Strengthening the Indigenous Voice

Slow Food has embarked on a partnership aiming to advocate and strengthen the voice of indigenous groups at a policy level and promote their unique wisdom. Supported by the Christensen Fund, “The Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty” brings the association together with environmental, biodiversity and indigenous organizations around the world for this common purpose. The partnership is in its early stages, with the groups are currently collaborating with indigenous leaders and communities in order to determine how to best serve them in continuing their ways of life, and to share their unique knowledge with other players in the food system.

“There is a growing recognition of the validity of alternative visions and of the need for changes in the ways in which food systems develop and function,” the partnership agreement states. “In this respect, indigenous peoples, with their deep knowledge of the many enduring aspects of
agrobiodiversity and of its ability to maintain links between natural and cultivated landscapes,
can offer a more sustainable development paradigm.”

“But their knowledge system too has to find ways to adapt to the unpredictably changing environment and they can no longer do it all on their own,” the agreement goes on to acknowledge. “There is a need to empower indigenous organizations to revitalize local food systems and to promote this within the broader framework of food sovereignty, a concept that is about the right of people to define their own food and agriculture, to protect and regulated domestic agricultural production and trade in order to achieve sustainable development objectives”.

The partnership’s initial stage has already begun, involving visits to indigenous communities and meeting with their leaders. “We saw in the field the silent role that local communities are playing to support their local food systems,” said Phrang Roy, coordinator of the partnership. “We saw people with a strong attachment to their land and to their traditional food systems, and we met many people and communities that have never experienced hunger and that are indeed happy with their way of life. However, we also heard that land is slipping away from local communities”.

After having established links with indigenous groups, the partnership will work to promote a dialogue between indigenous peoples and agricultural research and advocacy groups, act as an instrument for communication between diverse indigenous groups, and eventually develop a mechanism to promote this local knowledge so it can have a place on the agenda of international research and advocacy bodies.

Activities for 2010 will be mainly exploratory and discussion-based, continuing to visit indigenous communities around the world to determine their needs, in particular where these groups feel they need advocacy or research done. Concrete activities for the future will be decided only after the research year, in order to maintain that it is the indigenous groups themselves that will drive the direction of the project.

The Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty currently involves Slow Food, Biodiversity International, the International Institute for Environment and Development and indigenous organizations Tebtebba, ANDES and Vanuatu Cultural Centre.

Simone Gie
[email protected]

For more information:
Phrang Roy
[email protected]

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