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Advancing Equitable Livelihoods for Food Systems Workers

CFS side event on Advancing Equitable Livelihoods for Food Systems Workers: Bah Phrang Roy speaks on behalf of Indigenous Communities.

The Committee for Food Security (CFS) of the FAO yesterday convened a virtual side event on ‘Advancing Equitable Livelihoods for All Food Systems Workers’. The event was aimed at discussing mechanisms to build agency for the approximately 4.5 billion people that depend on food systems for their livelihoods and for ensuring 100% living incomes and wages and adequate and nutritious food for all food systems workers. Bah Phrang Roy, Coordinator TIP and founding Chairperson NESFAS, represented on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples, was one of the 8 panellists from around the world discussing and looking for egalitarian solutions to secure livelihoods for all food system workers.

Indigenous food systems workers have borne the brunt of the pandemic. Tom Mwangi Anyonge, International Fund for Agricultural Development shared how the COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed the food systems that serve as means of livelihoods for many indigenous communities. Rural communities have been impacted in food supplies as many of these communities suffer from hunger and malnutrition while marginalized people (women, youths, etc) faced exclusion in the society. He called the global community to intervene and scale up activities at the “national and international level to make sustainable food systems work for the people (who have been custodians of the same.)”

Bah Phrang Roy on the other hand, opened his speech with a very strong statement that if, taken out of context, would raise eyebrows among the global Indigenous communities, “The world will not fall apart if Indigenous Peoples Food Systems disappear” he said, before adding “but thestrategic thrust towards equitable livelihoods for all food workers will lose a unique and proven example.” While many of the other panelists focused on novel and scientific narratives driven by data, Bah Phrang Roy, having worked with indigenous communities all his life, focused on the narrative of indigenous stories and systems that have survived the test of time: “Indigenous communities value biodiversity. They value the caring, sharing and nurturing role of women and they have mastered the art of consensus building. These are their pillars for equitable livelihood opportunities.”

The respect for biodiversity by indigenous communities have given these communities the wisdom to develop healthy diets and livelihood opportunities based

on the production and foraging from a diverse range of plants and other species. They have also created complementary livelihood approaches through local material resources and their focus on the caring, sharing and nurturing role of women has developed a social protection for all community members.

“We too can advance equitable livelihoods for all through biodiversity based innovations that respect the transforming role of women and the values of mutual support.” shared Bah Phrang.

Bah Phrang expressed his joy and pride in seeing many indigenous youths during the virtual webinar. When asked what gives him hope in discussions on the role of indigenous peoples in food systems transformation he replied, “The growing recognition that biodiversity can heal our broken food system and that indigenous peoples have been wise custodians of biodiversity gives me hope for the future.”

He also shared his aspiration for the advent of an ecological civilisation where Indigenous Peoples’ food systems will thrive and stated that this as a chief reason why he is still plodding on.

“I think the idea of the Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems Trust Fund to be managed by indigenous peoples themselves is a critical empowerment process suggested by Action Track 4.” He concluded.


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