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TIP raises the Indigenous Peoples Food System Flag at the International Agrobiodiversity Congress

TIP raises the Indigenous Peoples Food System Flag at the 2nd International Agrobiodiversity Congress. Capturing key summation statements by Phrang Roy, Coordinator, TIP


The Indigenous Partnership (TIP) was a partner and collaborator at the 2nd International Agrobiodiversity Congress, convened online by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, CGIAR and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, and other partner organizations from the 15th to the 18th of November 2021. TIP along with the FAO raised the flag for the vertical on Indigenous Peoples which made up the agenda along with other tracks like Eat Grow Save Talks, Innovation Challenge, various Round tables, Scientific Symposium and Awards.

The Agrobiodiversity Congress was a follow up to the first physical session that happened in New Delhi, India in 2016 and aims to be an inclusive, interactive, and action-oriented event, creating a platform to foster dialogue and identify solutions to transform food systems through the use and conservation of agrobiodiversity. After the inaugural day on the next three days of the conference highlighted one of three Congress commitments to agrobiodiversity: Eat (Consumption), Grow (Production), and Save (Conservation) (https://www.eatgrowsave.org/agenda)


Indigenous Peoples Session had outstanding speakers who highlighted the crucial role of Indigenous Peoples food systems for agrobiodiversity, culture and diets. In doing that the call was clear there is an urgent need for the world to listen, understand and adopt the Indigenous Peoples ways and knowledge. However, strengthening our support to their voice and ways into programs, involvement in changing policies, in our funding approaches and ultimately working together with Indigenous Peoples in a culturally sensitive way and co-creating the actions and biodiverse future together, is the urgent challenge. It was hence hopeful to hear that this work will be taken forward through the new Coalition on Indigenous Peoples Food Systems, that emerged as an outcome of UNFSS.


Summing up the discussions of the Indigenous Peoples Session Statement by Bah Phrang Roy, Coordinator TIP


One of the major difficulties that has taken over civilization today, leading us to these sorts of seamless planetary problems, is this notion of “civilizing”. As may of the speakers have stated in these three days, Indigenous peoples acknowledge their basis being their connection to nature and everything that has come is a part of nature. And probably more than ever, we need this if we have to get back to these challenges that have placed before us.


Uniqueness of human beings, is our capacity to develop stories and believe in collective imaginations as stated by Yuval Noah Harari, the acclaimed historian and philosopher of our time. Indigenous peoples have many stories, but there is one common story that has given them the values of caring, and sharing and consensus building. It is their story of their sacred relationship with nature. These values help indigenous people to preserve about 80% of the remaining biodiversity of the world. For them, there is no agriculture without agrobiodiversity. Their food systems are in fact productive, equitable and sustainable and according to McGill University, in some cases some indigenous communities have already achieved zero hunger. Yet despite these credentials, of indigenous peoples, their food system is often marginalised by agriculture systems that are driven essentially by mono-cropping, by domination, by commodification and profit. They are being disturbed by extractive industries, hydro projects and industrial agriculture. Today, as after COP26, we all desperately need to craft a new agro-biodiversity story that will create an environment where the wonders of contemporary science and traditional wisdom are equitably blended. In short- we need a change where we all become a little bit more indigenous and a little bit more scientific.


The speakers of this session have strongly highlighted that if indigenous food systems are not mainstream by policy makers, by research centres and by our conventional methodologies that we have, we will run the risk of putting the world in a dangerous position. We also heard of the threats to indigenous people that come from markets, from violation of rights, and the loss of traditional knowledge - these will become threats to our biodiversity, health and diet. We were reminded that there is better nutritional status among the indigenous people of Nagaland and that indigenous people are not vulnerable but are often put in situations of vulnerability. FAO and the indigenous speakers affirm that there can be no agriculture without agrobiodiversity and this statement needs to be repeated again and again in this conference. We on our part will play our role and play it inevitably, to promote an inter-cultural approach with the knowledge of contemporary science and traditional knowledge blended equally”



TIP also was proud to see indigenous members from its Member Organisations like NESFAS and PSAD and its past youth fellows participate and present on behalf of their communities. This included Prof.Dr.Francisco Rosado May who is an Advisor to TIP. The youth included Nutdanai Trakansuphakon from Thailand’s the Karen Indigenous Peoples Community, Gratia Dkhar from the Khasi community of North East India on behalf of NESFAS and Roba Jilo, camel herder from the Karrayyu-Oromo community of Ethiopia who is now a Ph.D Fellow at the Fletcher School @ Tufts University.


Remarking on the Sessions as as a conclusion Mr.Roy stated: “These session have a rich diversity of presentations and data from research and examples from the field of how underutilized crops can become the food of tomorrow. The sessions reiterated the points made by His Excellency Dr. Miguel Jorge Garcia Winder, Ambassador and Mexico´s Permanent Representative to the UN Agencies based in Rome FAO, WFP and IFAD that there are five reasons why indigenous food systems are game-changers. The first one is that indigenous peoples have a holistic vision that they are being part of nature as a secret driving force that has helped them to work with nature. Their governance systems promote solidarity and dignity for all and we heard Roba highlighting the fact of the abundance of their traditional knowledge of nature which has however been neglected by modern agriculture and development initiatives. Their richness of diet by nature is another game-changing aspect. Their resilience is because of their respect for nature, socio-cultural diversity and planetary boundaries. Using the above vision, values and knowledge they have developed their complex indigenous food systems that are ecologically, culturally and economically strong.


We also heard how the top-down approach of the modern green revolution has led to the collapse with disastrous results and we also heard that about the dynamic equilibrium of indigenous peoples food systems which Dr.Francisco Rosado May said cannot be quickly used as a quick fix for a broken-down green revolution system. We heard from Francisco that one way to get back our stability is to practice agroecology or regenerative agriculture. NESFAS added to this dialogue by sharing practical steps they have taken to build inclusive partnerships with local organizations and government departments that are interested in changing the narrative, making it favourable to agroecology, by attempting to co-create knowledge and awareness. This was done by using the local knowledge of the custodian farmers and the skills of technical professionals through their mapping exercises in collaboration with TIP and FAO. The innovations like their Agroecology Learning Centers can take care of crops of tomorrow and make them resilient to disaster.


In all our sessions we have been asking, “why indigenous peoples can be game changers in a world that is sending stress signals? During the World UN Food Systems Summit and the COP 26 meetings, we also heard voices from within that clearly stated that “we can hope for changes but only if our dominant narrative changes”. The key takeaway message of these Indigenous Peoples session is that our broken-down agricultural system has to make a quick U-turn and be more deeply embedded and connected with nature. As indigenous peoples consistently say “This is a sacred responsibility we all have to prop up the values of caring, solidarity, and dignity for all. Values that must replace the current driving principles of domination.” It’s the only way to build our resilience through our respect for agrobiodiversity and planetary boundaries. Climate justice is also about our relationship with nature and it is also about linking soil, crop, and human health as Prof. Anil Gupta and Prof. Harriet Kuhnlein said today. The marginalisation and if I may say even the racism against the 476 Million Indigenous peoples is so ingrained in so many institutions including research institutions that we have unfortunately developed blind spots that are disturbing our way forward. We need to look for a new civilising mission of ourselves to overcome the current threats to indigenous people and the world at large. We need to listen, we need to learn from the unseen, the unspoken, and unheard lessons of the neglected and underutilised indigenous peoples communities. We need as stated by Prof. Anil Gupta, New networks for Indigenous peoples to share the solutions. This is the message that our Indigenous Partnership carries to this congress.”



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