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Collective action for sustainable food systems in Nepal

Participants in group discussions. Photo by Nepal Food Network.

SIANI’s Expert Group in Nepal together with partners organized a dialogue on food system transformation in December, gathering 63 participants from diverse stakeholder groups. Here is the main discussion from the event, looking both back to the current status of Nepalese food systems as well as into the future of food system transformation.

Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD) in collaboration with Nepal Food Network and Alliance of Agriculture for Food – Sudurpashchim Province Chapter, jointly organized a provincial food system dialogue on 10 December 2021 in Dhangadhi, Nepal. The main objective of the workshop was to provoke and initiate multi-stakeholder discussion for creating synergies among the stakeholders for collaborative actions for building a sustainable food system in the province.

The workshop was organized in a local setting highlighting the traditional culture and cuisines of the indigenous Tharu community. The program was able to deliver the context and challenges of the existing food system and brought all stakeholders in a wider discussion for possible contributions and efforts each stakeholder required to bring collective transformation.

Tharu women displaying local cuisines served to the participants to highlight the rich diversity of foods competing for existence in the modern food system. Photo by Nepal Food Network.

Diverse stakeholders connected to the food systems actively participated in the event. Altogether 63 participants with representatives from the Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperative (MoLMAC), Provincial Planning Commission, civil society organisations, community-based organisations, universities and farmers groups attended the workshop.

Dr Santosh Shrestha highlighting the importance of local agrobiodiversity in our current food system. Photo by Nepal Food Network.

Solution-based presentations

Mr Gokul Prasad Bohora, Chief of Planning Division, MoLMAC, Sudurpashchim province, presented the status of the food system at the provincial level. He emphasized on implementation of policy frameworks to develop basic infrastructure (such as irrigation, roads, market channel and post-harvest structures) for increasing production and productivity. He talked about the importance of strengthening the farming communities through transfer of technology and implementing land use policy to discourage land fragmentation and degradation. Farm mechanization and capacity building of women and marginalized farming communities are also important aspects for sustainable food systems. Similarly, he briefly commented on the need to raise awareness about food consumption patterns and introduce strong regulatory mechanisms on low quality food imports.

Two Students from Far Western University presenting their synthesis of the group work on existing food system. Photo by Nepal Food Network.

Mr Uddhav Adhikari, Coordinator of Alliance of Agriculture for Food, talked about multiple stakeholders’ need for collective action for building a sustainable and resilient food system in the province. He stressed on the indigenous wisdom and relevance of farmers’ sovereignty for food system change. In the same vein, Mr  Tulsi Giri and Mr Madan Poudel, Co-founders of Nepal Food Network, highlighted the importance of a dialogue on forming a multi-stakeholder action team and their importance for co-creating and building the sovereign food systems they wish to create in the future. They also stressed the importance of the Collective Impact Framework and their working mechanism through which we can bring multiple diverse stakeholders in one place.

In the context of climate change, Dr Santosh Shrestha, Senior Programme Manager at LI-BIRD and project manager of SIANI’s Expert Group, shared the interconnectivity between agrobiodiversity for achieving food and nutrition security. He briefly highlighted various policies under agro-biodiversity, nutrition and climate change in Nepal and their impact and mitigation measures to overcome the gaps to create sustainable, resilient, and competitive agriculture-based farming communities.

Our future food systems

The event focused on the exchange of practical, rather than theoretical views, as acknowledged by Hon. Mohan Dev Bista, Provincial and Planning Commission. Participants were divided into eight groups and assigned to document the past, present and future food systems in the Sudurpashchim province. The discussion around our future food system covered the importance of the various indigenous seeds and technologies for healthy and sustainable food systems and how an individual can play a role in promoting local foods. Due to changing food habits and consuming more processed foods, the local food systems slowly decrease in popularity. However, a strong policy for preserving, conserving, and promoting the local crops and varieties is of utmost importance in the work of transforming the current food system.

During the event, a short video highlighted the “Best Practices in Sustainable Food System” from Sudurpashchim province. Similarly, the infographic poster on the nexus between agrobiodiversity, climate change and nutrition and various local food recipes was displayed. The event ended with cultural performances from the Tharu communities serving local cuisines.

Written by Santosh Shrestha, Aastha Bhusal and Rajendra Dhakal from SIANI’s Expert Group Small-scale farmers and biodiversity in Nepal.

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