Alejandro Criollo, Shaman in A'I' Cofan Durano, Ecuador.

Indigenous Leaders Conservation Fellowship


Through this fellowship, we are creating opportunities for Indigenous leaders to explore solutions to the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss using the traditional knowledge of men and women.

Indigenous and traditional peoples’ knowledge, together with biodiversity and climate-related science, can help communities facing increasing threats on their lands and territories to confront the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. At the same time, a better understanding of how men and women interact with their environment, and the development of culturally appropriate methods to better engage everyone in management efforts, will help to confront the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss.


Conservation International's Indigenous Leaders Conservation Fellowship creates opportunities for indigenous leaders to explore solutions to the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss using the traditional knowledge of men and women. This video highlights the work of four recent fellows from Kenya, Indonesia, and Colombia.

Fellowship information

The Indigenous Leaders Conservation Fellowship focuses on supporting Indigenous peoples and elevating their voices in the dialogue around climate resilience and conservation. The fellowship offers individualized support to fellows, in an effort to enhance and expand leadership, as well as to provide learning opportunities and connections for personal and professional development. Beginning in 2019, Conservation International began supporting several distinct fellowship tracks under the Indigenous Leaders Conservation Fellowship: an Indigenous Women’s fellowship, an Emerging Indigenous Leaders fellowship, and a Southern Cone fellowship to support Indigenous leaders of South America’s Southern Cone countries (Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay).


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Meet the Fellows

Current and past fellows are a diverse group of passionate individuals from around the world. They are conservationists, community activists, farmers, scientists and more. Take some time to learn more about each of them.

2022 Fellows

Jakob Siringoringo, Indonesia

Jakob Siringoringo is from the Batak Toba tribe in Indonesia. He is the former chairman of an Indonesian Indigenous youth movement to preserve the territory, explore its historical origins, and the preserve traditional knowledge of the country’s Indigenous peoples. With support from the fellowship, Jakob will document the traditional knowledge and practices this community leaned on for resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as traditions that supported their food security. He will collect this knowledge and create a written resource for the community and for potential organizations looking to learn from Indigenous traditional knowledge in Indonesia.

Elijah Lempaira, Kenya

Elijah Lempaira is a Maasai pastoralist from Northern Kenya. He currently works as a Program Office for IMPACT, a Kenyan NGO which helps pastoralist communities across northern Kenya understand and claim their collective tenure rights. Elijah’s fellowship project will focus on documenting Indigenous peoples' conservation models as a resource for responding to pandemics. Elijah’s fellowship will demonstrate that Indigenous traditional knowledge can contribute to building more resilient and prepared societies in the face of pandemics and climate change.

Simón Crisóstomo Loncopán, Chile

Simón Crisóstomo Loncopán is a Mapuche, born and raised within the Trankura community in southern Chile. At the age of 19, he assumed the role of werken, a territorial spokesperson for Trankura. Currently, Simón is a we logko, a Mapuche territorial leader in his community, with a commitment to cultural, political and spiritual resistance. For his fellowship research, Simón will lead a participatory territorial mapping project in his community, with a goal of amplifying the decision-making authority of Indigenous communities in the administration and management of protected areas.

Relmu Ñamku, Argentina

Relmu Ñamku is a Mapuche Winkul Newen Indigenous leader from Argentina. She has long been a champion of protecting Indigenous peoples’ rights, including their rights over their territories and natural resources. With support from the fellowship, Relmu will research the strategies and mechanisms the Mapuche People relied on to face the COVID-19 pandemic. This will include an exchange between Lawentuchefe (the Mapuche traditional authority with knowledge of medicinal plants) and other Mapuche leaders to socialize traditional knowledge and strengthen Mapudungun, the Mapuche traditional language.

2021 Fellows

Ellie Modesta, Kenya
Indigenous Women Fellow

Ellie Modesta is a Samburu woman from a pastoralist community in northern Kenya. Orphaned from a young age, Ellie raised her seven siblings on her own, persevering against retrogressive cultural practices that made it difficult for young women in her community to use their voice. Today, Ellie is a champion of women’s empowerment, in her community and beyond. She works to elevate the voices of the less privileged women in her community, including widows, single parents, youth and people living with disabilities. Through the support of the Indigenous Women’s Fellowship, Ellie will conduct research on human-wildlife conflict and the direct impact these conflicts have on women. Through her research, Ellie hopes to inform women’s participation in decisions related to community conservation and rangeland management.

Marison Lemukut, Kenya
Indigenous Women Fellow

Marison Lemukut is from Ruko Conservancy in northern Kenya. She grew up in a community where women had very little influence over resource use and were rarely involved in decision-making. Overcoming these challenges, Marison graduated university with a focus in economics. She returned to her community to work with women and girls, to build awareness of their rights, challenge social norms that negatively affect them, and nurture their leadership capacity. With the support of the Indigenous Women’s Fellowship, Marison will support leadership training and a sanitary pad initiative in Ruko Conservancy, with the goal of encouraging community women to take up competitive leadership positions, solve security issues, and conserve the environment and wildlife.

2020 Fellows

Josephine Ekiru, Kenya
Indigenous Women Fellow

Josephine is a peacemaker from the Turkana community in Northern Kenya. At the age of 9, she witnessed firsthand the devastation of inter-tribal conflict, influencing her to dedicate her life to peace. Today, she leads the Peace Program for the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), working with over 100 peace ambassadors and pastoralist representatives across 4.5 million hectares of Kenya’s arid northern and eastern region. Through her fellowship, Josephine will explore the underlying drivers of conflict in pastoralist communities in Northern Kenya, and work to both document traditional knowledge around peace building and ensure it passes on between generations.

2019 Fellows

Kai Hoshijo, Hawaii
Emerging Indigenous Leaders Fellow

Kai Hoshijo is a native Hawaiian from the ahupuaʻa of Niu, located on the south eastern side of Oʻahu island. As a graduate of the Natural Resource and Environmental Management program at UH Mānoa, Kai focuses on cultural resource management, and the connections between traditional knowledge and marine management in Maunalua Bay. Through her fellowship research, Kai will be gathering stories on traditional resource management from elders around the Maunalua Bay area, preserving their stories in shareable formats. By creating a repository for these stories, they are both preserved for future generations of Hawaiians, and can ideally be used to influence standards and best practice for current marine management in the bay and beyond.

Bola Majekobaje, Palau
Emerging Indigenous Leaders Fellow

Bola Majekobaje is the Executive Director for Palau Conservation Society in the Republic of Palau. Armed with the stories and traditions of her elders and inspiration from her daughter, Bola's goal through the fellowship is to produce a children's book that makes a cultural case for protecting the region's endangered sea turtle population. Once published, the bilingual English-Palauan book will be distributed to early readers in local schools and libraries, and hopefully inspire a sense of cultural pride and enthusiasm for sea turtle conservation in future generations of Palauans.

Rufo Halakhe, Kenya
Indigenous Women Fellow

Rufo hails from one of the northernmost conservancies, Jaldesa, where the confluence of three ethnicities, two religions and the conflicting lifestyles of pastoralism and agriculturalism come together. Through the fellowship, she plans to document how women play a key role in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, and explore how women are affected by tribal clashes. Rufo’s fellowship stems from a partnership between CI and the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), and through her fellowship work, she will collaborate with Conservation International's Gender Program and CI’s Africa field division to support and advance women's leadership within community conservancies.

Rebecca Kochulem, Kenya
Indigenous Women Fellow

Rebecca was NRT's first woman conservancy manager, overseeing conservation efforts in a highly patriarchal pastoralist society for 9 years. Her fellowship will focus on identifying ways to promote more women in leadership and governance positions within the community conservancies. Rebecca’s fellowship stems from a partnership between CI and the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), and through her fellowship work, she will collaborate with Conservation International's Gender Program and CI’s Africa field division to support and advance women's leadership within community conservancies.

Maria Clemencia Herrera Nemerayema, Colombia
Indigenous Women Fellow

Maria Clemencia, of the Murui Huitoto people of the Amazon, has been widely recognized as an effective leader over the last 30 years. She is currently the coordinator for the Political Training School for Indigenous Leadership and Governance as part of the Organización Nacional de los Pueblos Indígenas de la Amazonia Colombiana (OPIAC). Her fellowship focuses on strengthening the participation of Amazonian women leaders as defenders of their territory through developing and piloting a curriculum focused on strengthening women's roles in environmental governance through traditional knowledge. The curriculum developed from this process will help to ensure a strong gender-sensitive component that enables continued growth of Indigenous women leaders.

2017 Fellows

Juan Cusanero Elías, Guatemala

Juan Cusanero Elías, of the Kaqchikel Maya people of Guatemala, was supported as an alumni fellow of the program to scale up the impact of his previous research, completed in 2011. Having designed a culturally appropriate monitoring system for biodiversity in the Kaqchikel Volcanic Chain ecoregion during his first fellowship tenure, Juan used this second year of fellowship support to introduce community stakeholders to the system and develop capacity within traditional community leadership to implement the monitoring plan.

Josefa Cariño Tauli, Philippines

Josefa Cariño Tauli is a 22-year-old Kankanaey-Ibaloi Igorot from Besao in the Cordillera region in the Philippines and a graduate student of Wildlife Studies at the University of the Philippines. Her fellowship focuses on researching the local migratory bird-hunting practice in Sagada, Mountain Province, and looking into the application of local knowledge to biocultural conservation in the area. Her project seeks to develop an effective and culturally appropriate management plan in order to conserve biodiversity without sacrificing the cultural aspects of the practice important to the community.

Agustin Tentets, Ecuador

Agustin Tentets is a community leader from the Achuar community of Sharamentsa, located in the Pastaza province of Eastern Ecuador, close to the Peruvian border. Through a partnership between the CI-Ecuador field office and the SPP team, Agustin’s fellowship research will focus on the formalization of the “Achuar System of Conservation and Ecological Reserves,” an Achuar-managed community protected area focusing on sustainable use of resources, ecotourism and the restoration of the territory's ecosystems.

2016 Fellow

Laura Jiménez Bautista

Laura Jiménez Bautista, of the Zapotec peoples of Oaxaca, Mexico, is an educator and researcher. In her work, Laura supports Indigenous communities engaging in community forestry. She oversees biodiversity conservation practices in forest spaces, advises on social and environmental safeguards and guides participatory processes, with a focus on gender. Laura’s fellowship project seeks to familiarize the youth of her community with traditional knowledge on use, management and conservation of the local forests.

2015 Fellows

Jamer Magno, Peru

Jamer Magno is an emerging Shipibo-Conibo leader and researcher from Peru. His fellowship will focus on local knowledge regarding agro-ecological systems and climate change adaptation, particularly helping to revive women's traditional knowledge and ensuring that climate change adaptation strategies are shared widely.

Martha Ntoipo, Tanzania

Martha Ntoipo is the executive director of the Tanzanian Pastoralist Information and Development Organization and works on human rights, gender equity and environmental conservation and research. Her fellowship project will focus on incorporating gender-based traditional knowledge in biodiversity conservation and climate change adaptation and mitigation in the Maasai communities in northern Tanzania.

2014 Fellows

Celmira Padron Barreto, Colombia

Celmira Padron Barreto is a teacher from the eastern Guainia region of Colombia who works on community-based environmental education. Her project, creating a guide of ancestral sustainable agricultural practices and climate change adaptation, will focus specifically on the knowledge and traditions of the Indigenous Curripaco women. In this culture, women are responsible for agriculture and ensuring local food security, and it is important to better understand and record these practices so the knowledge is not lost.

VIDEO: Indigenous Leaders Conservation Fellow: Celmira

Xaoher Norxai, Laos

Xaoher Norxai is an environmental scientist and a member of the Association for Vulnerable Children and Community Development. His fellowship will focus on a village water management project, supporting activities with an Indigenous Hmong village in central Laos. Slash and burn rice agriculture, combined with increasing climate change impacts, is causing detrimental effects on the village’s surrounding watersheds and forests. This fellowship will support the village to identify and adopt more sustainable agricultural practices, participate in activities to conserve the local watershed and ultimately adapt to a changing climate.

2013 Fellows

Arcangel Agapito, Colombia

Arcangel Agapito, a member of the Puinave Indigenous people located in the State of Inirida in the Colombian Amazon, systematized the traditional knowledge applied in the use of soil, water and biodiversity in his region’s Indigenous communities. Actively engaged with the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon (OPIAC), he also participated in the Amazon Summit II organized by COICA.

VIDEO: Traditional Environmental Practices in Colombia

Yance Arizona, Indonesia

Yance Arizona, a member of the Kerinci Tribe in Indonesia and a program manager of Law & Society at the Epistema Institute and a lecturer at the Law Department of President University, identified Indigenous traditional practices to promote conservation-based forest management in the Kirinci District of Sumatra Island.

VIDEO: Exploring Conflict: State Law & Indigenous Customs

Beatrice Lempaira, Kenya

Beatrice Lempaira, a Maasai woman from a semi-nomadic community northwest of Mount Kenya, documented traditional knowledge on planned grazing (a practice where livestock are made to mimic how herds of wildebeest and other wild animals use the land) and conducted research about the different roles men and women play in decision-making for livestock management.

VIDEO: Finding the Balance for Maasai Women on the Range

2012 Fellows

Zenón Gomel Apaza, Peru

Zenón Gomel Apaza, a smallholder farmer in the rural community of Pucara, founded the nonprofit organization Asociación Savia Andina Pucará (ASAP) and developed measures to strengthen the capacities of Indigenous peasant communities in Andean agriculture and the protection of biodiversity and the environment.

Ikal Angelei, Kenya

Ikal Angelei, from the Lake Turkana region of Kenya, founded Friends of Lake Turkana, a community trust, in October 2009 to promote environmental justice, resource rights and community rights within the Lake Turkana Basin, with the goal of increasing Lake Turkana basin communities’ participation in environmental policy protection, sustainable management and use of natural resources.

Diana Nascimento, Brazil

Diana Nascimento, from the Paraná state of Brazil, was awarded a seat at the Federal University of Paraná-UFPR, which offers seven seats for Indigenous students from all over Brazil. She returned to her community to combine her scientific knowledge with the traditional knowledge she and her community already possess to contribute to environmental and cultural enhancement of the Kaingang peoples.

2011 Fellows

Dominique Bikaba, DRC

Dominique Bikaba is the executive director of Strong Roots, a local organization in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo that promotes conservation and sustainable development by educating and working with the local and Indigenous communities that live in the region of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, with a particular focus on protecting the eastern lowland gorilla. Bikaba is also a co-founding member of the Pole Pole Foundation, a 2010 Equator Prize winner.

Juan Cusanero Elías, Guatemala

Juan Cusanero Elías is an agro-ecological and environmental engineer from the Chimaltenango region of Guatemala. He works for Sotz'il, a Guatemalan Indigenous environmental organization, and belongs to the Kaqchikel Maya people.

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Chad

Hindu Oumarou Ibrahim, an expert in Indigenous rights, adaptation and mitigation to climate change and participatory management of projects, is a coordinator of the Indigenous Women’s Association of Chad (AFPAT), as well as a representative of the Sahel region for the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) and vice president and representative of the Indigenous peoples of UNEP Major Group since 2009.

Akosita Rokomate, Fiji

Akosita Rokomate is the coordinator for the Community Centered Conservation (C3) Fiji programme. She joined C3 in early 2010 and is responsible for initiating and managing the Fiji programme, working closely with locals at the community level as well as with foreign counterparts. Rokomate is also a 2012 Conservation Leadership Programme winner.