Almost 350 million people live in or near Earth’s forests, depending on their ecosystems and biodiversity for their basic needs: food, shelter, energy and medicine. At the same time, indigenous people protect 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity. And they are the best conservationists as they have been the ones working closely with our forests for millennia.
These photos were taken with the Kuy community of Kampong Thom, one the 24 ethnic grous of indigenous people in Cambodia – or how they are called in the local language, Khmer Loeu, or Cambodians from the highlands. Plagued by land grabbing (e.g. for rubber plantations) and a slowly dying culture, they endure in preserving their way of life and uniquely harmonious relationship with nature. From mushroom collection in the forest to rotational farming, they have lived for centuries on the land taking what they need (after asking permission from the forest spirits, integral part of their animist beliefs) but always in a sustainable fashion, letting the ecosystem bounce back.
To save our future it is crucial to look back and extract traditional knowledge of peoples living in the forests who know how to coexist with nature. “The future is ancestral.” – Ailton Krenak, writer and Brazilian indigenous leader.