Foodways As Tangible & Intangible Heritage

In the 1960s, the Green Revolution placed a premium on high crop yields over factors such as crop diversity and soil preservation. Photograph: Rupak de Chowdhuri/Reuters

2010-2017, from our base in Kerala, India one of our primary activities was food heritage preservation. And it is a constant theme in these pages. Along the way it became clear that both foodstuffs, the tangible things that are used to make food, and foodways, the intangible knowhow for using foodstuffs to make food, are equally worthy of our attention. Thanks to the Guardian for sharing this:

‘Mind-boggling variety’: the food crusaders preserving India’s heritage

A rich range of native crops and seeds is being nurtured in an effort to halt the country’s rapidly vanishing food diversity

Babita Bhatt left a career in software to launch her own business in natural products grown in the Himalayas. Photograph: Handout

A small army of botanical heritage enthusiasts is spearheading a movement in India for the revival and preservation of the country’s rapidly vanishing food biodiversity by bringing back the rich crop varieties that thrived in the past, but are now on the verge of extinction.

Babita Bhatt, a 43-year-old former software professional, is just one of these crusaders, who are eschewing established careers and fat pay packets to become farmers, activists and entrepreneurs.

Fear of feeding her young daughter foods covered in pesticides was the trigger for Bhatt to move to the hills of Uttarakhand. Trading a steady income for the financial insecurity of an entrepreneur, she launched Himalaya2Home, a self-funded venture, in 2018.

“Growing up in the hills, I was used to eating delicious, organic produce cultivated in the mountains. So when I moved to the city after marriage, the low-grade produce and the non-availability of a steady, reliable supply of organic produce hit me hard,” says Bhatt. “For instance, the store-bought barnyard millet was polished white and tasteless, unlike the one in the hills which was unpolished and delicious. The city vegetables and fruits also lacked lustre, texture and taste.”

Bhatt launched a supply chain model based on sustainable indigenous and heirloom seed-based agriculture. “The list of unknown or lesser-known indigenous crops in India is mind-boggling,” she says. “All these varieties were widely grown and eaten till just 100 years ago. However, they disappeared with the Green Revolution [initiated in the 1960s], which placed a premium on high-crop yield over soil preservation and quality produce.

“Rampant use of pesticides and tampering of seeds through GMO further sounded the death knell of many indigenous seed varieties that had medicinal and curative properties. A well-documented archive of seeds saved in community seed banks is the need of the hour as it can play a pivotal role in preserving fast-disappearing indigenous produce,” she says…

Read the whole story here.

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