He reminded the students that by 2050 the population is expected stand at around 9.7 billion people. The global challenge is not only how to fight hunger and feed the growing population, but also how to provide a balanced nutritious diet for healthy living that can be sustained for generations. The current food systems do not ensure nutritious diets, as reflected in the high levels of malnutrition and the growing number of overweight and obese people in the world. Food systems need to be transformed in order to sustainably address these societal challenges, and go beyond providing a sufficient supply of food to ensuring that the food supply is high quality for all.
Globalization and homogenization have replaced diverse local food cultures; high-yield crops and monoculture agriculture have taken the place of diverse indigenous food systems; industrial and high-input farming methods have degraded ecosystems and intensive agriculture have harmed agro-ecological native food systems. Concurrently, modern food industries have led to diet-related chronic diseases and other new forms of malnutrition.
Dr Emadi explained that indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) comprise knowledge developed within indigenous societies, independent of, and prior to, the advent of the modern scientific knowledge system. They cover diverse areas of importance for society, spanning issues concerned with quality of life that include food, agriculture, water, and health. They provide extremely valuable knowledge and technology resource bases that tend to be sustainable, addressing needs in culturally sensitive ways.
He pointed out different cases where indigenous knowledge proved to be very effective, where generally nature is not considered just a ‘resource’ but an integral part of humanity. He also posed the question of how we can make sure that this patrimony is not lost. He terminated his talk with three main points:
- Although indigenous knowledge is local and generated geographically in a particular territory, it is fully transboundary and should be considered from regional and international points of view.
- Indigenous knowledge is dynamic; it has not been a static phenomenon and it has evolved through history, particularly during the last century.
- Indigenous knowledge is changing and disappearing rapidly, so information gathering, especially with regard to documenting traditional diets, is an urgent need.
- To support the indigenous diet we need strategic, programmatic, and collective action vis-à-vis today’s needs and demands, and to merge it with new technologies and innovations.
AUR students expressed their high appreciation of Dr Emadi’s talk with whom, at the end, they continued a conversation on indigenous knowledge systems in contexts as diverse as Italy, Iran, Uzbekistan and Brazil.