Workshop on local food systems begins in Puducherry

Programme also aims to discuss food sovereignty and the agro-ecology transition

January 23, 2020 01:12 am | Updated 04:40 am IST - PUDUCHERRY

Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister R. Kamalakannan interacting with the farmers on Wednesday.

Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister R. Kamalakannan interacting with the farmers on Wednesday.

Inaugurating a four-day workshop on the local food systems of Puducherry, food sovereignty and the agro-ecology transition, hosted by the French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP) in association with the Department of Agriculture, R. Kamalakannan, Agriculture Minister, on Wednesday said farmers engaged in organic forms of cultivation were at the forefront of a bottom-up transition to healthy foods.

Mr. Kamalakannan said while there were different organic farming practices such as ‘Nammalvar’ and the ‘Zero budget natural farming’ adopted by farmers in the region, they shared a fundamental focus on using local resources and prioritising consumer health.

Highlighting Puducherry's French legacy, Mr. Kamalakannan, who is a farmer himself, contrasted the looting ways of the British empire with how the French “gave us more than they took”. Their said the influence of the French was reflected in systems of governance such as the commune panchayats and the values of liberty, equality and fraternity.

“Even after erstwhile Pondicherry merged with the Indian Union, the French Government has continued to extend assistance for the development of the Union Territory,” the Minister said.

The IFP programme aims to discuss the concept of local food systems, how they apply to Puducherry, make sense for a variety of actors, and where they figure on the political agenda.

The challenge is to create a collaborative network that integrates sustainable food production, processing, distribution and consumption in order to enhance environmental, economic and social health.

There will also be discussions on food sovereignty, social and environmental justice and agro-ecology.

The workshop sets the discussions against the backdrop of three significant scenarios. Despite the agricultural modernisation of the Green Revolution, India has preserved, in certain contexts, a diversity of production around native and indigenous seeds. The preservation of these seeds is a political struggle led by social movements, peasant organisations, NGOs and activists. The question is how to build bridges with urban consumers to shape a political alliance and shake up public policies in favour of agro-ecology.

Though the Public Distribution System is a unique system of food redistribution to combat food insecurity, the transition to a monetary system has upset the foundations of the pact with society. The debate would reflect on the implications of this change to direct cash transfer.

The third scenario pertains to the consequences of the changes in food production systems on food consumption patterns at the family level, and on public health. The discussions would explore projects that could enhance food quality of rural and urban households, while preserving biodiversity and natural resources, and improving livelihood conditions.

Apart from debates on the city-region food system involving urban/rural consumers, researchers, farmers and food processors, the workshop will also feature field visits to organic farms and an organic food exhibition.

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