Recently indigenous people from around the world met in Jokkmokk, Sweden, to share traditional knowledge on maintaining resilient, clean, and fair food systems. More than 200 delegates, including wool producers from the Kemin region in Kyrgyzstan; the Touareg goat cheese and dried meat producers of Gargando from Mali; and the Lifou island taro and yam community in New Caledonia, attended the 1st Annual Indigenous Terra Madre conference, hosted by the native Arctic people known as the Sámi.
The movement to maintain self-determined Indigenous food systems, often referred to as Food Sovereignty, is important for the whole of humanity, as the vast majority of the world’s domesticated crops come from Indigenous agricultural systems, the primary cultivators of agrobiodiversity. The Indigenous Terra Madre conference, held in June and organized by Slow Food Sápmi together with Slow Food International, provided native community representatives with an opportunity to learn how others are dealing with increasing encroachment on their lands, and devaluation and erosion of their traditions, while sharing knowledge and affirming the value of ’ancient acumen‘ in a modern world.
“We hear stories of the same thing that is happening in our own countries and own lands, and it gives us hope,” said TahNibaa Naataanii from the U.S.-based Navajo Sheep Presidium. “All of our ancestors have survived many years and we are resilient people. We come to together like the pieces of a quilt – and together we are strong.”
In the 1980s the Navajo-Churro sheep were on the verge of extinction, and Indigenous people began working with grassroots organizations to revive the sheep numbers along with traditional wool spinning and weaving. The Navajo sheep Presidium, a collective governing committee located in the Navajo Indian Reservation of the Southwestern U.S., is developing direct-marketing strategies to sell their lamb to chefs, organic cooperatives, and food markets both on and off the reservation, revitalizing a traditional food system that was being undervalued by modern market and economic systems.
For Terra Madre, a network launched by Slow Food in 2004, bringing together people from Indigenous communities to share experiences in person has proved to be far more effective than issuing reports or sending ‘experts’ to the field. Sessions at the 1st annual conference included: alternative Indigenous models for sustainable food production; food sovereignty; Indigenous peoples’ administration of their own land; the importance of passing traditional knowledge to the next generation; and how to promote the effective participation of Indigenous people and local communities in decision making processes and implementation of policies.
Maurizio Fraboni, coordinator of the Sateré Mawé Native Waranà Presidium, traveled from the Brazilian Amazon where the Sateré-Mawé – an ethnic group of about 10,000 people, distributed over 80 villages – are proactively protecting and sustaining the native Sateré-Mawé waranà fruit, used in religious ceremonies and made into bread and juice. The Mawé do not cultivate the waraná, but practice a form of semi-domestication, encouraging it to grow wildly. The Presidium established local production rules through a participative process and distributes the rules in Portuguese and Sataré, their Indigenous language, to protect the origin of the fruit, and the health of the rainforest.
At the end of the three-day gathering, the delegates issued the Jokkmokk Agreement, calling for the establishment of Food Sovereignty Areas controlled by Indigenous people and free from extractive industries, the patenting of life forms, and mono-culture crop systems. The Agreement condemns land grabbing and fragmentation, non-sustainable resource exploitation, biopiracy, patenting of food plants and seeds, and policies that result in dwindling access to land, water and other food-related resources for Indigenous peoples. Keeping in the spirit of the conference, the Agreement appeals to Indigenous people to exchange experiences and knowledge:
“We encourage our Peoples, communities, local food producers and other traditional knowledge holders including Indigenous women, to exchange, use, sustain and transmit traditional knowledge, innovations and practices within and among their communities [to]…. continue to restore, protect and strengthen our traditional food sovereignty and ensure dissemination of essential knowledge to our youth and future generations.”
The delegation committed to consolidating and strengthening the network of Indigenous people through continued collaboration and communication along with disseminating new lessons within their communities.
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