TIP Fellows & Mentors respond to the call of GLF2020

TIP Fellows & Mentors respond to the call of GLF2020

Photo: GLF Bonn

Indigenous fellows working with local food systems joined the Global Landscape Forum (GLF) 2020 and plan to build back better!

In keeping with the special times of COVID 19 the Global Landscape Forum went entirely online from June 3 to 5, 2020, and connected nearly 5,000 people from 6 continents as it was digitally broadcasted to 185 countries.(https://www.globallandscapesforum.org/). Aptly the focus was on “Food in the time of crises“, raising the necessary dialogue between the speakers, who were not just the expected senior scientists, NGO representatives and civil society leaders but also the youth, farmers, chefs, and activists. Food, landscape, biodiversity and climate change were at the centre of the discussions. It was remarkable that GLF managed to facilitate such a rich program online thus inspiring a benchmark for many conferences to come.

The Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty (TIP) would like to thank GLF 2020 for the complimentary participation for the TIP Fellows. Specifically, we extend gratitude to the Fabio Ricci from CGIAR FTA programme (Forest, Trees and Agroforestry), and to Mulia Nurhasan from CIFOR and Jeremy Van Loon from GLF team for coordinating the same.

Further to the GLF sessions the Fellows connected online on 9 June 2020 and shared their new learnings, ideas and takeaway messages for further action.

And what were the learnings and takeaways of the fellows?

Firstly, Edgar Osvaldo Monte Borges, an indigenous fellow from the Mayan community in Mexico, shared his learning on the necessity of landscape resilience. He shared the importance of landscape diversity to withstand heavy rainfalls for his community to understand. While some land-uses and crops might be more vulnerable, the other ones can back the system up. He mentioned that currently, communities maintain mostly around four land-uses, but Edgar thinks there are more land-uses that can be brought back, as in the past, to take the resilience a step further.

He also pointed out that COVID-19 pandemic has stopped many things worldwide, but not agriculture in his area, where on the contrary, the virus catalysed boom in agriculture. It reminded people of the importance of producing their own food. He shared, “Now there are more milpa fields and more farming in general, which is amazing. Some people also started growing medicinal plants. People just realized that indigenous food is important and healthy so that their body and immunity is strong too. Now it is time, for us indigenous peoples, to show that we have the answers. We have the biodiversity, we have the healthy foods, we have the answers to most of the world pressing questions“, concluded Edgar.

Agroecologist Pius Ranee from Khasi community in North East India, and upcoming Joint Executive Director of NESFAS (http://www.nesfas.in/), enjoyed attending the GLF sessions and interactions on the complementary WHOVA app. He reflected on a five-point perspective of his learnings to set it in his own local context:

  1. Yes, local food is getting more recognized, but it is more expensive compared to fast food, so how do we promote local food in this situation? How do we approach this, and where should we strengthen our intervention?
  2. We need to strengthen agroecology and pest management. In our case, it means stronger participatory research and documentation through our farmer-led Agroecology Learning Circles (ALCs). We should also start sharing our experiences and good practices with other communities and our supporters.
  3. We need to plan for the future, keeping in mind the climate change and food system sustainability. There is a trend and need to reduce consumption of meat (especially bushmeat) and shift towards a more plant-based diet. We have a huge diversity of legumes and beans (http://www.nesfas.in/an-alternative-to-bush-meat-need-to-strengthen-indigenous-food-system-to-supplement-animal-protein/), but how do we take their use forward?
  4. Everyone at the conference talked about indicators. It is clear that we need to track the change we are making, but I would suggest to also look into the community indicators. As my colleague and also former fellow Merrysha Nongrum said, many of Khasi communities in hilly regions suffer from higher soil infertility. We should look more into the community indicators of soil health and fertility and build our actions accordingly.
  5. Lastly, a lot has been presented on the resilience aspect. It is essential we explore how to build on the existing tools such as Landscape Resilience Indicators shared to us by Bioversity International during TIP fellowship programme. We should also rediscover our traditional but neglected land-use systems such as forest gardens, before they disappear.

Indigenous nutritionist Chenxiang Rimchi Marak from matriarchal Garo community of North East India was interested in the session called Our land, our future: securing young farmers´ access to land, which showed that many young farmers face challenges in accessing land for farming. She said “We mostly talk about knowledge transfer to youth, but one of the emerging barriers to farming is low access to land“. The issues of landlessness and inequality start to appear in our region too, particularly due to the emergence of monocropping and larger farmers purchasing land of poor smallholders.

She further shared, “The other thing that captured my attention is how much the dietary shifts and so-called “planetary diet“ which is based on less meat or dairy can lower the emissions and reduce climate change. I will explore this issue more in-depth and translate this to the communities, but during my work and counselling, I will still keep in mind the communities dietary needs in the local context.“

Communications specialist Alethea Kondor Lyngdoh also from Khasi community truly enjoyed the conference and got shocked by how many people were involved in it. Alethea liked that there was a lot of Q & A sessions which enabled interactive discussions. She also followed one online conversation, more an argument, “Local versus Vegan food“. She much liked the Youth Daily Show! Sustainable Diets: how to feed the world without eating the planet? Alethea said, “Youth sessions were very good because they were interactive and young activists could share their inspiring stories on the global stage“. Through these sessions, she believes that there is a need to promote local voices which can happen by participation in this forum. Especially of the young indigenous peoples who have already achieved a lot through their works in the communities.

Yani Nofri, a young woman from Minangkabau matriarchal society in West Sumatra Indonesia, firstly reflected that that is a great volume of researchers and organizations who have studied the importance of trees and forests to food security and nutrition. But she felt the absence of advocacy for the very communities that the studies were carried out. She stated, “People often talked about good practices, but less about other aspects and challenges on the ground. We indigenous youth and communities living in the landscapes need to build our own movements and advocacy to reach the governments and stakeholders“. Yani also realized a big gap in the current education system and suggested that the communities should collaborate with schools, teachers, youths and school kids. For example, local knowledge, village biodiversity and landscape functions should be better integrated into the school activities and curricula. “The young generation will have to face a food crisis in the next decades. So I want to focus more on youth capacity building to improve their knowledge on village landscape and biodiversity, and enhance their skills on agroecology and agrobiodiversity so they can produce their own local food“, Yani added.

Lukas Pawera, Ethnobotanist and food system researcher who facilitated the online reflection of fellows on GLF, complemented the feedback of the fellows by a few observations. His favourite GLF session was A Triple Challenge: a stable climate, food security and space for nature. According to Lukas, it was a thought-provoking session where WHO and UN envoy David Nabarro navigated elegantly through the challenges. In that session and throughout GLF, there was a lot of stress on the need for a people-centric approach, equity and women leaders, and greening the food systems. “Actually, we need to realize that Indigenous food systems combine many of the needed aspects. Definitely, some things need to be improved too, but the key principles, values and both social and ecological diversity are there“, said Lukas. He follows that after listening to the session on One Health Approach, and in the current COVID-19 context, it becomes clear that we should look more deeply at the linkage of Indigenous food systems and One Health Approach (health of people, animals, and environment). While Indigenous communities have safeguarded biodiversity and landscapes throughout history, some practices such as using wildlife may require a new safety perspective and alternative options which could also bring new livelihood opportunities.

But before we embrace a new approach, we should understand the existing local concepts and views. What if Indigenous Peoples already have their own One Health, which encompasses not only people, animals and environment, but also soil, plants, and deities?

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