Archive for the ‘Tradition’ Category


This Thanksgiving, Celebrate Traditional Food Production

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Nourishing the Planet wishes you a happy Thanksgiving!

Check out this op-ed published in Arizona’s Sierra Vista Herald by Nourishing the Planet Director Danielle Nierenberg and research intern Hong Gao. The article discusses the importance of supporting traditional Indigenous food production and culture, on Thanksgiving and throughout the year.

Click here to read the full article.


Saturday Series: An Interview with Katie Martin

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By Molly Redfield

In our new Saturday Series, we interview inspiring people our readers have nominated. These people are working on the frontlines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone?  E-mail your suggestions to Danielle Nierenberg!

Katie Martin of M•CAM/Heritable Innovation Trust (Photo Credit: Heritable Innovation Trust)

Name: Katie Martin

Affiliation: M·CAM/Heritable Innovation Trust

Bio: Katie Martin graduated in 2011 from Christopher Newport University with a BA in history. Many of her classes not only documented world history, but also analyzed oral history and other oral traditions. In 2008, Katie interned for M·CAM’s Heritable Innovation Trust (HIT). Now she is a program coordinator with HIT and travels with the organization documenting traditional practices and processes of communities across Papua New Guinea, Mongolia, and Ecuador.

Can you tell me about the “Heritable Knowledge Framework and the Development of Communal Innovation Trusts” document and how it contributed to the founding of the Heritable Innovation Trust?

The Heritable Knowledge Framework sets out the specific methods for engaging groups that want to work with us. The document states how we should approach communities (they invite us), what artifacts or processes constitute heritable knowledge, and how we should present this knowledge. The document defines heritable knowledge as relating to a continually used item or process that is adapted to an environment or circumstance. Furthermore, heritable knowledge is culturally present through mediums like dance or painting, is valuable to the community, and belongs to not one individual, but the group as a whole. The Heritable Knowledge Framework then tells us what we can do with the knowledge we acquire. With all of our documents we want to respect those who have provided us with their knowledge, honor their traditions, and adjust our actions to their expressed needs.



First Peoples Worldwide Awards Over US$1 Million in Grants to Indigenous Communities

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By Sophie Wenzlau

This past July, First Peoples Worldwide (FPW) reached a milestone of US$1.2 million in grants awarded “directly to Indigenous projects, programs, and communities” around the world. First Peoples, an international, Indigenous-led advocacy organization, seeks to promote economic determination and strengthen Indigenous communities by awarding grants directly to Indigenous Peoples. To fulfill these objectives, the organization provides “Indigenous Peoples with the tools, information and relationships they need to build community capacity to leverage assets for sustainable economic development.”

First Peoples Worldwide has surpassed $1 million in grants to Indigenous organizations. (Image credit: FPW)

According to the United Nations’ State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, “Indigenous Peoples all over the world continue to suffer from disproportionally high rates of poverty, health problems, crime, and human rights abuses.” In the United States, for example, Indigenous Peoples are 600 times more likely to contract tuberculosis and 62 percent more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Worldwide, Indigenous Peoples’ life expectancy is 20 years lower than the non-Indigenous average.

Despite these sobering statistics, Indigenous Peoples are responsible for some of the most vibrant and diverse cultures on earth. Of the world’s 7,000 languages, the UN estimates that over 4,000 are spoken by Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous communities are also strongholds of traditional knowledge, preserving ancient technologies, skills, and beliefs.

The grants awarded by FPW have funded innovative projects in countries like Botswana, Bolivia, Ghana, and Sri Lanka, and have focused on topics as diverse as land reclamation, water development, and traditional medicine.

In Ghana, FPW funded a project designed to prevent wild elephants from destroying farms located along the boundaries of Kakum National Park. The Association of Beekeepers in Ghana, the organization that received the grant, developed the novel idea of constructing a beehive barrier along the community’s perimeter. According to FPW, “the presence of the hives has naturally prevented elephants from crossing the grounds, and the honey production has increased income for farmers through sales, which has improved local commerce.”



Let Us Honor the Earth’s First Stewards

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This week an op-ed, “Let us honour the Earth’s first stewards,” co-authored by Danielle Nierenberg, director of Nourishing the Planet, and Rebecca Adamson, President of First Peoples Worldwide was featured in Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper.

A meeting of Samburu pastoralists in Kenya. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The article addresses the inequity in how Indigenous Peoples have been excluded from the decision making process regarding their traditional land, water, and mineral resources. Land traditionally owned by indigenous people, often officially belongs to others—former Kenyan President Moi for example—who sell the land, resulting in resource depletion and marginalization of the communities.

The article highlights work that First Peoples Worldwide and other organizations are doing to help indigenous people to maintain economic and cultural self-determination.

Click here to read the full article.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Citywatch: Japan’s Earthquake

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By Wayne Roberts

Citywatch: Whether it’s action or traction in the food world, cities are stepping up to the plate. The world is fast going urban, as are challenges of social, economic and environmental well-being. Citywatch is crucial to Worldwatch. Wayne Roberts, retired manager of the world-renowned Toronto Food Policy Council, has his eye out for the future of food in the city. Click here to read more from Wayne.

The world is still reeling and shaking from afterthoughts of what happened in March, 2011 when Japan was hit by a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, which exposed how vulnerable all basic institutions have become when Nature acts up—something bound to happen anywhere or anytime in this era of climate change and global transmission of hard-to-treat infectious diseases.

The aftermath of Japan's 2011 earthquake. (Photo credit:

Lessons from a tsunami are a terrible thing to waste, so last week, the Food Policy Research Initiative based at University of Toronto and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health hosted a symposium of Japanese food and agricultural experts and Toronto public health leaders to survey what others can learn from Japan’s response to the crisis.

Crises can provoke multiple breakdowns in government institutions and practices, keynote speaker Yoko Niiyama of Kyoto University told the crowd, so crisis preparation and management cannot just be about damage control.

The violent earthquake and tsunami killed over 15,000 people and destroyed or damaged some 400,000 buildings in short order, said Niiyama, who has helped design government communication strategies. But the longer-lasting human aftershocks included everything from destruction of prime agricultural land from salted ocean water, to a nuclear horror show and release of radioactive radiation, to widespread mistrust of government information, especially as relates to the safety of the food supply.



Eating Planet Now Available for Digital Download

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Eating Planet, a recently released book from the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) is now available as a digital download from and iTunes. The Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Plant project collaborated with BCFN to produce the report, which highlights the challenges facing today’s food and agricultural system, as well as the benefits that reform could bring.

The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition's new book, Eating Planet, is available as a digital download. (Image credit: Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition)

To read more about Eating Planet, see Nourishing the Planet’s blog post: Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition and Worldwatch Celebrate Earth Day with Release of “Eating Planet”.

For more details and updates visit

To download Eating Planet from, click here. And to download the book from iTunes, click here.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Nourishing the Planet TV: Using Small Businesses to Create Local Markets

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In this week’s episode, research intern Christina Wright discusses Sylvia Banda’s entrepreneurial efforts in Zambia. Since 1986, Banda has created small businesses like Sylva Professional Catering Services Limited. Her businesses have successfully created markets for local farmers and emphasized local cooking methods.


To read more about how small business are helping local communities, see: Innovation of the Week: Using Small Businesses to Create Local Markets

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Innovation of the Week: A New Addition to the Uruguayan Potato Family

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By: Kaia E. Clarke

Potatoes are enjoyed in various authentic international cuisines, specifically in Latin America countries. For centuries, the potato has been the main source of income for farmers and their families. In Uruguay, potatoes help to improve the countries economic status by being a major exporting crop in their agriculture market.

Scientists used a 75-year-old technique to save the Uruguayan potatoes. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

In 2001, Uruguayan’s exporting began declining because of a plant disease called Bacterial wilt (Ralstonia solanacearum). It was found in 39 percent of samples from Uruguayan potato farms and forced the country to import potato seed. This fungus is extremely difficult to get rid because it multiples quickly in high moisture environments such as South America. It has also been found to infect other crops such as sweet potato and cassava, which are common in other developing countries.

In order to completely eliminate the fungus, farmers have to suffer the loss of their main source of income for their families and make the difficult decision to remove their entire yield. It is necessary for farmers to quickly choose their plan of action because the permanent wilting of the crop causes crops to die in a short period of time. Otherwise, the fungus has the potential to spread among farming supplies, soils, and water irrigation systems.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) recognize that sufficient funding is an impediment for many poverty-stricken countries. In addition, implementing sustainable agricultural development is very challenging when their economic status is at risk.  In 2008, the ITPGRFA Treaty Benefit-sharing Fund Project  granted funding for 11 projects, including the Uruguayan potato research which was the first project to be approved.



Nourishing the Planet TV: “Re-Greening” the Sahel through Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration

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In this week’s episode, research intern Graham Salinger discusses the natural regeneration methods being used in the Sahel region of Africa to bring back indigenous trees and improve the livelihoods of traditional farmers.


To read more about farmer-managed natural regeneration, see: Innovation of the Week: “Re-Greening” the Sahel through Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Snake Gourd: South India’s Well Kept Secret

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By Andrew Boyd

Snake gourd doesn’t look edible–its blossoms resemble spider webs. In South Indian cuisine, however, the gourd is more than just a decoration–it’s a valuable and nutritious food.


The blossoms of the Snake Gourd resemble spider webs. (Photo Credit- Edward Sansum of Wikimedia Commons)

With a refreshing flavor  similar to that of a cucumber, the snake gourd is used as a way to cool off in the Indian heat.  It is important to harvest the gourds in their early developmental stage because they develop a very bitter taste as they age and in the Kerala region they are often combined with coconut milk to add sweetness.

And not just the gourd part of the plant is edible. The leaves can be sautéed and eaten  and the red gelatinous mass that holds the seeds can be made into a sauce.

The snake gourd’s popularity in Kerala cuisine may be attributed, at least in part, to its unique suitability to the soil in the region. While many crops are unable to survive in the region’s sandy soil—which has very low water-retention ability—the snake gourd thrives.

When farmers in the city of Kanjikuzhy on the Southwest tip of the subcontinent were facing declining yields with more conventional crops due to lack of groundwater, as well as water contamination and pests, they decided to return to their roots and examine which crops were traditionally grown in the region. Snake gourd—along with cow pea, brinjal (eggplant), okra, and others—was chosen as a traditional crop more suited to the local growing conditions.

Over 6,000 households participated in planting the traditional crops, with support from a small grant from the local government and the 50 hectares of planted land produced over 100 tons of vegetables. The success of the pilot has since lead to the participation of additional communities, with more indigenous crops included every season.

The snake gourd is a very important—if not very well known—part of South India’s gardens and kitchens.

Andrew Boyd is a Research Intern at the Nourishing the Planet Project

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.