Announcing Indigenous Terra Madre

24 May 2011

Since the Terra Madre network was launched back in 2004, small-scale producers from some of the world’s most remote and forgotten regions have joined this global effort to support local economies and sustainable food production, including many Indigenous communities – often supported through Slow Food Presidia projects. To mark the importance of the local knowledge and skills they uphold, and to give these communities an opportunity to work together, the first Indigenous Terra Madre is being held this June in the Sápmi, territory of northern Sweden . The three-day meeting will bring together Sámi people from all over Sápmi, as well as Indigenous peoples from all continents: Native American producers from the Navajo-Churro Sheep Presidium whose farming of the original sheep of their people is interwoven with history and mythology; Merkén Presidium producers, who create the spice mixture used to flavor soups, meats, omelettes and salads traditionally found on the table in Chilean homes; the Tuareg Milk, Meat and Cereal Producers community from Niger whose diet relies on the nomadic herding of animals; Russia’s Kamchatka Salmon Fishers community who survive on sustainable salmon fishing; nomadic tribes from India; and traditional rice farmers from the Bario Rice Presidium in Malaysia who maintain agri-cultural rituals such as religious ceremonies and celebrations. These and other Indigenous communities have preserved unique knowledge, skills, animal breeds and plant varieties and food preparations that risk being lost in modern society, but are crucial for their future and the future of humanity in general. And with critical challenges such as food security for the world’s mounting population and a changing climate, the capacity to solve problems by working with nature is vital today more than every before. The event expands on Slow Food’s activities for Indigenous issues, including forming the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty last year along with a group of organizations aiming to advocate and strengthen the voice of Indigenous peoples at a policy level, and promote their unique wisdom. Coordinator Phrang Roy spoke of the at-risk communities that they encountered during the research phase of the partnership last year: “We saw people with a strong attachment to their land and to their traditional food systems, and we met many people and communities that have never experienced hunger and that are indeed happy with their way of life. However, we also heard that land is slipping away from local communities”. Pavel Partha of Bangladesh Resource Centre for Indigenous Knowledge (BARCIK) commented that the answers to the major problems they are facing can often be found through local knowledge and biodiversity, but it is overlooked in favor of ‘modern’ science, which in turn may wipe out local diversity. While agricultural rehabilitation programs tried to develop saline tolerant rice varieties and hybrid maize following cyclone Alia this year, BARCIK’s work to identify 14 types of local rice varieties so far that are saline tolerant and adaptable to climate change was ignored. At Indigenous Terra Madre, the voice of such groups will be raised. Two hundred Indigenous delegates, along with observers, politicians, journalists and decision makers, will discuss how their approach can help the global food crisis by developing good, clean and fair food systems, as well as overcoming threats to their lands, cultures and livelihoods. “We believe in a healthy earth,” affirmed Slow Food Sápmi, “one in which collective Indigenous knowledge systems about the production of food, careful resource use and protection of biodiversity are key to working towards resilience.” Indigenous Terra Madre is organized by Slow Food Sápmi together with Slow Food Sweden and Slow Food International. It will take place from June 17-19 in Jokkmokk, Sweden. For more information, write to [email protected] Photo: © Gianluca Canè

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