NESFAS dialogues with different networks and organizations – local, regional, national and international, on the topics of agrobiodiversity and food security so that tradiotional knowledge and communities’ concerns get highlighted in the mainstream. Community representatives also engage with other villages to promote and preserve local food biodiversity.
Advocacy local & regional
NESFAS initiated its work as a grassroots platform by making a series of visits and connecting with communities that have been identified as potential protectors and promoters of traditional food, local cuisines and agrobiodiversity. This was carried out with a close collaboration with North East Region Community Resource Management (NERCOMRP) and the Meghalaya Rural Development Society (MRDS) that gave a strategic entry point to connect with the most active communities and empowering them to become active guardians of agrobiodiversity.
From the commencement of our work in July until the preparation for the annual Mei Ram-ew festival in Mawphlang, two consultants (one supported by NESFAS and the other by the Indigenous Partnership) travelled extensively throughout Meghalaya and two districts in Manipur. The objective of the visits was to scout for and identify communities that support and share the values of NESFAS. Besides selecting motivated and knowledgeable communities and individuals, the team also implemented small pilot projects such as school gardens, awareness programs and preparations for local food festivals. In total, 22 communities, some of them in extremely remote areas, were visited and their response to the idea of a network documented for strategic follow up. NESFAS received extremely positive responses and the willingness to join the network through participative activities, especially in secluded and neglected areas. The natural and eager interest in local foods on behalf of the visiting staff evoked passion, pride and alacrity amongst communities to glamorize and revive forgotten local practices. NEFAS continues to strengthen the relationship with and between these communities by creating spaces for dialogue, facilitating tangible ground-level activities and focused follow-ups with interested groups. NESFAS plans to expand the advocacy work to other districts in Meghalaya as well as to other states of North East such as Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
Advocacy national & international
Exposure and Exchange Visits
In September 2012, NESFAS organized a visit of community representatives from North East Indiato Southern India to M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and Keystone Foundation, both located in Tamil Nadu. The group exchanged ideas with farmers and researchers who are working with the Bioversity International supported Neglected and Underutilized Species (NUS) Project. The highlight of the exposure was the eye-opening many different culinary ways of using millet as part of a nutritious diet. Furthermore, the participants understood the advantages and feasibility of a milletprocessing machine for relieving women’s drudgery. Lastly, the group also witnessed a network of millet growers that actively preserve millets and other seeds through a community driven seed bank. All these inputs have now resulted in a further discussion amongst NESFAS supported communities and will be the one of the subjects of future activities.
International Terra Madre
In the week from the 25th to the 29th of October, the 4th edition of the annual Terra Madre was held in Turin, Italy to bring together Slow Food’s food communities from across the globe. An impressive 13 representatives from the North East of India made for the largest number of delegates within the entire Slow Food movement. The event gave the delegates a unique opportunity to exchange their knowledge on millet and shifting cultivation with other farmers. Moreover, the presentation of unique food products from Meghalaya and Garo hills found great interest amongst international visitors and producers due to their particular flavors and aromas. Thanks to the ITC chef, who is originally from Shillong, the North Eastern cuisine was glamorized which led to a great appreciation of it. Strong connections and networks were built with the Slow Food movement and a good understanding was built between the North East delegates and Rome based Scientists during the Terra Madre meeting in October 2012 and the Indigenous Partnership training workshop held in Rome between 1-3 November 2012.
NESFAS goes to COP-11
During the COP-11 Convention on Biodiversity, Hyderabad, the idea of building an Afro-Asian millet network was discussed. The presence of the Chairman and Director of NESFAS, as a representative of North East communities, resulted in a formal agreement between the German Institute for International Collaboration (GIZ), the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty, Rome, the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research (PAR), Rome and NESFAS to conduct a research study on ecological indicators that will include the knowledge and voice of indigenous people together with modern science in order to understand the role of indigenous farming practices in climate change mitigation.