Thursday, 23 February 2017

‘Forest Foods and Ecology’ Declaration

‘Forest Foods and Ecology’ Declaration

An appeal for a new consciousness of empathy and wise governance –
to protect our rich natural heritage, culture, and harmonious collective future

We Declare:
We, from numerous Adivasi and forest-dependent communities in India, along with people from different streams of society, gathered at the “Forest Foods & Ecology” Festival, December 12 to 14, 2014 at Sri Aurobindo Society, New Delhi. About 1200 varieties of forest/uncultivated foods from various parts of the country were displayed, sharing our rich heritage of Nature’s gifts.
The forests run deep in our life-blood; and we feel anguish seeing the grave threats they face. As an outcome of our joint discussions, we – forest-dependent communities, supported by others – declare:
1)      The natural forests are a nurturing mother to us. Our very identities, cultures and world-views are closely linked to the forests that provide our primary needs.
2)      Our forests and other common lands bless us with many invaluable gifts – abundant, diverse, nutritious foods, medicinal plants, and numerous other useful products – vital to our daily life and livelihoods for generations beyond count, particularly in times of scarcity, like droughts.
3)      Our rich traditional knowledge and understanding of our bio-diverse forests, evolved over millennia, is passed on from generation to generation, along with a spirit of respect and gratitude. Our cultures discourage greed, the root of scarcity, harm and sorrow.
4)      The natural forests regenerate our life-sustaining environment, essential for the well-being of all on earth. They harvest the sun’s energy, produce biomass, create fertile topsoil and guard against its erosion. They moderate the climate, mitigate global warming, provide oxygen, bring rain, recharge groundwater, buffer against floods, and provide habitats for rich biodiversity.
5)      Any attempt to cut down the forests, threatens grave environmental damage. It also violates our fundamental right to life and livelihood. We pledge to do our utmost to safeguard our forests and the rich life it harbours – for the well-being and joy of all!
6)      The sarkari laws and their implementation – to safeguard our community forest rights, life cultures and livelihoods – need further strengthening, not weakening, so that Mother Forest continues to remain healthy to nurture us and future generations.
7)      We cannot understand how anyone can claim to possess any kind of proprietary right, including ‘Intellectual Property Right’ (IPR), over any part of our ancient wealth or traditional knowledge, violating our ethos and our age-old collective rights. This is neither reasonable nor acceptable.
8)      Today’s education system ignores our cultures and local natural resources, alienating the young from our former healthy and ecologically-sustainable lifestyles. This needs to change urgently.
9)      Our traditional wholesome foods are part of our culture. The government food schemes should respect this, and not pollute our young with inferior, alien foods and tastes.
10)   Our forests and traditional commons, our peoples and our cultures, are all under grave threat from misconceived “development” projects, grabbing by outsiders, and by modern agricultural methods and mono-cultural plantations. These do grave harm, and must stop now. We further call for an immediate end to our displacement and dispossession by such short-sighted, destructive projects that devastate our life-culture and threaten our very survival.
11)   We seek a rethinking of money-centric ‘development policies’, and urge a holistic approach that respects our cultures and sustainable lifestyles; and which enables us to live and thrive on our ancestral lands, safeguarding the country’s rich ecological and cultural heritage.
12)   We declare that we will do our very best to keep alive our rich heritage resources and traditions. Welcoming a new era, we urge the support of all – to safeguard and regenerate the health of our Mother Earth and forests. Our warm greetings and heartfelt wishes are extended to all; and we humbly ask you to support us!
This declaration is hereby collectively endorsed by the following representatives of adivasi and forest-dwelling/dependent communities, supported by other undersigned civil society representatives, public health experts, nutrition scientists, ecologists, educators, sociologists, senior State functionaries and concerned citizens.



We warmly invite you to a 3 day national conference and exhibition of ‘Uncultivated Forest Foods’ on the 12th , 13th and 14th of December, 2014 at Aurobindo Society New Delhi, focusing on “Forests as Food Producing Habitats”. This is to initiate a policy discourse around food and nutrition security and sovereignty of Adivasi and other forest dwelling communities, as well as their ethos and worldviews linked to these.
Sh. Hrusikesh Panda, Secretary , Ministry of Tribal Affairs,Government of India has kindly consented to inaugurate  this conference, where Adivasi and other forest dwelling communities from more than fifteen  states will participate and exhibit more than 1,000 local foods.
Smt. Maneka Gandhi, the Hon'ble Minister for Women and Child Development, has also confirmed. She leads the Nutrition Mission of the Government of India.
These events are being organized by Living Farms, Odisha; Kalpavriksh, Delhi/Pune, and South, Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy (SADED), New Delhi – as a much-needed initiative to recognize the significance of uncultivated foods in contributing to the wellbeing of Adivasi and other forest dwelling communities.
In a study done by Living Farms on forest foods, data shows that uncultivated foods provide a critical supplement to the diets of these communities. In bio-diverse forests that have not been overtaken by commercial monoculture, there is year-long supply of a variety of foods, ensuring diversity and much-needed nutrition in local diets.
In stark contrast, our present food and agriculture paradigm is pushing urban (and even many rural) people away from traditional diets based on locally produced foods to highly processed and energy-intensive foods and drinks, which lead to a different kind of hunger, known as ‘hidden hunger’, indicating malnourishment, lacking in wholesome and balanced nutrition.
The mainstream paradigm of food security does not recognize the value of diverse, culturally and ecologically appropriate, safe and nutritious, traditionally consumed foods by Adivasi and other forest dwelling communities, as being vital in addressing the alarming level of hunger and malnutrition in the country[1].
Thus an issue of concern is not only how much food is required to achieve food security, but what kind of food. This qualitative aspect is equally important as quantitative targets of food production, access and availability.
While the consumption of uncultivated foods is often seen as a sign of backwardness and poverty, the Adivasis and other forest dwelling communities themselves emphasize the health enhancing value and the sense of dignity that their traditional foods allow them, contrary to the mistaken impressions of the urban elite. Yet, official policy discourse on several aspects related to the Adivasis -- whether regarding food and nutrition security, or forests (forestry approaches, ownership, management and governance debates) – has failed to acknowledge this, much less to incorporate it in their plans, ostensibly meant for tribal welfare.
The current land use or forestry use policies, or even food security policies, fail to appreciate the reality and significance of traditionally consumed forest foods, which are in fact safe, diverse and nutritious. They are indeed far superior – ecologically and nutritionally – to the food grown by chemical intensive agriculture, an outmoded and unsustainable paradigm still ruling in India. No external fossil energy, farm inputs or irrigation is required in the nurturing of uncultivated forest foods, in contrast to the high input inefficiencies of the conventional paradigm.
In the context of continuing hunger and malnutrition, mounting economic distress of farmers, and the rapid degradation and depletion of environmental resources, severely jeopardizing farm

¨  [1] India ‘contributes’ 42% of underweight children under 5 years of age in the world.
¨ 43% of children (under 5 years) in the country are underweight. The figure is much higher than the global average of 25%, and also higher than the sub-Saharan Africa's figure of 28%. (Ref. ‘State of Food Insecurity in Rural India’ -WFP’s 2010 Report)

livelihoods, it has become imperative to re-examine our understanding of food and nutrition security, and consequently, our ways of addressing the issue, especially for the forested regions of India with a very high percentage of indigenous communities dependent on forest and rainfed agriculture.
A holistic approach requires defending the integrity and health of forests and fields that generate uncultivated food and nutrition, as critical to addressing food and nutrition insecurity; and in recognizing and restoring the customary rights of the forest/rural communities over their forests and other commons. In this context, the proposed National Conference will cover the following themes:
1. Food and Nutritional Security:
-    the diversity and quantity of consumption of uncultivated foods
-    the nutritional value of uncultivated foods
2. Adivasi Jeevan and Uncultivated Foods:
-    the socio-cultural linkages between Adivasi jeevan and uncultivated foods
-     traditional knowledge
-     forest foods in the context of climate change
3. Policies and Programmes impinging on Uncultivated Foods:
-    Food policies, laws and schemes
-    Agricultural policies, approaches and schemes
-    Forestry policies and approaches – people’s rights to and control over forest resources; the spread of commercial plantations and monocultures, etc.
4. The Way Forward: Research Agenda, Advocacy, and Grassroots Programmes with Adivasi and other forest dwelling communities
We are looking forward to have with us .We are working on the agenda and will share with you once it is done.

Kind Regards.


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