Center for Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge



The Centre for Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge (CBIK) was established in 1995 as a non-profit membership organization, based in Kunming, Southwest China. It had more than 100 members from 20 different Chinese institutions including research professionals of natural and social sciences as well as development practitioners. It focused on the issues of biodiversity conservation and community development. Its main emphasis is the relevance of indigenous knowledge and innovations related to resource governance and management at community and watershed levels.

CBIK aimed to explore alternative development approaches like the support to Indigenous Initiatives and practice them with indigenous people and rural communities. These ways of practical action address the aspirations of local groups whose visions of the future rely on the continuity of their livelihoods and maintaining cultural and biological diversity through applying indigenous knowledge. Due to the rapid changing environment and uncertainty that local people face in SW China, CBIK also worked to promote local and regional inter-sectoral and intercultural dialogue among rural communities, NGOs, academia and governmental agencies. 

For this purpose, CBIK has designed a methodological approach that consists of conducting interdisciplinary research, facilitation for participatory development, consultation for cultural identity, monitoring for socio-cultural changes and its process, networking for information sharing and capacity building for indigenous initiatives, watershed governance and livelihood development. 

CBIK's regional focus was mainly Southwest China consisting of three provinces, Yunnan, Guizhou and Southwest Sichuan, and two autonomous regions, Western Guangxi and Southeast Tibet (Xizang), a unique eco-cultural region. CBIK was a partner of the network Montane Mainland Southeast Asia (MMSEA), which seeks academic exchange, mutual visits as well as learning from development experiences. In Yunnan, CBIK particularly emphasizes Southeast Yunnan, the Green Triangle areas of Yunnan, Vietnam and Laos, and Northwest Yunnan, the Eastern Himalayan Region, which can be defined as global hot-spots for biological and cultural diversity. With regard to the Consultation in Bad Boll on Support to Indigenous Initiatives CBIK had committed to support the diverse follow up actions in the region and provide inputs to mutual exchange and regional networking activities. 

CBIK payed special attention to the serious uncertainties that indigenous people and their cultures face as they strive to use, nurture and sustain the diverse landscapes in which they live and depend on in the process of socio-cultural change and globalization. Local cultures and biodiversity are embedded in a field of multiple forces of local and global character. Among these, government policies and the expansion of regional, national and international markets have a positive impact and in some cases not.

CBIK saw ethnic minorities as socio-cultural assets in the development process. They were knowledgeable conservationists of biological diversity, practitioners for nurturing and sustaining the diverse landscapes. Their local culture, practices and institutions provide a basis for resource governance and livelihood development.

CBIK's mission was:

To enhance the ability of local groups to increase biodiversity so that they can strengthen their evolving cultural traditions while finding innovative solutions for improving their livelihoods. Their means are interdisciplinary research, capacity building within the framework of participatory approach and the practice of intercultural dialogue. They devote their efforts to improve the interactions between local and scientific knowledge in Southwest China.

CBIK served as a centre for:

  • Knowledge generation through interdisciplinary and participatory action research, case studies and promotion of community development experiences

  • Human resource development through training and learning by doing for enhancing capacity of research professionals, local technicians, resource managers and farmers, mainly from ethnic minorities, on biodiversity conservation, community development, watershed management and cultural revival

  • Facilitation of methods such as participatory technology development (PTD), community and culture based resource management (CCBRM) and area management planning (AMP)

  • Forum for consultation on the issues of resource management, indigenous people, and intercultural dialogue, and resource governance

  • Information bank through its library, information system and publications

  • Network for information sharing, exchange of experiences and bilateral visits with partners from the region of SE-Asia

CBIK had twelve full-time staff (six females) and 18 part-time staff (8 females), as well as about 118 members from various institutions specializing in the fields of anthropology, ethnobotany, ecology, resource management, forestry, agroforestry, community development and watershed management. The staff was engaged in field research and practical action as well as office work. The members provide technical advice and sometimes are actively involved in project implementation. CBIK had specifically recruited young professionals, placed them in interdisciplinary fieldwork, and provided them with opportunities to attend training workshops and gain scholarships. The expertise had been drawn particularly from the Kunming Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which offers Ph.D. and Master Degrees in ethnobotany and environmental natural resource management. The organizational structure consists of an executive board, international advisory board, executive directors for research and development, administration and communication, as well as supporting and research staff.

CBIK had successfully implemented the first Five-Year Plan covering the period from 1996 to 2000. In conjunction with the second Five-Year Plan, The Cultures and Biodiversity Congress 2000 was convened by CBIK in Kunming over 10 days in July 2000 with the purpose of exploring the links between cultures and biodiversity.  Several CUBIC themes and some of the specific recommendations of The Yunnan Initiative are reflected in CBIK's past and on-going work. It provides a foundation and technical guidance for CBIK to formulate the second Five-Year Plan. In the next phase we aim to strengthen our efforts in learning how to support more concretely indigenous initiatives, knowledge and their cosmovisions as well as the biodiversity rich environment in the process of promoting local livelihood development.

For example, they further developed their programs on indigenous initiatives, community development and indigenous culture, by employing participatory approaches and implementing biodiversity education programs in ethnic minority areas in an attempt to better integrate a focus on indigenous technical knowledge with indigenous perceptions of time, space, values and other significant cultural concepts. Since this work is pioneering, it will take time to experiment with holistic thinking and develop participatory approaches that are suited to local indigenous cultural and the wider Chinese contexts.

CBIK's second Five-Year Plan has been revised since April 2001 during the process of Strategic Planning and as a consequence the structure has been revised. The main aim was to transform CBIK from a donor-driven project to a demand driven and issues-focuses program, which includes since 1st of July of 2001

1.      the Watershed Governance Program;

2.      the Community Livelihood Program

3.      the Indigenous Knowledge and Culture Program, and 3 service programs

4.      the Institutional Development Program

5.      the Communication Program and

6.      the Capacity Building Program

Beginning of March 2002 they have finalised the Strategic Plan and defined our work plans for each program for 2002. In order to achieve the overall objectives, CBIK was developing the long-term institutional capacity and strategic partnerships with indigenous people, local institutions and strategic alliances to creatively implement program-focused activities.

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