“Human and Ecology” conversation series begins on World Food Day

Experts tell stories of food from jungle in first webinar

Bhubaneswar: Mahanadi River Waterkeeper, Water Initiatives (WI) and Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) have started a new conversation series titled “Human & Ecology.”

The first webinar in this series “Food Security: Tales from the Jungles,” was organised today coinciding with “World Food Day” to discuss food security and the role of natural forests through stories from the forests.

Convener of WI, Ranjan Panda, who is also a senior fellow with the FES, had an hour long conversation with three people – social activist, farmer and journalist Ajit Panda; Secretary of Gram Swaraj Deepak Pani; and climate Journalist Pragati Prava.

Joining this webinar Ajit narrated his experiences with tribal people of interior pockets of Nuapada district and how malnutrition failed to touch them while others are of the impression that tribal people suffer from food scarcity. He remembered how a tribal family hosted them for around a month during his work in the area and fed them with all forest delicacies.

Deepak, who had done extensive research on Similipal, said how the Similipal biosphere is rich in food diversity that includes a wide range of fruits, tubers and greens. The rich food-diversity of the forest has been nurturing the inhabitants of forests.

Pragati narrated her childhood experience on how she developed an intimate relationship with tribals and forest food during her stay in a forested area with her parents. She remembered how the forest food meets all the requirements of the forest-dwellers and they do not have to move outside. She also shared her experience of having delicacies like chara, jamun, kusuma, different greens, roots and tubers from forests.

Keeping in line with the design of this conversation series, the speakers narrated their first-hand experience with communities who live inside the forests in a story-telling approach. All these speakers were of the opinion that natural forests preserved by the local and indigenous communities host a very rich food diversity. They also highlighted the importance of supporting these communities in their conservation efforts, so that the knowledge and their food diversity are not lost to commercial plantation and other such invasive activities. The speakers touched upon fruits, roots, fibers, berries, greens and fishes that are found inside the forest and narrated how in many such villages the local communities have not faced food crisis during droughts and also during this covid pandemic. While the world needs to learn a lot from these communities on forest conservation and enriching local food and species diversity, the communities themselves need to generate interest in the youth of their native places to continue these conservation practices.

Ranjan said, “We will bring in more such people who have experience, enthusiasm and dedication on specific fields related to our lives & ecology. More such topics will be chosen and this conversation will continue.” The guests would tell stories in a casual manner that everybody will find interesting, engaging and encouraging, he added.

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