We are organizing an adivasi food festival where both cultivated as well as uncultivated
and / or forest foods that the adivasis depend on will be displayed on
25th February at Bisamcuttack, Rayagada. This is a unique event where
people from a dozen tribes who live in the villages of Odisha,
Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra will gather
with their local produce to tell us how and why they prefer their
traditional food. Members from the Kondh, Koya, Didai, Santhal,
Juanga, Baiga, Bhil, Pahari Korva, Paudi Bhuiyan and Birhor from more
than 300 villages spread across the tribal heartland of India.
The idea behind this adivasi food festival is to show that traditional
food culture of these people, based on their age-old agriculture
practices, have provided food and nutritional security for them down
the ages. If such practices are nurtured and improved upon, it would
provide far better food security than the current public distribution
system does and also help the communities and the forests in
protecting each other.
It will be a colourful event with singing and story-telling in an
unusual mingling of tribal cultures. Adivasi and Dalit children from
nearby villages and schools will also participate in this festival
which will showcase the richness of their food diversity and local
cultures. We will also be putting together more than 400 recipes for
dishes made from locally cultivated crops and uncultivated and /
forest produce - a rich storehouse of knowledge that needs to be
preserved and respected.
It is this thought that prompted us to hold the food festival. The
imposition of modern agriculture systems based on the use of chemical
inputs has had several adverse impacts, not least in undermining the
traditional practices of adivasi farming practices. It has reduced the
space for interaction among the tribes people who grow their food
mostly through exchange of labour, seeds, skills and services. It has
also destroyed the age-old custom of consulting one another on
farm-related decisions, etc.
This has begun to worry the elders in the community who fear the
modern system is distancing their people from their once strong
traditions and shared ways of living. They are apprehensive that their
customary support systems have begun to wither away as community
resources are being converted into individual assets and individuals
are being forced to adapt to the ways of the so-called civilized world
where each man has to fend for himself.
The food festival at Bisamcuttack is aimed at deepening their
communitarian ethos and shared knowledge systems. The event will
highlight their sustainable way of growing food and their relationship
with their ecology -the forest, seeds, land and food.
We hope to encourage the young adivasis to imbibe the significance of
the old ways by listening to the stories and songs of their and to
think critically about their future. We hope the event will help these
communities to regain pride in their sustainable practices and reclaim
control of their collective spaces. We also hope it will also prove to
be a stimulating forum for sharing the associated ecological knowledge
and cultural linkages that exist or were prevalent in earlier times.
The food festival on 25th February will be followed by a discussion
the next day on ways to increase such linkages through collective
efforts to protect tribal practices and thus ensure the harmonious
relation between people and forests.
We look forward to meeting you on the 25th February at Bisamcuttack, Rayagada.