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Native Tongue

Italy - 16 Nov 10

Terra Madre was opened this year by representatives of indigenous communities from five continents, speaking to the thousands of gathered delegates in their mother tongues. Representatives from Australian aborigines, the Gamo (Ethiopia), the Kamchadal (Russia), the Sami (Sápmi territory, northern Europe) and the Guaranì (Brazil) spoke of the plight of their native people and the importance of preserving their values and traditions for future generations.

“My people's ancestors were farmers, and we have grown up as farmers,” said Malebo Mancho Maze, from the Gamo of Ethiopia. “We have inherited crop varieties and we have a responsibility to pass it on to the next generation. In this life, if we keep food in our hands our future will be secure.” 

The need to value traditional knowledge and combine it with scientific research for the future was emphasized by Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini in his warmly received words: “We must have a dialogue between science and traditional knowledge... The main holders of this knowledge are native peoples, women, farmers and elders. Not only should they be listened to, but should be at the front line for the challenges this world and the crisis present us. Yet these are the people least considered by politicians and media.”

During the Earth Workshop 'Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty: The Role of Indigenous Peoples', delegates had the opportunity to speak in more depth about the issues they are facing: from access to land and food production, to farming and biodiversity, food and taste diversity and cultural sovereignty.

The right to choose what to grow and eat was was central to the discussion, but delegates also raised many concerns about the loss of biodiversity and caring for the land for all people and future generations. “Land resources are so important; for many indigenous people land is life,” said Ola- Johan Sikku, president of Slow Food Sami.

The discussion also stressed the wealth of knowledge held by indigenous communities, and by the groups joined together in the Terra Madre network. “As indigenous people we have a lot to tell the world; we have great food systems and agro biodiversity,” said Phrang Roy from northeast India. “People are looking for answers to many of the world’s crises, and we have answers.”

Slow Food has entered into a partnership to strengthen the voice of indigenous groups at a political level and promote their unique wisdom. With the support of the Christensen Fund, the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty, is bringing together environmental, biodiversity and indigenous organizations and working with leaders and communities to determine the best way to serve them, respecting their life-styles and traditional foods and crops and sharing their fundamental knowledge with other actors in the food system.

At the close of the meeting, Ola-Johan Sikki, president of Slow Food Sami, and Lars-Andes Baer, member of the permanent forum on indigenous issues, invited delegates to join the first Indigenous Terra Madre gathering, organized by Slow Food Sami to be held over June 17-20 next year as a way to further consolidate this commitment and the network.


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