Indigenous Terra Madre (ITM), organised for the first time in 2011 in Jokkmokk, Sweden, by the Sápmi people, was Slow Food's first event dedicated entirely to indigenous peoples. The event brought together representatives of indigenous communities from around the world to celebrate their food cultures and discuss how to bring their knowledge and vision of food production into modern times.
This year, the Indigenous Terra Madre meeting will be held in Shillong, Meghalaya (North East India) from 3rd to 7th November, 2015. International Mei-Ramew 2015 (IMR 2015) — Mother Earth in the local Khasi language — is the preferred name of the people of Meghalaya for the second edition of the Indigenous Terra Madre. It is a joint venture of the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty (Indigenous Partnership), Rome, Italy; Slow Food International, Bra, Italy; and the North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS), Shillong, India. Forty one villages from Meghalaya have agreed to be co-hosting villages for ITM 2015/IMR 2015.
Read more about ITM Jokkmokk here.
ABOUT THE EVENT
ITM 2015/IMR 2015 will gather indigenous food communities working with the Indigenous Partnership, Slow Food International, UN Agencies and other global supporters to showcase their traditional knowledge, evolving skills and sustainable practices that safeguard natural resources and contribute to a resilient food system that promotes a more humane future for a diverse world. ITM 2015 will be a platform for these food communities to interact and engage with scientists and policymakers as they reflect on the theme, The Future We Want: Indigenous Perspectives and Actions.
This international event will be an occasion to celebrate the wonderful cultural and biological diversity of indigenous communities as expressed in their songs, dance, dress, folklores and food systems that have evolved through generations of close interaction with nature. The traditionally marginalised voices, such as youth, women knowledge holders, the physically challenged, and indigenous farmers, pastoralists, hunter-gatherers, remote dwellers and fisher folk, will actively participate in the deliberations of the gathering.
ITM 2015/IMR 2015 will be an important occasion to review and reflect on evolving food and agroecological issues of indigenous peoples. This will help build their respective capacities to promote and uphold an environmental standard in which all people can enjoy food that is good for all consumers, good for producers and good for the planet. It will also showcase to the world at large, the cultural and biological treasures of Meghalaya and North East India. It will draw attention to the many innovations of local communities across the world and the successful stories of promoting good, clean and fair food through government, civil society and development initiatives. The event will also highlight the Slow Fashion movement of the North East, which aims to glamorise traditional textiles and weaving practices in North East India that are a crucial part of the sustainable, environmental and ethical movements of the world.
Tucked in the Eastern Himalayas, North East India comprises of eight states of the Union of India: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. It is home to more than 250 indigenous groups and is considered one of the most bio-cultural areas of the world. The rural framing system is deeply ecological, and traditional values still hold sway despite westernisation, urbanisation and the growing pull of cash-generating livelihood activities.
The State of Meghalaya is bounded on the north by Goalpara, Kamrup and Nowgong districts, on the east by Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills districts, all of Assam, and on the south and west by Bangladesh. Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, located approximately 1800m (6000 ft) above sea level, has a cool climate and is only 65 km from the village of Mawsynram, reported to be the wettest spot on Earth, receiving the highest amount of rainfall. The capital city derives its name from the manifestation of the creator called Shyllong.
The International Mei-Ramew 2015 (ITM 2015/IMR 2015) will be held in Shillong, which is situated at the centre of a plateau surrounded by hills, three of which are revered by the Khasi people, who are one of the major indigenous groups of the state. The other main indigenous peoples of Meghalaya are the Jaintias and the Garos, and all three groups follow matriarchal traditions, albeit strongly impacted by modern influences.
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Forty villages from various parts of Meghalaya, representing different indigenous communities, have accepted the mantle of co-hosting the International Mei-Ramew and will represent the local indigenous voices of Meghalaya.
Strengthening their close connection to land and traditional agricultural practices, these communities are taking proactive steps towards the protection of their own biocultural diversity.
The communities have been engaged in various activities with NESFAS for the promotion and preservation of local agrobiodiversity through numerous initiatives. Through the school gardens - 17 in total, and biodiversity walks, the community has taken the initiative to ensure intergenerational transfer of knowledge. The agrobiodiversity networks connect the communities, individuals and institutions in subjects considered important to the communities - these include millet, shifting cultivation, custodian farmers, rice, pollinators, and cooks. The communities actively participate in the celebration of food and agriculture through food festivals and, seed and diversity fairs. Livelihood initiatives like Mei-Ramew or Mother Earth Cafés and Eri Weaving engage with them to ensure sustainable income. They’ve also immersed themselves in participatory documentation of their Traditional Knowledge and studies on Well-being, Land Sharing and Land Sparing, Matriarchy and Women’s Role in Nutrition, which will be themes discussed at ITM 2015/IMR 2015.
ARK OF TASTE
As we journey into the future, we are losing our traditional links to mother earth’s quality productions, in which are rooted our cultural ethos and lifestyle. As the mantras have changed to ‘bigger, better and faster’, ‘slow and steady’ seems to have taken a backseat, uprooting many bio-agrarian cultures and productions at grass root levels. The Ark of Taste is a planetary journey of discovery - of produce, plates and palettes that make up a timeless heritage.
As a profound reflection of Noah’s Ark that saved a proto-typical member of every species, the Ark of Taste was created by the Slow Food foundation for Biodiversity to list endangered food species across the globe. It highlights unique food items that are neglected today due to industrialisation of our food production and the marginalisation of small-scale food producers. Today, the international list includes over 2,626 products from 140 countries.
In Meghalaya, NESFAS has been using the Ark of Taste as a means to rediscover, catalogue, describe and promote foods that have been forgotten with time. So far, 100 Ark of Taste products have been identified and nominated from Meghalaya and Nagaland as well. The Ark of Taste captures any food product such as a single crop, an animal breed, a recipe or even a traditional method of preparation, and is characterised by its potential risk of extinction within a specific area/community. This exercise resulted in the coming together of rare, distinct and disappearing gustatory jewels in North East India, also known to be one of the eight biodiversity hot-spots in the world. The list was prepared with immense help from various individuals and communities from Meghalaya and Nagaland such as the Department of Agriculture of Meghalaya, partner groups such as the North East Network (Nagaland) and young professionals.
The Ark of Taste will be a key focus area at the ITM 2015/IMR 2015 as it directs attention of the global and local delegates to the key importance of the disappearing foods, which later generations might not be able to witness. It will also be an invitation for people to become agents of sustaining these culinary jewels and their producers, by buying, consuming, and most importantly, showing sensitivity to the environment they grow in.
Track Taste Treasures: To know more about Ark of Taste, click here.
Mei-Ramew weaves : Looms of Change
In the fertile lands of Meghalaya, North East India, weaving is an ancient tradition that has supported agricultural families for generations. Deeply integrated in the biocultural diversity of the communities of Meghalaya, hand-woven Eri silk is 100% natural, entirely defined by the local environment and people, who create it.
The traditional livelihoods of the Eri silk sector are under threat due to the decline in the number of practising artisans, yet the community passion and pride for the craft is still very much alive. Meghalaya is witnessing a positive and collaborative effort to encourage sustainable growth of eri-culture, natural dyeing and hand weaving, preserving traditional craft and cultural heritage.
Indigenous Terra Madre 2015 will host a vibrant exhibition that showcases the skill of the artisans, their commitment to their craft, and the collaborative approaches of local government, individuals and organisations who support them.
NESFAS has an active craft preservation program, working with Eri silk weavers of the Ri Bhoi district and the Khneng embroiderers of the Shella region. The historical trade link between artisans and their creative expression of local identity is celebrated in this interactive and educational display.
In collaboration with GIZ and the Department of Sericulture and Weaving, Meghalaya
The North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) campus, Shillong, will be the venue for the first three days of the conference, while the fourth day will entail visits to hosting communities for visiting delegates. The event will conclude at the Sacred Grove at Lawkyntang, Mawphlang with a food festival, which will be open to the public.
North Eastern Hill University (NEHU)
NEHU is a Central University that was established in 1973 by an Act of the Indian Parliament. The university is located in the suburb of Shillong, the state capital of Meghalaya. Covering about 1025 acres in area, the NEHU campus is set amid pine trees and is considered by some as a tourist attraction.
Mawphlang is a village in the East Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya State, 25km from Shillong. The village is the site of one of the sacred groves of Khasi Hills and it will serve as the venue for the Closing Day of the ITM 2015/IMR 2015. It is forbidden, in such a sacred grove, to pluck or damage plants within its vicinity and this is embedded in the cultural beliefs of the Khasis. The community of Mawphlang, as one of the co-hosting villages of ITM 2015/IMR 2015, has generously offered the land adjacent to the sacred grove as the venue for the Food Festival and Closing Ceremony of ITM 2015/IMR 2015.
Direction to Mawphlang
Distance from Shillong: 26.4 km via NH 40 and NH 44E
Duration: 43 min
Link to map: http://bit.ly/1FKhD8x