Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems Book garners Sustainability Award

The Hallbars Award brings welcome attention to the importance of indigenous knowledge and practices within resilient and sustainable food systems.

Each year, the International Day on the World’s Indigenous Peoples (August 9th) raises awareness about the contributions of and challenges faced by the world’s 476 million indigenous peoples. With links to culture, language, and identity, we have plenty to learn from indigenous food systems, which typically reflect sustainable natural resource management, diverse nourishing diets, and alternative governance systems.

The book “Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems: Insights on sustainability and resilience from the front line of climate change”, co-published by the Alliance and FAO, collects stories from communities around the globe. The eight food system profiles, (of which four were coordinated by the Alliance), include:

  • Hunting, gathering and food sharing in Africa’s rainforests
  • Voices from Arctic nomads: an ancestral system facing global warming
  • Treasures from shifting cultivation in the Himalayan’s evergreen forest
  • From the ocean to the mountains: storytelling in the Pacific Islands
  • Surviving in the desert: the resilience of the nomadic herders (Mali)
  • Ancestral nomadism and farming in the mountains (India)
  • Following the flooding cycles in the Amazon rainforest
  • The maize people in the Mesoamerican dry corridor

Alliance researcher Gennifer Meldrum guided the methodology development for the food system profiles and co-authored two chapters, one of which was led by longstanding partners from the North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS) and the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty (TIP) in Meghalaya, India. The chapter emphasizes the importance of local resources and Indigenous governance in sustaining the community food system. Shifting cultivation, or “jhum”, is a core practice that integrates a high diversity of cultivated and wild edible plants, while strengthening community bonds through collective work and resource planning.

She says that the book’s winning of the Hallbars Award- which has been referred to as the “Oscars of Sustainability”- is “immensely gratifying” and will ensure the book’s messages reach a wide audience (the book is joining a collection on sustainable gastronomy at the Alfred Nobel collection in Sweden).

Gennifer reflects:

“The book is the result of many years of involved research, collaboration and discussions among the many contributors, who all hoped for it to make a difference towards recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ food systems and their importance in realizing the Sustainable Development Goals. This award is a great sign that we are making steps towards this objective. I look forward to a future in which Indigenous Peoples’ food systems are increasingly recognized, protected and strengthened for the benefit of Indigenous Peoples’ communities and the whole planet.”

Bhogtoram Mawroh, Senior Associate with NESFAS and lead author on the case study in Meghalaya, India comments:

"Taking part in the study was a great opportunity to understand the context under which the traditional food system of the Khasis operates. The lessons learned in the process provided a critical lens through which the current food system could be analysed. It will also help to reimagine a more sustainable future not just for the Khasis but for others as well."

The book is joining a collection on sustainable gastronomy at the Alfred Nobel collection in Sweden.

Read the book for free online:


Baka women and researchers with the Alliance and Kyoto University during the thematic discussions in the East Region of Cameroon, 2018.