International Day of the World’s Indigenous People – Respect and Recognise Indigenous and Traditional Food Systems

Aug 9, 2021

Today, August 9, International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific, acknowledges the integral role of Indigenous people in growing and sustaining the global food supply. 

Indigenous people continue to be amongst the most marginalised, disenfranchised, and vulnerable in the Asia Pacific. For hundreds of years, indigenous communities have struggled for the recognition of their rights and the protection of their lives, livelihoods, culture, and territories. Despite this, globally, Indigenous peoples, peasant and small-scale farmers, and fisherfolk collectively represent most of the world’s small-scale food producers and provide about 70 percent of the world’s food. However, Indigenous peoples remain largely absent from key decision-making spaces, and their struggle against land grabbing for agro-commodities and commercialised farming systems continues.

This year, the United Nations is calling for creating and redesigning a new social contract as an expression of cooperation for social interest and the common good for humanity and nature. The new social contract has been proposed to be based on “genuine participation and partnership that fosters equal opportunities and respects the rights, dignity and freedoms of all.” 

Therefore, if a new social contract is to be developed based on these principles, then Indigenous peoples’ inclusion and the right to meaningfully participate in decision-making regarding the future of our food systems is essential. Indigenous knowledge and practices of food sovereignty and agroecology will be intrinsic in transforming the existing food system by bringing profits to farmers, providing healthy, chemical free and nutritious food to consumers and mitigating climate change. 

The COVID19 pandemic has shone a light on the failings of the current mainstream food production model and exacerbated the inequalities many indigenous communities face. It has highlighted that the urgent need for system change is no longer up for debate.  

Thousands of people have begun mobilising to call for food systems that empower people, not companies. The recent boycott and virtual counter-mobilisation to oppose the United Nations Food Systems (UNFSS) Pre-Summit in July is one example of how this movement is manifesting. This movement recognises the ongoing corporate colonisation of food systems and food governance and calls for a transition towards food sovereignty and agroecology as a way forward. 

Food sovereignty refers to the right to enough nutritious, ecologically produced, and culturally appropriate food. It is the right of peoples to determine and control their food production systems. Food sovereignty is about feeding people rather than corporate profit, and it defends the interests of future generations.

Today and every day, Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific renews our commitment to work with Indigenous communities to defend their territories, protect ecosystems and food sovereignty, preserve indigenous cultural practices, and work for real peoples’ solutions to the climate crisis.

Share this statement in solidarity.