Indigenous Terra Madre Day 2

04 Nov 2015

An intensive day of discussions marks the day two of the Indigenous Terra Madre 2015, with Three Plenary Sessions and two Thematic Sessions (each comprising of four parallel tracks). Adding flavor to this were two Taste Workshops at the venue in NEHU and an off-site Slow Meat Butchery Workshop at the IHM Campus!


The dialogue end of the Indigenous Terra Madre commenced today after a grand inauguration at the North Eastern Hill University yesterday. The first plenary session of the day ‘Advancing Local Food Systems for the Future We want’ was chaired by Dr. Sanjay Kabir Bavikatte, from the Christensen Fund, who began by quoting philosopher Rumi – “let the beauty we love be what we do, there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground”.


The keynote address was by Dr. Daphne Miller from the Prevention Institute, USA, who made her case for biodiversity by showing several projects in the Bronx that through gardening and farming initiatives that transformed unsafe areas and made the young and old alike healthier and more alive – showing us The Future We Want.


The first panelist Esther Wanjiku Mwangi from the Porini Foundation recounted her truly inspirational stories of food from Kenya. Invoking the spirit of her ancestors and urging the audience to do the same, she spoke about the spiritual value of different food groups, different from its nutritional value or microbial composition. She urged the audience to take inspiration from the bee – “who does not take too much of anything and produces honey that does not perish”.


The next panelist was Sean Sherman from the Lakota tribe, USA who has founded the Sioux Chef project in Minesota after many years of working as a Chef. He is now a pioneer for innovative models of promoting “pre-reservation” Native American cuisine. The last speaker of the first plenary session was Helianti Hilman Nijab, Founder and CEO, JAVARA, Indonesia, which sells artisanal food products that promote biodiversity. She spoke passionately about the development of the entrepreneur farmers she works with, while developing value-added solutions.


At the conclusion of the session, the assembled delegates divided themselves into four parallel track sessions. The first track session ‘Youth and the Marginalization of Good, Clean and Fair Food Systems’ was chaired by Mr. Mattia Prayer Galletti from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) who invited the audience to look forward into the future and invited them to integrate youth into decision-making and create conditions in order to hear more solutions coming from youth. He stated, “Youth should not be considered a problem; youth should be the solution.” The keynote address was by Carlo Petrini, Founder, Slow Food International. He said it is the responsibility of young people to connect with those who are marginalised to really build a united society. He stated, ““If you have a dream, find allies – with the women, the elderly and the indigenous – in order to fly hard.” The panelists for this session were Nicole Yanes (Opata Nation of Sonora, USA), Dali Cruz (Tlaola Nahua tribe, Mexico), Jorge Gonzales Llanquileo (Mapuche tribe, Chile) and Phidarilin Uriah (Associate, NESFAS).


The second track session ‘From Field to Fork: The Stories of Chefs, Communities and Writers’ had a combination of academicians (Philip Stark, University of California, Berkley), writers (Ashish Chopra, Food Historian) and representatives from indigenous communities (Joel Goncalves de Oliveira – Xakriabas tribe, Brazil, Margaret Mpati – Kalanga tribe, Botswana and Kaylena Bray – Seneca Nation, USA) joined by NESFAS Food & Flavours Team head, Rahul Antao. Opening with the narrative of the white corn, Kaylena Bray described how it was burned to the ground during the war of the 1600s in New York. However, instead of disappearing, the remains of the corn kernels were collected and later became a roast corn soup – illustrating the deep resilience found in food. Manjit Gill, Corporate Chef, ITC Hotels, India chaired the session, and also delivered the keynote address emphasizing the auspicious connections food has, “food is the manifestation of God, if you want to see the God, look at the food”. The indigenous panelists shared with the audience their individual stories of projects undertaken with their communities that are reviving these traditional field-to-fork practices.


‘Building a Network of Local Climate, Smart Crops and Citizen Scientists’, the third track session was chaired by Dr. Stefano Padulosi from Bioversity International who talked about involving indigenous people in the process of recording the knowledge about agro-biodiversity and seed varieties. The panelists were Kaichou Titiana (Fishing Community, New Caledonia), Dr. Pat Mooney (ETC, Canada), Dr. Israel King (MS Swaminathan Foundation, India), Gilani Mnisi (Tsonga tribe, South Africa), Dr. Wolde Tadesse (Oxford University, UK from Gamo tribe, Ethopia) and Watu Ferdinandus (Indonesia). The panelists agreed that smart agriculture is not something new; the knowledge exists and just needs to be shared afresh. Scientists should share knowledge with farmers and vice versa.


The fourth track session ‘Promoting Local Indigenous Economies and Livelihoods for Wellbeing’, was chaired by Dr. Tirso Gonzales (University of British Cloumbia from Aymara tribe, Canada) while the keynote address was by Nivedita Banerji (Samaj Pragati Sahayog, India) who asked for the “hardcore and nitty-gritty” stories of what each community are actually doing to achieve economies and livelihoods for wellbeing. Participation by all members of society, which includes a “multi-level” understanding of wellbeing, is needed. The panel comprised of Lamen Gonnay (Kalinga tribe, Philipines), Maria Mendoza (International Indigenous Women’s Forum, Maya tribe, Guatemala), Esma Kalilova (Umyut Cooperative, Crimea Tatar tribe, Ukraine) and Mohamed Elabd (Slow Food member, Egypt).


Simultaneously, the first Taste Workshop of ITM 2015 was held, themed around Insects. A whole new dimension of these misunderstood creepy crawlies was presented to the audience by the panel of Sunita Rao (Karnataka), Jimsi Tassar (Arunachal Pradesh), Plantina Mujai (Meghalaya) and Chef Joel Basumatari (Nagaland). The tastings included Weaver Ant Chutney, Riverbed Beetles, Eri Silk Worms and an array of worms, spiders, grasshoppers etc.


During the later half of the day, the second plenary session ‘Understanding Wellbeing and the Future We Want’ was chaired by Phrang Roy (Coordinator of Indigenous Partnership). Mr. Roy reiterated “Wellbeing” is how people experience their lives not just the absence of problems and illnesses. After the presentation of a study by Elizabeth Hacker from the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty which addressed what makes living worthwhile in indigenous communities, the panelists from various national and international communities discussed their ideas on the concept of wellbeing and how we need to romance with Mother Earth, connect with our lands, our livestock to have that sense of harmony and trust.


The four simultaneous track sessions that followed, continued with the central theme of wellbeing. Noel Butler (from Budawang Yuin tribe, Australia) opened the first session ‘Peace as an Essential Element of Wellbeing’, by sharing his peoples’ philosophy that “We are part of nature, we are one with nature, we are no different, and we are no greater than nature so therefore should not control nature”. The other panelists were Gladis Jorge from the Ecash tribe, Peru, Pius Ranee, Associate, NESFAS and member of Khasi community and Saoudata Aboubacrine from Touareg tribe, Burkina Faso. They shared what constituted peace in their various communities and countries and enabled the audience to draw parallels between seemingly disparate cultures.


The second track session entitled ‘Promoting Food Sovereignty in Indigenous Peoples’ and Community Conserved Territories and Areas’ was chaired by Toki Blah (ICARE, Jaintia tribe, India), who shared that in his culture it was taboo “to disrespect rice that feeds me, my clan and my community. It is a sin to waste food; when we were young our mothers, sisters, grandmothers would give us a grain of rice to protect us from evil spirits”. The keynote address was by Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend (ICCA, Switzerland), who recounted the struggle of the Djola community from the Senegal Casamance region to preserve their local heritage. The panel that included innovators, environmentalists and members of various indigenous communities were in agreement on the urgent need to have several more community-driven programmes to ensure the conservation of indigenous territories.


‘The Schools and Community Gardens Programme’, the third track session was chaired by Roba Bulga (Slow Food Coordinator, Karrayyu-Oromo tribe, Ethopia) who described the scope of Slow Food’s 1000 Gardens in Africa programme. The panelists Ramaswamy Selwam, Janakpreet Singh (India), Kubanych Tagaev (Kyrgyzstan), Augustin Uriana (Colombia), Gilani Mnisi (South Africa) and Margaret Mpati (Botswana) told stories filled with hope and happiness from their work with indigenous communities from around the world.


The fourth track of this Thematic session was ‘Pollinators and Bee Enthusiasts Get Together’ was chaired by Dr. Vanda Altarelli (SONIA, Italy) with the keynote address by Robert Leo (Keystone Foundation, India) who spoke about various varieties of India’s major pollinator: the bee. The panelists Leonardo Olguin from Nahuat tribe in Mexico, Eudes Batista from Satere-Mawe tribe in Brazil and Hassan Roba from Borana Oromo in Kenya. The takeaway from the session was the need to create a network of exchange of ideas between beekeepers.


Simultaneously, the second Taste Workshop was conducted on Wild edibles. The gathered audience sampled Local Curd and Quince Jelly from Austria, Sandalwood Tambli (Buttermilk) from Karnataka, India; Wild Rice, Berries and Herbs from USA and Wild Edible chutney with sticky Rice from Meghalaya and lastly Fiddlehead Fern in Bamboo shoots, Knotweed rice, Gagi, wild apple and gooseberry from Nagaland. Parallel to this was a display and dialogue titled “Around the loom” which brought together Carol Cassidy (Crafts Advisor to NESFAS), Daniel Syiem (Fashion Designer) and GIZ representatives. This showcased the aspect of bio-cultural diversity as it provided livelihoods as a parallel to a field harvest.


The last plenary session of the day, ‘Building Bridges between the Private Sector and Indigenous Communities through Responsible Tourism’ was a lively discussion of how private, public and indigenous communities navigate a working relationship. The session was chaired by Ms. Rebecca Suchiang, Principal Secretary, Government of Meghalaya, Tourism and the opening panelist Chef Manjit Singh shared ITC Hotel’s developing a “business that can and must play a role in giving back to society and enriching the landscape of the country”. There was an interesting discussion highlighting how tourism could be a great opportunity for the youth to sustain their traditional practices and to become a part of their local history. However caution was suggested, as indigenous practices should not become commoditized for the purposes of an audience, they must retain their authenticity.


While all this was going on at the NEHU Campus, Slow Food USA and Slow Food Germany, Novajo Lamb Presidium and Khasi-Jaintia Butcher’s association shared and exchanged notes on different slaughtering techniques which aimed at more humane carving of the meat that limited wastage and maximized utility.


Photographs of the event are available on-

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