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Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

Re: Indigenous methods of food preparation: what is their impact on food security and nutrition?

Harriet Kuhnlein
Harriet KuhnleinMcGill UniversityCanada

                I have greatly enjoyed reading the submission to the questions introduced by Edward.  Globally, we are indeed faced with daily loss of biodiversity in the world of food and by simultaneous loss in knowledge of methods of preservation and preparation of these foods.  As a student of many indigenous elders in the techniques of local food harvest, preservation and preparations for family enjoyment and nutrition, I am convinced the only way forward is to do everything possible to document this diversity as best we can. This knowledge is useful  for the future generations within a culture, as well as for all of us. With increased documentation and increasing communication technology for sharing this information, we have the potential to take advantage of this vast knowledge known and used by Indigenous Peoples to improve their nutrition and health at the local level and also to provide knowledge to benefit all humanity.  With this knowledge we have at least some tools to cope with increasing loss of food species diversity and food shortages in the future.

                Please note that the FAO and the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (CINE) at McGill University in Montreal has just released the third book in a series resulting from 10 years of research with Indigenous Peoples and their food systems.  The first two books define the process to document local food resources ( and describe the food species and their various methods of preparation and use in 12 diverse rural areas of different parts of the world (  Indigenous Peoples’ food systems & well-being: interventions & policies for healthy communities ) is the third of the series, released just this past weekend (May 25, 2013)at the United Nations in New York City.  Collectively this work presents ways to assist Indigenous Peoples in using their local and traditional food systems in community nutrition and health promotion. 

                While we support Indigenous Peoples in preserving their culture and resources, we should learn from their knowledge and experience, preserved so far thanks to strong cultural identities. The lessons drawn by this collective work should be taken as an encouragement to pursue the promotion of more sustainable and healthy food systems, adapted to modern life’s necessities and inspired by the sustainable food systems preserved throughout generations by Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.

                Finding alternatives to preserve these sustainable food systems and the knowledge, expertise and biodiversity linked to them is of crucial importance to finding solutions to feed a growing humanity today and in the future.  I believe that the FAO should take the lead in the huge task of documenting local food knowledge—species identifications, methods of preservation, methods of preparation, food composition, and uses in cuisine-- as it now exists and for our future needs.  At the same time, steps for honoring intellectual property rights and using prior and informed consent for documenting this valuable knowledge should be implemented.

                Thank you, Edward, for bringing this discussion forward in the FSN Forum.