Shillong: Britain's Prince Charles on Tuesday stressed the need to change the current global food situation, as indigenous communities from 58 countries started deliberations here on sustainable agriculture, food production and land resources.
The five-day Indigenous Terra Madre festival, being held in India for the first time, was inaugurated by Chief Minister Mukul Sangma. It is being attended by 147 indigenous communities from 58 countries, including tribes from the aboriginal lands of Australia, the Amazonian Indians, native American Indians and other indigenous communities from African and Asian countries, besides 59 indigenous communities from India.
Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, addressed the mega-gathering and stressed the need to change the current global food situation. He said there was the need to look to "indigenous wisdom" and "develop an approach that acts globally, but thinks locally".
Welcoming the indigenous communities, Sangma urged the delegates to utilise the five-day programme to enrich each other with valued information and wealth of knowledge and skills passed down by their forefathers.
"It is important to make all indigenous communities to stay connected to their traditional practices and ensure that they do not delink themselves from nature," the chief minister said, while stressing the need to promote sustainable agriculture for sustainable economy and stable democracy. Sangma, however, maintained that sustainable agriculture also requires appropriate scientific approach which will take care of climate change which is a threat to sustainable livelihood.
"Agriculture, which is our way of life, our rich and diverse culture and our unique and exclusive food stories will be a way forward for sustainable growth of our future and for making Meghalaya the most favoured and talked about destination in the years to come," he added.
On Meghalaya's efforts at creating innovative forms of livelihood, based on both traditional and scientific knowledge and harnessing renewable natural resources, Sangma said: "We have designed livelihood activities which can help regenerate our vegetative coverage and preserve the rich biodiversity to make living in the rural areas more remunerative and comparable to any other opportunities available outside the region."
Sangma unveiled a CD of 12 films and a coffee table book that offers glimpses of the rich diversity of Meghalaya. Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food International, made an impassioned case for "every government to take decisions".
"We are losing our histories and food heritages in the process of becoming globalized, and becoming consumers of mass produced products," Petrini said, urging the indigenous communities to "must not only talk but act".
Winona La Duke, an American activist from the Anishinaabe tribe, also stressed preserving food-based traditions and looking towards indigenous people to share their knowledge, reiterating that food was sacred, and part of who people are genetically and spiritually.
The programme is being organised by the Indigenous Partnership (Rome) and North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS) in collaboration with Slow Food International and the Meghalaya government. The Indigenous Terra Madre will also feature a slow food festival at the Mawphlang sacred grove.