Food festivals serve as platforms for sharing agro-biodiversity, and are a cultural expression of traditional food and agricultural traditions. They allow people to exchange ideas and highlight the challenges that indigenous people face, empowering communities with a sense of ownership. India’s Food festivals promote conservation, by encouraging communities to grow nutritious and beneficial plants in kitchens, communities and school gardens.
The idea of the food festival is primarily to re-integrate value back into food systems and food culture. Through such festivals, communities become aware of the importance of reviving their traditional food practices and production, leading to increased local resilience and food security. They beautify their food through presenting traditional dishes, as well as explaining and documenting the cultural and ecological links. Food festivals are multidimensional community driven initiatives that empower people via a ground up approach.
In Meghalaya, the concept of celebrating Terra Madre Day on the 10th of December every year was introduced as a food festival and brought into reality with the help of Slow Food International, the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and local organisations. A food festival is not a strange concept in the region, as there are many celebrated in and around this area. However, the introduction of Terra Madre Day or ‘Mei Ramew’ as it is locally known, brought something more to the table. It opened the platform to bring about discussions, share information and gather knowledge.
Some of the photographs featured capture images from the most recent Mei Ramew festival, which attracted as many as 3000 visitors to witness the rich biodiversity of the North East of India. Moreover, a group of the Karen tribe in Thailand came to share their experiences and opinions of small-scale farming and their local cuisine. Many of the presented items were sourced from the wild, and even local visitors were surprised, not only because of the variety of local foods, but also because of how tasty the dishes were. A particularly emotional moment was when the Thai community spontaneously performed a musical act together with the Garo youth – it was the kind of communication where language is no barrier.
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