A group of ten people representing the Indigenous People of Vetimboso village, Torba Province, Vanua Lava, Vanuatu have made a commitment to protect their local foods and agricultural heritage by founding a Slow Food Community at the Lantarr Slow Food Festival.
The Slow Food Community Qorr growers of Vetimboso, will focus on the yam or Qorr as it is known in the Vures language (an endangered language). The Qorr is a significant and staple traditional food for the people of Vetimboso, that depend upon this food especially during times of natural disasters (communities can harvest it directly from the forests when fields are destroyed).
This newly founded Slow Food Community is one of three that have been established recently, with a central objective of developing a Slow Food network in Vanuatu to protect and promote the indigenous local foods and agricultural heritage. These traditional foods are important for both the food sovereignty and resilience of indigenous communities of Vanuatu and their ability to respond to the different needs whether it be preparing for natural disasters, health and/or cultural identity.
It is thanks to members of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre that have a long-time association with Slow Food and the relatively new Slow Food Community model, that a very dynamic and committed Slow Food network is forming in Vanuatu.
The LANTARR Slow Food Festival, is the third in a series of festivals held over the years in Vanuatu, with the 2021 event having a theme of “Protection of our cultures through our local food for a healthy Vanuatu” which was hosted by the communities of Torba Province.
The festivals are given vernacular names depending on the host communities, to reflect the traditional heritage and to give ownership of the event to the communities themselves. LANTARR, for example, is a popular taro species (collocusia escculinta) that is cultivated by the people of Torba and is the primary food that sustains the population of the island.
“These events are fundamental to raise awareness and counteract the impacts that Vanuatu has been experiencing, such as the influx of imported packaged food that are not healthy and have had a negative impact in the lives of our people” says Joel Simo from Vanuatu Indigenous Land Defense Desk. “According to a report from the Vanuatu Department for External Trades, there has been a major increase in the amount of imported processed food which are reflected with the rise in the number of NCDs in the country, in health reports”, continues the spokesperson. As such, one of the major aims of the food festivals is also to address Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) issues in Vanuatu.
The three-day festival was organised to celebrate the local foods and the different crops that have sustained the people of Vanuatu for millennia. With over 400 guests from the country’s six provinces including communities, chefs, educators, high schools’ students came together in Vetimboso to exchange and share their knowledge on different traditional crops and dishes during the three days. It was basically to share and learn from one another but with a large focus to pass on the knowledge and engage with the young.
Some of the major issues addressed during the LANTARR Slow Food festival included:
- Our food and resilience;
- Food culture;
- Agriculture and Food;
- Food and Health;
- Passing on the traditional knowledge of food; and
- A way forward
As an immediate action and outcome for “A way forward” from the festival was the founding of the Slow Food Community Qorr growers of Vetimboso and the passing of the “fire stick” to the community from Shefa Province, Emae Island, that will host the Slow Food festival in 2023.