Indigenous peoples

Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems are game-changing solutions towards more sustainable food systems.


Combining Indigenous Peoples' traditional knowledge with modern science and scientific data is a powerful opportunity: Agnes Kalibata the Special Envoy to the UN Food Systems Summit.

11/02/2021 - 

The need of recognizing indigenous peoples' food systems as game-changing solutions towards transforming more sustainable food systems is the main conclusion of the CFS47 side-event Indigenous Peoples roadmap towards the UN Food Systems Summit.

"There is a critical need for indigenous peoples' leadership and perspectives to be included at the UN Food System Summit", expressed Máximo Torero, Chief Economist of FAO.

This side-event gathered more than 220 attendees from many different regions of the world. This side-event was organized by the FAO Indigenous Peoples Unit, the Government of Finland, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)IFADthe Sámi Parliamentthe Global-Hub on Indigenous Peoples' Food Systems, the Rome Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples and the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact.

"We are concerned that food cultures and traditional food systems are disappearing. In many areas, indigenous peoples are fighting for their livelihoods due to climate change hampering their traditional ways of life", emphasized H.E. Elina Kalkku, Under-Secretary of State for Development Policy, of the Government of Finland.

"We, indigenous peoples, have organized ourselves to share our knowledge and perspective of transforming food systems", accentuated Anne Nuorgam, Chair of the UNPFII. In this regard, Myrna Cunningham, indigenous leader and member of the Steering Committee of the UN Food Systems Summit, added that they held 14 independent dialogues in collaboration with IFAD and with FAO In North America, and that they are working in ensuring indigenous peoples participation within the national dialogues. 

Furthermore, indigenous leaders and the Global-Hub on Indigenous Peoples' Food Systems are drafting the White Paper/Whipala Paper on Indigenous Peoples' Food Systems. "This document presents evidence-based information on the resilience and sustainable elements of indigenous peoples´ food systems", specified Yon Fernández-de-Larrinoa, Chief of the FAO Indigenous Peoples Unit. "We have opened an online consultation to ensure indigenous peoples from the seven socio-cultural regions can provide inputs to this document that will be presented to the scientific committee of the UN Food Systems Summit", added Fernández-de-Larrinoa. 

"It is important to ensure that indigenous peoples are at the table so that they could show their holistic approach to food systems and convey their perspectives at the global regional and national levels", added H.E Alexandra Bugailiskis, Canada's Ambassador to Italy & Chair of the Rome Group of Friends of Indigenous Peoples and co-convener of the Group of Friends of the UN Food Systems Summit.

The high-level panel of experts at the side-event presented relevant arguments to explain why indigenous peoples' food systems constitute fundamental game-changing solutions that can inform foods systems towards becoming more sustainable. 

Three of the main ideas presented at the side event are: 

Indigenous peoples' food systems are among the most sustainable food systems in the world. While explaining this, Tuomas Aslak Juuso, President of the Sámi Parliament, described the Sámi food system, which depends entirely on the use of land, natural resources and water. "Maintaining resources is vital to uphold the Sámi food system. This is why indigenous peoples' practices look forward to letting nature restore itself", expressed the Sámi Parliament's President.

Sharing, equality and continuity are essential principles guiding indigenous peoples' food systems. Gam Shimray, Secretary-General of Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact, highlighted the main differences between commercial value chain and indigenous peoples' food systems. Among other characteristics that include a holistic perspective, he specified that indigenous peoples' food system change slowly in time, being very low in risk-taking, to ensure that intergenerational equity is not compromised. 

Indigenous peoples' heritage and traditional knowledge are of high value when identifying inclusive responses to global challenges. Indigenous peoples can provide solutions from their wealth of knowledge and expertise in adapting, mitigating, and reducing risks related to climate change and natural disasters.  Their success in preserving 80% of the world's remaining biodiversity accredits them as having proved hands-on experience in successfully relating with the environment in sustainable ways.

Watch the side-event recording here: CFS47 SE 12

More information: www.fao.org/indigenous-peoples