Exploring the Potential of Diversified Traditional Food Systems to
Contribute to a Healthy Diet
The developments in India illustrate the sustained takeover of food systems and the biological and cultural diversity embedded therein, by agribusiness and technology centric policies (including fortification and genetic modification). We the adivasi, dalit, and small and marginal farming communities from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh reject all industrial technical fixes such as Golden Rice, being aggressively pushed by our governments and global policies, as solutions to chronic nutritional deficiencies prevailing amongst communities. Our traditional nutritionally rich, diverse and comprehensive food systems, are the only long term sustainable answer for micro-nutrient deficiencies. As we continue to defend and assert these food systems we demand that all national and global policies, are in line with our assertion. These technological fixes, stand poised to further erode and displace our knowledge, practice, traditional seeds and diverse agro-ecological food cultures.
This report Exploring the Potential of Diversified Traditional Food Systems to Contribute to a Healthy Diet (download Report ) authored by members of the Food Sovereignty Alliance (FSA), India along with the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI), is an in-depth analysis of traditional diets of marginal farmers, landless and agro-pastoralists from adivasi dalit, backward castes and muslim communities, spread across six villages from Sangareddy district, Telangana and Chittoor, East Godavari and Srikakulam districts of Andhra Pradesh.
The enquiry into our traditional food systems provided clear evidence of the following:
- We, the adivasi, dalit, small and marginal farming communities continue to be a rich repository of knowledge, resilient food systems (production, storage, nutritional and medicinal properties) built on collective resource governance, biodiversity and agro-ecological practices.
- Our food systems are nutritionally diverse and rich in nutrients. For e.g., over 80 to 100 different kinds of seasonal, wild, cultivated and uncultivated foods form a part of the regular diet, especially in adivasi and dalit communities. These continue to be strongly embedded in the local ecological and cultural context. Nutritional analyses of these diets shows that the foods can meet and counter malnutrition including micro-nutrient malnutrition such as Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD).
- Our traditional food systems have been eroded over time, by historical and growing inequalities in landownership and resource rights, technical fixes and industrial agriculture and we continue to reject the introduction of fortified foods and other similar technical fixes (e.g., genetically engineered fortified rice – Golden Rice) that will alter our diets and agricultural practices.
- Land, water and forest rights are seriously under threat. In many villages, incomplete land reforms and skewed distribution of land remains an unfinished agenda. The vulnerabilities posed by landlessness, destruction of the commons, climate change and privatisation of commons will only serve to deepen the malnutrition and food crisis.
- Our lived experience and knowledge is an integral part of lives and livelihoods and equips us with the ability to adapt to ecological and economic uncertainties, and build our socio-ecological resilience particularly in the context of climate change.
We propose to continue to nurture and strengthen holistic socio-ecological systems of food and agriculture and demand that any external policies and measures support this process.