Stories from Jokkmokk

18 Jun 2011

“I am very happy to be here to represent my people and be their voice,” said Rukess Baru of the Ethiopian Karrayyu tribe – one of 200 delegates who have gathered in Jokkmokk, Sweden this weekend for Indigenous Terra Madre, the first Slow Food event with a specific focus on Indigenous issues. Rukess was born into the Karrayyu tribe, an ethnic group of the Oromo people and pastoralist community that thrives on herding and raising livestock about 200km from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. From this beginning, his life changed dramatically when he fled to Norway in 2007 under political persecution but his roots and culture remain very important. Rukess is one of the few people from his village who have had the opportunity to have an education and he eventually studied management in a private university with assistance from an NGO. “In my village there are many problems, and most people don’t get the chance for education,” he explained. “They have had their land taken away, and are denied access to fresh water. Their grazing resources have been taken away without compensation. It is now very difficult for them to continue their way of life but they don’t have any other option, so must continue to live under worse circumstances.” Among other delegates is fifty-year-old Obadias Batista Garcia representing the Sateré-Mawé people from the Brazilian state of Amazonas – a forest dweller community that survive from hunting, fishing and cultivation of manioc and waranà (guarana). Obadias has been working in the Indigenous movement for 22 years now and today takes an active role representing the Indigenous group at a political level. “The Sateré-Mawé face many problems today against the capitalist system,” he says. He is the coordinator of the Sateré Mawé Native Waranà Slow Food Presidium, a project aiming to protect authentic waranà and the Sateré-Mawé – the traditional discoverers of its benefits and inventors of the most appropriate methods for growing and transforming it. This not only means guaranteeing the survival of a species at risk of serious genetic impoverishment, but also the culture of a people, the “children of waranà”, both of which are threatened by the pressure from multinationals. Australian Aboriginal elder Aunty Beryl Van Oploo also made the long journey to be here. From the Ngiyaampaa people in western New South Wales, Auntie Beryl works with Aboriginal youth at the Yaama Dhiyaan Hospitality Training College, which gives young Indigenous students from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to train in hospitality. Aunty Beryl and her team place their graduates in employment or encourage them to further their education. The college also focuses on using Indigenous plants and cooking methods. She describes her role as a teacher, trainer, psychologist, mentor and cultural ambassador. “My philosophy is communication, education and respect,” she says. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, at the end of the day you can create your own journey.” Aunty Beryl was one of the speakers who opened the Slow Food’s Terra Madre meeting of world food communities in Turin, Italy last year, addressing the crowd in her native language. This year she joins the network again for Indigenous Terra Madre. “As people from all over the world, we Indigenous people have never been given a voice. Now we are starting to be heard, and with many of us together, we can have one loud, strong voice. We may come from different regions and backgrounds, but at the end of the day we are all connected as people of the earth.” Indigenous Terra Madre is organized by Slow Food Sápmi together with Slow Food Sweden and Slow Food International. Terra Madre is a worldwide network launched by Slow Food in 2004, of small-scale farmers, fishers, breeders and artisan producers working with cooks, researchers and youth to build a more sustainable food system. 
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