Rice, for the Karen people, northern Thailand’s largest ethnic group, is essential to life. “We may not have money but if we have rice it means that we can survive. The rice harvesting season in November was therefore a great way for us to celebrate Terra Madre Day because we humans come from nature and we must look after these resources. Terra Madre Day was a good reminder for us all to wake up and care about the environment and was a way for us to strengthen our traditions and think about how to ensure we protect them and the natural resources around us”, said event organizer Surasit Donjaipraiwan.
The Karen people are subsistence farmers who live in and around the forests at between 800 and 1,800 meters. They previously existed as semi-nomadic people who used swidden (slash and burn) farming methods, and moved location on a seven-year cycle. However, around 1968 the government insisted that they must stop moving around. Now they are settled but their lifestyle is still influenced by their traditional culture.
About ten families and twenty Karen youth came together for a community rice harvest and meal hosted by the Terra Madre food community of Mae Klang Luang village, the first representatives of the worldwide network in Thailand. “We all cooked traditional Karen foods, some of the produce we used came from the community’s rotation farming – which includes around 100 varieties of herbs, vegetables, rice and shaded coffee – as well as wild harvested foods”.
The event provided an opportunity to share stories about food and rice from their culture. “One of the great outcomes of the day was that the older generation came together with the younger generation to exchange traditional knowledge of the Karen people; we also had many discussions about the future and how best manage this knowledge as well as the surrounding forest”.
“Finally, after everybody enjoyed the feasting and conversation we all went back to harvesting the rice and in this way continued to enjoy mother of earth day.”
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