Wild food festivals & Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN): The world’s most important food movement

Enjoy A Feast in The Forest In Maharashtra Read the full story and vew more images >>

Photo © The Hindu

A few summers ago, I visited Vanvadi forest for the first time. I had just met the environmentalist Bharat Mansata, who asked me to help him photo-document the wild edible plants that grow there. A wise and endearing Thakur Adivasi [Thakar Adivasi] tribal from these parts, Bua, accompanied us; he seemed to know every inch of the place. The vibe resonated on a barefoot walk through the jungle, and we soon began chalking out public awareness events on these ‘forest foods’ for the coming monsoon—we would take people on trails facilitated by Bua and his family, and have them experience the flavours of the forest .
At that time, I had not thought of it like that, but there was a quiet revolution in the air. […]

You do not even have to leave city limits to discover that our forest food biodiversity is not just alive, but also disappearing because of centralised control of forests that were once managed by tribal communities. Mumbai, for example, has one such natural forest within its expanse. A big part of this jungle is in Aarey, a green island that is not officially part of a reserved forest, but still home to some 10,000 Warlis—indigenous tribals who share their habitat with wild leopards (and worship them as gods), cook using firewood, and consume along with their farmed produce forest foods such as the soft-shell river crab chimbori (which I had tasted here last monsoon), leaves of the loth plant (the wild mother plant of the elephant foot yam or suran), all sorts of seasonal mushrooms, and products of the mahua tree.

When you step into Aarey from one of the main roads, it is a surreal shock how you transition from maximum city to parallel universe of tribal hamlets in a matter of minutes. But even here, illegal constructions and ‘developmental’ projects threaten to cut thousands of trees and ruin this unique urban jungle, and with it, the availability of forestland and wild foods for the Warli tribe.

Unsurprisingly, Bua’s tribal wisdom has been a hit at the hugely popular Forest Food Foraging Walk events at Vanvadi. […]

Then there are the bigger, more publicised food festivals. Living Farms’ forest foods festival in Delhi and Wild Foods Festival at Kotagiri in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, for instance, attracted many visitors. Odisha, with its rich tribal heritage, is also becoming an epicentre of a tribal foods revival movement, with a series of wild food festivals at the Niyamgiri foothills, some of which have had on display 900 wild ingredients and 400 ready-to-eat dishes!

Last year, I attended a relatively low-key festival that BAIF Development Research Foundation, a Pune-based NGO, had organised at Hideout, a quaint little homestay and wellness centre at Vikramgad, a Warli tribal area. […]

In Himalayan states like Arunachal Pradesh, where I have been involved in indigenous food documentation, forest cover is close to 80 per cent. Here, people feel the need for a wild foods movement because forest foods are a part of their lives and identity.

The Idu Mishmi, for example, an animist tribe from the Dibang Valley, have strict eco-spiritual taboos regarding biodiversity management that ensure constant and sustainable use of wild foods, including wild meat. […]

Wild food is obviously about more than just cuisine; it is an entire ecosystem of intermeshed areas that are diverse yet connected. It is about nutrition, but also other concepts such as sustainable development, herbal medicine, forest conservation, famine control, climate change, water resource management, tribal art, culture and music, nature worship, cultural identity, and a sense of community.

The forest foods movement is not about fighting the system. On the contrary, it’s about opening our eyes to the existence of a larger ‘system’, of which we are already a part; it’s about learning from both ancient knowledge and the underlying wisdom of the forest people—something that cannot be recorded in writing, but only experienced as a way of life.

Getting There
The nearest airports are Mumbai (approx. 70km) and Pune (approx. 115 km). The nearest major railway station is Karjat (27km/45min); for those taking the Mumbai local, Neral (approx. 12km/15mins) is the nearest railhead.

As a non-profit collective, all its collections go towards maintaining Vanvadi’s conservation projects. The place is open to the public for workshops, forest food walks and their Van Utsav (Forest Festival) held every year in October during Dusshera. Accommodation and vegetarian food in a quaint community house are available during these events (at a modest fee), and participants are encouraged to spend a night in the forest. Visitors may also bring their own tents and camp underneath the stars. To know more, join their Facebook group, facebook.com/groups/vanvadi.

To register for their next forest foods Foraging Walk to be held on February 11, 2018, write to [email protected] or call +91- 22-23542420.

Food Festivals
Wild Foods Festivals In Maharashtra
BAIF Development Research Foundation regularly organises forest food festivals in Palghar, Ahmednagar, Pune, Gadchiroli and Nandurbar districts with local tribal communities between August and October. They have also been preparing a database of wild foods from these districts. Visit baif.org.in or email baif@baif. org.in.

Hideout Farm At Vikramgad, Maharashtra
A homestay and wellness centre where festivals are organised. Palghar (approx. 50km/1.25hrs) is the closest major railhead. Mumbai (approx. 105km/2hrs) is the nearest airport. Visit hideout.co.in.

Arunachal Pradesh
Tribal animist festivals are an easy entry point into the state and a good opportunity to taste the local cuisine. There are quite a few tourist-friendly festivals lined up for February:

>Unying Giidi at Boleng, the hunting festival of the Adi Tribe (February 27 to February 28, 2018). Facebook.com/ events/141203609869958; +91-9615432244

>Reh Festival of the Idu Mishmi tribe at Roing (February 1 to February 3, 2018). Facebook.com/ GJCRC2018; +91-8414097336

>Nyokum festival of the Nyishi tribe at Yazali (February 23 to February 27, 2018). Facebook.com/ yazali.nyokum; [email protected]; +91-9862830513

by Sanjiv Valsan, Outlook Traveller | March 7, 2018
URL: https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/enjoy-a-feast-in-the-forest-in-maharashtra/
Date Visited: 11 July 2020

With Slow Food, the world’s most important contemporary food movement created to counter fast food and fast lifestyles, gathering momentum, here’s a look at the movement’s biggest event held in Turin, Italy, recently.

The singing begins at night. Every night. Words are inconsequential. Emotion and rhythm don’t require language. […]

We’re in the Terra Madre arena titled ‘Market Place’, a space hosting 400 food communities from 100 countries. Next door the Salone del Gusto, a theatre of taste that began in 1996, operates from three massive pavilions, displaying Italy’s gastronomic diversity. Held in Turin’s Lingotto Fiere centre, covering 80,000 sq m in all, this is Slow Food’s biggest event. It’s especially important this year because, for the first time, Terra Madre (a network of global food communities established in 2004) and Salone del Gusto are coming together. The idea is to introduce consumers to the faces and stories of the people who grow, rear and make products that are not only unique but also respect the environment, nurture communities and preserve tradition. People who make food that is ‘good, clean and fair’ — in keeping with the Slow Food manifesto. It’s a simple but powerful message, steadily capturing imaginations, gathering fervent supporters and strengthening communities across the globe.

What it stands for

This is why Slow Food is now growing into the world’s most important contemporary food movement. A global grassroots organisation, it began in 1989 as left-leaning journalist Carlo Petrini’s crusade against Rome’s first McDonalds and everything it represented. The movement was created to counter fast food and fast lifestyles, seen as the reasons for disappearing local food traditions. Its aim was to make people more aware of what they eat and how it’s produced. To re-introduce people to the sensuous pleasures of quality food, thus ensuring that low-quality, mass produced, homogenous meals don’t clog the arteries of the world. To remind people that, in this shrinking world, daily food choices affect producers, the environment and the economy.

Today with a presence in 150 countries, this non-profit, member-supported movement has grown far beyond its original manifesto. With over 100,000 active members, a livewire youth wing and 2500 networked food communities — many from marginalised groups — Slow Food has consciously moved from celebrating snobby gastronomy to a careful political movement, fuelled by savvy marketing, good intentions and clever networking. Celebrating small farmers, niche producers and rare breeds, it has been criticised for being impractical. Can Slow Food really feed an increasingly hungry world? Isn’t it too hippie? Too Don Quixote, tilting enthusiastically at windmills? Petrini, who is still the heart of the movement, doesn’t think so. […]

This year, Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto drew 220,000 visitors over the course of five days. They came to eat ricotta stuffed cannoli, farinata flatbreads slathered with pesto and sweet piedmont peppers tossed with sausages at the Italian Street food section. […]

Learning about food

‘Food education is at the core of event: interactive workshops for almost 4000 children, where they learn everything from appreciating subtle flavours of organic vegetables to understanding the nuances of powerfully dark espresso. For adults there are Taste Workshops, guided tastings led by producers, chefs, winemakers, brewers and experts; the Theatre of Taste, featuring chefs from all over the world; Meetings with the Makers, featuring inspiring figures from the international food and wine world.

Then are there the conferences. About 56 in all, involving 16,000 people, delegates and the general public. Debates, involving academicians, producers and policy makers, all thrown open to participative audiences, dealing with food-related challenges: seed saving, bio-diversity, sustainability…

Meanwhile 650 delegates heard 90 presentations from 50 countries at the organisation’s Sixth ‘International Congress of Slow Food,’ a three-day event that brought together countries from Palestine to Israel, Somalia to Mali, China to Brazil. The central message: We’re in the middle of a global food crisis. And it’s undeniably a political crisis. Ending it, according to Slow Food’s voices, means restructuring and rethinking established patterns. Linking people who think alike, whether they’re millet growers in Kenya and India, chefs from Malaysia and Burkina Faso, or indigenous farmers from Russia and Argentina. It’s not just about swapping technical notes. As R. Selvan, who heads a loose network of 22,000 organic farmers in Tamil Nadu, says, “Malaysian farmers, African farmers, Israeli farmers… Our challenges are different. But when we see them survive, it gives us joy and hope.” Slow Food doesn’t underestimate the power of hope.

Amid all the seductive rhetoric encouraging consumers to be ‘active protagonists’, to support ‘cultures that nourish’ and be the ‘generation that reunites mankind with the earth,’ there are cold, hard facts about a world in peril. Director-General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, José Graziano da Silva, speaks of the crime of food wastage — “If we managed to cut total food loss and waste by half, we would have enough food to feed one billion more people” — encouraging Slow Food to unite forces with the FAO, to focus on the problem of world hunger. Slow Food vice-president Vandana Shiva — founder of Navdanya, an organisation of seed savers that has successfully conserved more than 5000 crop varieties in India — talks about corporate greed and the resulting seed wars being fought across the world. “In my own country we have lost 275,000 farmers who have committed suicide. A quarter million suicides is genocide. And we have to stop this genocide.” The legendary Alice Waters, Slow Food vice-president and chef, speaks about the need for education.

In the Monferrato tent, Phrang Roy, coordinator of the Indigenous Partnership for Agro-biodiversity and Food Sovereignty, talks of how Slow Food began as the dream of a few people. “The reality is food is political. Slow Food’s beginning was for consumers in urban centres. They then realised this is not possible without involving producers. Then they needed the custodians of culture: the women, elders, indigenous people. And so the network grew.” Stating that it’s become more influential over the last 3-4 years, he says, “It’s important because it emphasises the local aspect. Good, clean and fair. Good tasting, clean for the environment and fair to producers. It’s a simple message. It’s not a revolution. It’s not leftist. It’s not saying you have to break structures. It works with the government and the private sector. These are the strengths.”

As a social movement, Roy says it has opened doors for indigenous people, raising critical issues like food sovereignty. “They want to be in control of their vulnerability. To increase productivity, but in a relevant realistic way.” Finding practical crops that can be grown without poisoning the soil and water. In North East India, for example, Bibiana Kenee revived a strain of millet, and made her village self-sufficient. She says she felt insecure, living in Oongtraw in the East Khasi hills. “I realised if the bridge to my village is cut off, we will starve. I realised the importance of being self-reliant.” Today, her community has krai, which they pound and cook like rice, as well as vegetable gardens teeming with edible local plants, herbs and spices.

Given how active North East India has been, it seems appropriate that the Second Indigenous Terra Madre 2014 will be held in Meghalaya. (The first, held in Jokkmokk, Sweden, in June 2011 brought together 360 participants from 60 indigenous groups.) The idea is to strengthen knowledge networks, establish food sovereignty areas and encourage increased participation of indigenous advocates in decision making at both national and international levels.

This is a war against homogenisation of food. Against thoughtless mass-produced meals. […]

It’s more than a gastronomical movement. Or an environmental movement. Or a social movement. Its biggest advantage: creating a community that embraces everyone, cutting across race, class, geography and age. As Phrang Roy leaves the conference hall, young Californian Gerado O’ Marin stops to say hello and tell him how his ‘Youth-Food-Justice’ group reaches people with hip hop. “We make Slow Food cool,” he laughs.

The Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN) is abuzz with stories of how Petrini had been partying with them the night before. They open their meeting with a You Tube clip of him dancing, arms akimbo, waving his signature striped scarf in the air. Totally in keeping with his opening address at the grand inauguration of the event earlier in the week, where he said, “This crisis won’t be overcome with sadness. At Terra Madre, politics has taken joy by the hand.”

The energy is infectious. Pius Ranee from Shillong explains how he organised an indigenous food festival with 500 youth, to revive food that’s on the verge of extinction. Helen Kranstauber from Amsterdam speaks about film festivals, debates and ‘great parties’ built around Slow Food themes. Bernado Simoes from Santa Catarina, Brazil, talks of the trips he organises through Brazil to demonstrate its biodiversity and rally protectors, whether they’re biologists, chefs or federal prosecutors. He ends with, “I joined SFYN because I’ve seen fish disappearing. Beaches shrinking. Indigenous tribes being kicked out of their land. I want my children to see the world I know.” […]

This year’s event is historical, says Petrini. “We have grown incredibly. We understand the old methods don’t work any more.” It’s time he says, for new technologies. New ideas. New methods of dealing with old issues. “Bring your know-how from your countries and communities. Air, water, earth… They have no borders.” He continues. “We cannot think about nations. We can’t think about national borders… Do not turn Slow Food into a church. Do not turn Slow Food into a political party. Do not turn slow food into a bureaucracy. There is no charity here.” […]

Powerful bonds

Despite the lack of a common language, the sense of community is moving. Locals have housed many of the participants, welcoming them back every night with home-made meals and halting conversations in a mix of Italian, English and a flood of other languages. […]

Slow Food may save the world. It may not. But it’s undeniably forging powerful bonds. Making strong beginnings. Changing lives. Inspiring people. […]

An impromptu community of 100 nations, now held together indelibly. This is what it’s all about.

Source: “Eat, pray, love” bby SHONALI MUTHALALY, The Hindu : Arts / Magazine
Address : http://www.thehindu.com/arts/magazine/eat-pray-love/article4076820.ece?homepage=true
Date Visited: Sat Nov 10 2012 17:42:38 GMT+0100 (CET)

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Learn more about the tribal culture of Gadchiroli >>

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See also

Adverse inclusion | Casteism | Rural poverty


Crafts and visual arts

Demographic Status of Scheduled Tribe Population of India (Census figures 2011)

Denotified Tribes, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes – Report and Recommendations (Technical Advisory Group)

Fact checking | Figures, census and other statistics

Human Rights Commission (posts) | www.nhrc.nic.in (Government of India)

Imprisonment & rehabilitation

Search tips | Names of tribal communities, regions and states of India

State wise population of Scheduled Tribes (ST) and their percentage to the total population in the respective states and to the total STs population

“What are the Rights of Scheduled Tribes? – Government of India (National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, NCST)

“What is the Forest Rights Act about?” – Campaign for Survival and Dignity

“Who are Scheduled Tribes?” – Government of India (National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, NCST)

“India, a union of states, is a Sovereign, Secular, Democratic Republic with a Parliamentary system of Government. The President is the constitutional head of Executive of the Union. In the states, the Governor, as the representative of the President, is the head of Executive. The system of government in states closely resembles that of the Union. There are 28 states and 8 Union territories in the country. Union Territories are administered by the President through an Administrator appointed by him/her. From the largest to the smallest, each State/UT of India has a unique demography, history and culture, dress, festivals, language etc. This section introduces you to the various States/UTs in the Country and urges you to explore their magnificent uniqueness…” – KnowIndia (Government), States and Union Territories (Visited: 2 September 2023)

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