policy contributes to the recognition of human and Indigenous peoples' rights. And fourth, engagement in biodiversity policy is essential for Indigenous peoples and local communities to be able to exercise their recognized rights to territories and resources.
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Foodscapes are commonly embedded in spiritual landscapes, making the spiritual dimension of local and indigenous food systems an important element of food sovereignty. However, this dimension is often overlooked in food systems research and policy making. Based on ethnobiological fieldwork conducted in the Kailash Sacred Landscape of far western Nepal, we show how religious festivals and rituals reenact the covenant between people and the land through the numinous intercession of Hindu gods and landscape deities. To demonstrate this, we present the local calendar of the agricultural and ritual year based on data collected through household surveys and participation in festivals and agricultural activities. The complex fabric of the local agri-food system is revealed as articulated in the warp and weft of interwoven agricultural and spiritual cycles. These cycles contribute to respectful and sustainable landscape management practices by shaping the relationship people have with the land. In the annual women's festival of Gaura, the fertility and well-being of people and land is affirmed through the offering of locally produced pulses and grains. Furthermore, local gastronomic identity is enriched by the incentive to cultivate heirloom varieties of crops that are prescribed in rituals performed during Gaura and other major festivals. We conclude that spiritual practices should be considered key elements of biocultural diversity, and recommend that they receive more attention in the implementation of sustainable development that aims to embody the principles of food sovereignty.
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Indigenous Peoples and local communities have implemented myriad responses to deal with and mitigate climate change impacts. However, little effort has been invested in compiling, aggregating, and systematizing such responses to assess global patterns in local adaptation. Drawing on a systematic review of 119 peer-reviewed publications with 1851 reported local responses to climate change impacts, we show that Indigenous Peoples and local communities across the world apply a diverse portfolio of activities to address climate change impacts. While many responses involve changes to natural resource based livelihoods, about one-third of responses involve other activities (e.g. networking, off-farm work). Globally, local responses to climate change impacts are more likely to be shaped by people’s livelihood than by the climate zone where they live.
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Traditional calendars document seasonal cycles and the communities' relationships to their biophysical environment and are often used by communities, particularly subsistence farmers, to synchronise their livelihood activities with the timing of ecological processes. As the timing of these ecological processes is not always consistent from year to year, the use of traditional seasonal calendars can help communities cope with climate variability, particularly when biophysical phenomena become less predictable in relation to the Gregorian calendar, as has been observed in relation to climate change. Although the structure and content of seasonal calendars varies across the Pacific, for many indigenous communities, knowledge of seasonal calendars can increase their capacity to cope with climate variability and change. To increase the effectiveness of their products and enhance their relevance to and uptake by the community, several Pacific meteorological services are now using traditional seasonal calendars in their climate communication and education, including in forecasts and warnings. The use of a participatory approach resulted in strong relationships and improved dialogues. Local communities appreciated assistance in enabling their knowledge to become available to future generations and its inclusion in meteorological service products makes these products more accessible and relevant to community members.
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Local communities’ dependence on the environment for their livelihood has guided the development of indicators of local weather and climate variability. These indicators are encoded in different forms of oral knowledge. We explore whether people recognize and perceive as accurate one type of such forms of oral knowledge, climate-related proverbs. We conducted research in the Alta Alpujarra Occidental, Sierra Nevada, Spain. We collected locally recognized proverbs and classified them according to whether they referred to the climatic, the physical, or the biological system. We then conducted questionnaires (n = 97) to assess informant’s ability to recognize a selection of 30 locally relevant proverbs and their perception of the accuracy of the proverb. Climate-related proverbs are abundant and relatively well recognized even though informants consider that many proverbs are not accurate nowadays. Although proverbs’ perceived accuracy varied across informant’s age, level of schooling, and area of residence, overall proverb’s lack of reported accuracy goes in line with climate change trends documented by scientists working in the area. While our findings are limited to a handful of proverbs, they suggest that the identification of mismatches and discrepancies between people’s reports of proverb (lack of) accuracy and scientific assessments could be used to guide future research on climate change impacts.
Beyond the observation of climatic variations and their impact on livelihoods, farmers' knowledge about climate change can help to understand how rural populations respond to environmental changes and what factors should be considered when planning rural adaptation. This study documents Sereer farmers' observations of local environmental changes in the Fatick region of Senegal and explores how the farmers use crop diversity to adapt to those changes. Their observations of environmental changes were documented through focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews. Variations in crop diversity, as well as farmers' explanations for these variations, were assessed through surveys in two villages (n = 126 households). Sereer farmers identify four distinct periods of similar climate trends and reported how they managed crop diversity in response to the climate variations between periods. Three management responses stand out: 1) abandonment of long-cycle varieties during drought periods, 2) adoption of short-cycle varieties during periods with shorter rainy seasons, and 3) reinstating of long-cycle varieties with the return of rains. Sereer farmers consider that climate variations are important reasons to modify their crop varieties, although variety selection is also affected by other socio-economic and cultural reasons. This study illustrates the contributions that local knowledge can bring to understanding the local impact of climate change on smallholder farmers. Understanding how they use crop diversity to adapt to climate variations can be the basis of climate change adaptation policies that address local needs and constraints.
Homogenization of crop portfolios from the field to the global scale is raising concerns about agricultural adaptation to climate change. Assessing whether such trends threaten farmers’ long-term adaptive capacity requires a thorough understanding of changes in their crop portfolios, identification of the drivers of change, and the implications such changes have for local nutrition and food production. We reviewed the available literature on farmers’ reports of climate-driven crop changes. Small-scale farmers tend to adopt water-demanding crops, even in areas where models predict that reduced rainfall will reduce yields. The adoption of horticultural cash-crops combined with the abandonment of subsistence cereals modifies farmers’ nutritional inputs in terms of calories and nutrients, potentially undermining their food security. Farmers’ knowledge contributes to understand trends in crop diversity and support the design of strategies for adaptation to climate change.
There are minimally 370 million Indigenous people in the world. The term Indigenous was not used to identify human groups until recently. Indigenous people are often identified as the First People of a specific regional area. Indigeneity as applied to First People came into use in the 1990s, as many colonized communities fought against erasure, genocide, and forced acculturation under colonial regimes. An often-cited definition of Indigenous peoples is one by Jose Martinez Cobo, special rapporteur for the UN Sub-Commission. Cobo’s 1986 report was completed for the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on Prevention and Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, thirty-fifth session, item 12 of the provisional agenda, titled, “Study of the Problem of Discrimination against Indigenous Populations.” Cobo described Indigenous people, communities, and nations as groups that have a “historical continuity with pre-colonial societies” within territories they developed, and as communities that “consider themselves distinct from other sectors of societies” now in their territories. Cobo further stressed that Indigenous people and communities are minorities within contemporary populations that work to preserve their ethnic identities and ancestral territories for future generations. It is important to include displaced people whom prior to colonization identified with specific land areas or regional areas as homelands, as well as Indigenous communities that have for decades been in hiding in areas away from their initial homeland areas. Many descendants of Indigenous people were forced to hide their identities for their own safety due to colonization and genocidal policies focused on physical and cultural erasure. That does not make them non-Indigenous. It makes them survivors of genocide, erasure, and forced acculturation. Many Indigenous people are just coming to terms with the impact of ethnic cleansing and the work to reclaim and revive their identities and cultures. Indigenous is both a legal term, and a personal, group, and pan-group identity. Scholars have argued there are at least four thousand Indigenous groups, but that number is likely very low. Indigeneity is not as simple as an opposition to identity erasure or a push back against colonization. Indigeneity is woven through diverse experiences and histories and is often described as a pan-political identity in a postcolonial time. However, that can be misleading, as the world does not yet exist in a postcolonial state, despite ongoing concerted efforts by Indigenous people and their allies in political and academic spheres to decolonize institutions and communities. Diverse Indigenous communities weave Indigeneity through a multifaceted array of space and time to revive identities and cultural practices and to regain or retain land, human rights, heritage, and political standing.