Mongolia Food Festival (Sept 2011)

Mongolia Food Festival (Sept 2011)

The food festival in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, was organised on 3-4 September 2011 by the Indigenous Partnership, WAMIP and TsaaganMyandas, a local NGO. Pastoralists and cultivators from Northern Kenya, Ethiopia and Western India participated in the event.

The Mongolians, especially from the rural areas, gather together annually in July for their annual Naadam Festival for “two or three days of serious wrestling action, awesome horse racing and dazzling archery”. This is a time for fun, getting together, eating lots of khuushuur (mutton pancakes) and finishing a few bottles of vodka.

Unlike the previous food festivals of Mawphlang (North East India) and Chiang Mai (Thailand), where more than 600 people participated from 12 to 16 communities, the Mongolia Food Festival had a little over 50 participants, including nine foreign visitors. However, 22 herder community representatives travelled from distant regions to attend the festival. A female representative of the GurvanAlag community of Khovd Province in the western part of Mongolia near the Altai Mountain range travelled more than 1200 km with her husband to participate. There were some communities from the South Gobi Desert region who also undertook long and arduous journeys to attend. The participation of 22 herder communities from different remote corners of this vast country surprised and delighted both the foreign visitors and the local organizers. Many of the herder community representatives said that this was the first time that they had travelled to the capital to showcase their food through a food festival.

The Mongolian participants appreciated this feedback from the visitors and valued the exchange of ideas. As people of a country that is rich in minerals and who are concerned about the adverse impact of mining on their way of life, they were consoled to hear that mining was also a major problem with other pastoralists. Like the foreign visitors, they too felt that climate change is the other major challenge facing them now, and they called for a support and information-sharing network to keep one another informed about these pressing issues. At the end of the meeting, the Mongolian participants formed a Steering Group that will consider establishing a National Alliance of Mobile Indigenous Peoples (NAMIP) that will work to hold more festivals annually and to coordinate the local needs of the pastoralists with the Government of Mongolia, WAMIP, Slow Food and the Indigenous Partnership.

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