Yesterday afternoon, during the international hour on Slow Food Radio, Phrang Roy, Slow Food International Councilor for indigenous issues, and Director of the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty (NESFAS) took to the microphone. Phrang is a close friend of Slow Food and has played a key role in the development of the Indigenous Terra Madre Network, a group with a large presence at this year’s event. During his interview, we discussed the growth of this network, his plans for the future and how to glamorize millet….
This is Phrang’s third trip to Salone del Gusto. Talking about his first visit in 2010, he recalled seeing and meeting many different indigenous peoples, and yet feeling that something was missing: a central meeting point, a place to bring them all together.
Fast-forward just a few months however, and it was a different story. In 2011, the first Indigenous Terra Madre meeting took place in Jokkmokk, Sweden; an event dedicated solely to issues facing indigenous communities, from land rights to visibility.
Today, a quick glance at the 2014 programme reveals a diverse series of conferences and discussions focused on indigenous peoples, from political discussions on the UN to an introduction to food, medicine and spirituality. There is also a space dedicated solely to indigenous communities supported by IFAD and the Christensen Fund. Drop by and you can discover anything from prayers to music. Every evening, the room hosts the Indigenous Voices sessions, where anyone from the network can come and share their experiences. You may also overhear discussions about the next Indigenous Terra Madre meeting, which is being held in Shillong, India, Phrang’s home town, next year.
We asked Phrang about some of the developments that are going on back home to preserve the traditions, cultures and crops of indigenous peoples. It was then that he dropped the phrase “we are glamourizing millet.” Indigenous peoples are commonly known as custodians of biodiversity: “If you look at a map of global agrobiodiversity hotspots you soon realize that they are identical with indigenous people’s habitats. There are 370 million indigenous people in the world and they have been custodians of agrobiodiversity for millennia,” says Phrang.
Today there are a huge number of underutilized crops, with global food production focusing on a very small number. There is now increasing work to promote alternatives that can be found around the world. One such crop is millet. Phrang explained how a well-known chef had joined them at a popular food festival in India, serving up millet pancakes with locally grown bananas. For many people at the event, this was the first time they had tried it. From here, they went on to create what are known as indigenous cafes: there are currently five in the region with plans to expand.
It is important to note that diversity doesn’t end with crops; the same can be said for languages and cultures. Unfortunately the interview was too short to get onto this issue. There was so much more we could asked him, however, we are sure the network will back next time and we are excited to watch them grow.