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Indigenous peoples’ food systems: Inari Sámi and Snowchange share key messages

The Arctic Inari Sámi community and Snowchange (ICCA Consortium Member) have authored a major case study in the latest book on Indigenous food systems co-published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Ice fishing on Lake Inari. Photo © Sámi Parliament in Finland/ Elle Maarit Arttijeff

First published on 06/29/2021, and last updated on 07/01/2021

The latest book on Indigenous food systems is out now. The book titled Indigenous Peoples’ food systems: Insights on sustainability and resilience in the front line of climate change has been published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Biodiversity International, and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT​). Among the eight major case studies from around the world, the book features the case of the Arctic Inari Sámi food system authored by the community and Snowchange (ICCA Consortium Member).

This publication provides an overview of the common and unique sustainability elements of Indigenous peoples’ food systems, in terms of natural resource management, access to the market, diet diversity, Indigenous peoples’ governance systems, and links to traditional knowledge and Indigenous languages.

While enhancing the learning on Indigenous peoples’ food systems, it will raise awareness on the need to enhance the protection of Indigenous peoples’ food systems as a source of livelihood for the 476 million Indigenous inhabitants in the world, while contributing to the Zero Hunger Goal.

The implementation of the same methodology in eight Indigenous peoples’ communities, following months of participatory field research and data analysis, allows comparison across different food systems. The analysis confirms the need for more systemized research at all levels on Indigenous peoples’ food systems. There is still much to learn concerning the different solutions that these food systems can provide.

At the same time, the findings highlight the heterogeneity and richness of Indigenous peoples’ food systems, and they are unique territorial management techniques while bringing upfront their concerns, threats, and practices, many at risk of disappearing. The eight cases analyzed have helped identify four salient characteristics across Indigenous peoples’ food systems:

  • Indigenous peoples preserve and enrich their ecosystems through their food systems;
  • Indigenous peoples’ food systems are resilient and adaptive;
  • Indigenous Peoples’ food systems can broaden the existing food base with nutritious foods;
  • Indigenous peoples’ food systems are interdependent with language, traditional knowledge, governance, and cultural heritage.

While the evidence gathered confirms that Indigenous peoples’ food systems preserve biodiversity whilst providing foods, livelihoods, nutrition, and by-products for the eight communities, it also indicates that these systems are subject to globalization, trade, markets, monetization, regulations, and mass media like any other food system.

These global trends are modifying Indigenous peoples’ food systems by introducing new opportunities, new products, new technologies, and new livelihoods that are modeling the priorities, preferences, and tastes of the members in the communities. Without entering into subjective affirmations on whether some changes are good or bad, it is widely observed that changes within the food systems have accelerated significantly in recent years.

This publication is the third book following the previously released Indigenous peoples’ food systems: the many dimensions of culture, diversity and environment for nutrition and health (2009) and Indigenous Peoples’ food systems and well-being: Interventions and policies for healthy communities (2013).