| A stall at Mawphlang on Friday. Telegraph picture |
Shillong, Dec. 13: The challenge to make cooking of traditional products a livelihood for indigenous communities is colossal, as efforts are on to showcase slow food amid the onslaught of ready-to-eat items.
This has been underscored by Northeast Slow Food and Agro-biodiversity Society chairman Phrang Roy. He is also the co-ordinator of the Indigenous Partnership for Agro-biodiversity and Food Sovereignty.
The society has organised Mei Ram-ew 2013, A Celebration of Biodiversity, at Mawphlang village near the sacred grove. The festival, which began today, concludes tomorrow.
The focus of the festival is on local recipes and tasty preparations that are vanishing from people’s plates because of global market forces.
“One of the objectives behind bringing communities together is to revitalise their own food, for their health and livelihood. But it is still a challenge to make traditional food items a livelihood for the communities,” Roy said at Mawphlang, about 20km from here.
Perhaps not finding any livelihood opportunity, communities shy away from preparing slow food, as consumers prefer fast food in this fast-paced world.
As a start to a “slow food cafe”, Roy said an idea has been mooted to set up the same at Tyrna village in East Khasi Hills, about 60km from here, where one has to get down to take a long walk to reach the famous root bridges of Nongriat village.
“For the cafe, what we have stressed is that if you can maintain cleanliness, half the battle is won. We also want the people to use the locally available raw materials to prepare traditional food,” Roy said.
For the festival, the society was able to bring communities from Bhutan, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim, besides villages of Meghalaya.
People were seen thronging the stalls to get a taste of traditional food of places beyond their own.
The society had come across a community in the Jaintia Hills where tea is prepared from rice. It is locally known as Sha Kho. The same kind of preparation is also found in Japan, Roy said.
He further said in October 2015, Mawphlang would host an international conference on indigenous people on the theme The Future We Saw – Indigenous Perspective and Indigenous Action.
“Indigenous people have different concerns about their future. The 2015 conference will bring together people from various parts of the globe where ideas will be shared on how to resolve conflict within us and with our neighbours,” he said.
On development being measured in economic terms, he said there are indigenous groups which have started looking at the concept of wellbeing differently.
Before the start of the festival this morning, there was an exchange of gifts among the participating groups. The organisers will make two farmers, a woman, and a youth chief guests for tomorrow’s valedictory programme.
“They are the ones who have the knowledge and they should be given a place of pride,” Roy explained on the idea of making these four individuals chief guests for tomorrow.