Global Manifesto, Global Plan of Action and Community of Practices on Forgotten Foods as a part of the GFAR Collective Action
Funded by: FAO-GFAR
Agricultural diversification requires a re-evaluation of poverty. To achieve SDG1, we need to eradicate poverty in all its forms, anywhere by 2030. This means moving from a definition based only on economic poverty (lack of income) to one that includes nutritional poverty (lack of healthy diets), species poverty (lack of crop and system diversity) and cultural poverty (lack of knowledge of food heritage). This broader definition of poverty can transform interventions based on a single impact pathway in which farmers are seen as the `beneficiaries’ of new technologies to reciprocal impact pathways in which rural communities become protagonists and key actors who can share their rich knowledge and traditions of foods and genetic resources, cultures and practices that can support humanity in an uncertain future. By empowering farming communities as the agents of change, the wider adoption of forgotten foods can help eradicate poverty, not as a task of charity but as an act of justice and as the key to unlocking the enormous potential of human knowledge and ingenuity.
A global agri-food system that focuses on a `Yield-for-Profit’ paradigm based on only a few `staple’ crops has consequences for the health of humanity and the biodiversity of the ecosystems on which we all depend. Only four crops now provide over 60% of the world’s food. For many people, their products have ensured food security. For others, their over-consumption is increasingly causing obesity and micronutrient deficiencies. Poor diets are the leading contributor to death and disability worldwide; agriculture is now a major cause of climate change. Our agri-food system is moving in the wrong direction if it is to nourish a growing population on a hotter planet. Its outputs are increasingly delivering calorie-dense foods from climate-vulnerable agricultural systems along carbon-heavy supply chains to global consumers. Its governance is not yet multi-stakeholder driven.
Reframing research governance, innovation patterns and consumer awareness towards more diverse agriculture, healthier diets and enhanced farmer participation can transform our agri-food system. It can also unlock more diverse research and policies that go beyond a focus only on the world’s major crops and recognise the critical role of agricultural communities as an essential part of the research process. For this, we need a reimagined model that puts the health of humanity and the planet at the heart of the global agri-food system, with farmers driving the transformation as the main agents of change and agricultural diversification as the focus for innovation.
Forgotten foods – whether considered as neglected and underutilized species, indigenous foods, orphan crops or future foods – have immense cultural and consumer significance. They provide nutritious and healthy foods for local communities, resilience to climate change in particular to variability of weather conditions including droughts and floods, to pests and diseases and diversity in agro-ecosystems and landscapes. Whilst forgotten foods and the crops from which they derive have been conserved and improved by farmers for centuries, they remain neglected, under-resourced, and underutilized in the broader global food system, and their knowledge systems disregarded. As a consequence, their use has declined over time due to negative social perceptions, pervasive impact of policies, lack of interest from research institutions, limited awareness of their value among consumers and challenges in establishing markets and end-uses. A trend to be reversed.
For forgotten foods to have a real impact requires collective actions at global, regional, national and local levels that increase awareness of their economic, nutritional, environmental and cultural value. We need to make forgotten foods accessible and appealing, empower farmers in the change process, educate consumers to realize their benefits, encourage scientists and the media to promote and optimize their value, have policy and legal frameworks to ensure their conservation and sustainable use and promote their adoption as desirable foods for both rural and urban consumers. For each of these actions, farming communities need to be the recognized custodians of knowledge, agents of change and partners for innovative practices and products to make transformation sustainable.
Towards achieving this, Along with GFAR, M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation joined the South Asia Regional Consortia to discuss and develop plan for South Asia Regional level Consortia. MSSRF was part of the Consortia Core Group lead by Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI). Based on the initial discussions, Farmer’s perception survey on Forgotten Crops was developed and finalized.
Subsequently, MSSRF identified a constituent partners of NGOs and CBOs those who are hand on experience and working on the issues related to Neglected and Underutilised Species/ Forgotten Foods/ Crops. MSSRF convened a initial online meeting to explain the purpose of the groups and subsequent actions. These meeting were attended by the members of the following constituency partners. Full details of the Constituency partners are;
Bharathi Integrated Rural Development Society (BIRDS), Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh
Centre for Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation (HESCO), Dehradun, Uttarakhand.
Martin Luther Christian University, Shillong, Meghalaya
North East Slowfood and Agro biodiversity Society (NESFAS), Shillong, Meghalaya
Sanlak Agro Industries Private Limited, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
Sevamandir, Udaipur, Rajasthan
Shahaja Samrudha, Bengaluru, Karnataka
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
Watershed Support Services and Activities Network (WASSAN), Hyderabad, Telangana
A special orientation meeting was convened on 30 March 2021 with constituency partners to share Concept note, The Final Survey questionnaire, methodology for execution of surveys and expected deliverables. The survey was carried out across 15 states in the months of April and Mid – May. Both physical survey and Phone Interviews were conducted in depending on pandemic conditions in respective partners locations. Questionnaire link were shared with partners to upload the data. In India, over 1800 respondents participated. The data was processed and presented to constituency partners in India. Datasets gathered by MSSRF is merged with data sets gathers by AFA in order to analysed together to have a comprehensive perspective of the South Asia Region. The result of the same was presented at South Asia Regional webinar held on 28 May 2021. The presentation made is annexed
MSSRF invited all Constituency Partners to contribute to the Regional Webinar and consultation jointly organised with APPARI and Core partners. Representatives of the organisations participated with farmers through online from various part of the country and provided inputs during the online and subsequent processes.
Here is the video link of the webinar.
This webinar and consultation process helped MSSRF to share additional inputs in the development processes of Asia Pacific Farmer’s declaration and Asia Pacific Manifesto . Subsequently MSSRF took part in the Global meeting on forgotten foods organised by GFAR to deliver Global Manifesto and Global Plan of Action and also on the side event organized by the GFAR. Global manifesto is translated in 8 of Indian languages and attached in link.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.