Indigenous vision about the food production and consumption for life - Oscar Fernando Bastidas
[Greetings in Inga dialect] Good afternoon everyone. I am the Taita governor of the Indigenous Cabildo Inga, I am in Bogota, we are from Putumayo; and we are going to speak about Mother Earth.
I want to ask permission to all, I have been taught that when we begin an event we have to ask for permission. I will not take long, but I want to sing something for us to be calm, so that in this day, in these six, seven days we can do well, our grandparents say: “think beautiful”, and so we begin “what we came for” how the elders say. With your permission.
[Interpretation with harmonica]
We should have taken longer, but also, as the doctor just mentioned, time does limit us; and that has to be changed, because if we learn and share from all the cultures that accompany us today, we leave with another idea; and it is like a basket where we collect every thought and contribute to it.
I want to change the dynamic to speak of something I have seen until now, and if we have the time I want to speak about an experience in Putumayo about chagras; indigenous chagras, as you can see, an experience about chagras; but speaking about feeding is so transversal in the indigenous peoples that we must speak about education, territory, and prevention.
When we speak of chagras, we speak of minimum units of land where we sow diverse crops and medicines; it is important to emphasize that to speak about food we have to speak about prevention.
Generally we have been taught that if we are sick we must go to the doctor, if not, otherwise we do not go; us the indigenous peoples have been taught to prevent diseases, so not only us the Inga take the medicine; particularly in the one I belong to we are sons of yagé, and we drink yagé; but we do not only drink yagé to treat the disease, but also to prevent the disease.
To prevent the disease we speak of the good living and of feeding ourselves well; but to be well-nourished our grandparents have taught us that we must respect the Earth; and that is how modern education fails.
I think the entire Academy has a historical debt with the indigenous peoples, because it is more important to know when Christopher Columbus arrived than to know how many indigenous peoples our brother countries have.
I think they have taught us wrong, and to have value you must have a cardboard that says what you are; we have forgotten the self-knowledge or ancestral knowledge, the sowing cycles, the production cycles, and the feeding cycle.
I have nothing against the academy, but the FAO, the organization... I believe it is the PAHO, even the UN, have been mistaken, because many times they discriminate against those parenting patterns that indigenous peoples have; and us in our daily living use ancestral knowledge, which is the transmission of one’s own experiences.
My grandfather’s name is taita Justo Cruz Jacanamijoy Mujanaminsoy, he is 99 years old, and he teaches me that in order to eat well the learning models must change. He says: “Sitting down five in school, five years in college, and if you’re doing good another five years at the university, and repeating what another wrote. When are you going to have time to live? When are you going to have time to learn? Because one cannot learn sitting down”.
They have taught us that only two flavors with which we live daily are valid: salt and sugar; but they have not taught a third flavor, which the knowledge transmission flavor (the sour flavor us indigenous peoples use); it is used while staying up late, healing, but it is the way to transmit the knowledge.
And beyond that, I think it is important that to speak about food we must value the effort all these encounters make, like the summits, the international encounters; but we must bet on self-value.
The Convention no.169 of the OIT speaks of prior, free, and informed consent; the Convention no.164 of ‘95 (for Colombia’s case) accepts the Convention on Biological Diversity (article 8j), which speaks about the protection of ancestral knowledge associated with biodiversity. And so on, there are international norms which bind governments, but unfortunately fall short in their implementation.
There is no differential public policy, really, for this type of knowledge to be respected; and that is why many times we have to go out to the cities and the streets to endure hunger, because unfortunately to speak about healthy eating peace is needed.
And first, a long time ago they arrived at our territories for gold, after that they came for petroleum, now they noticed there is coltan, copper, and minerals in the mountains which will enrich a few and impoverish everyone.
Remember water in big cities has been maintained due to the indigenous peoples dedication to protect, build, not destroy; and to speak about alimentation peace is needed, peace in our territories. My people used to say: “There was no money before, no electric power, cell phone, car, but there was peace.”
It so happens that at this moment we were taught to be consumers, and think that food is made at supermarkets. We have been taught that water is bad, that is why when it begins to rain kids are told: “do not get wet”, as if water killed, “do not get dirty”. They have made us an enemy of what is natural and have taught us to be competitive.
They teach us the Roman right, which says soil is a good that can be sold. Where does the natural way, the higher law, the origin of the law that says we are children of the earth, that we do not own her, end up?
So, in order to speak about the nutritional issue I had to tell you about that; to speak about the nutritional issue, the food sovereignty, the care of Mother Earth, the balance of Mother Earth has to be spoken about.
There is no chair in universities and schools that speak about the indigenous legislation, that speak about the higher law; and we claim that as well.
What is the use of us gathering here if the Government or governments find our proposals not binding. We must make these summits carry as compulsory mandate to respect our Mother Nature, on the contrary we will continue wearing down. I prefer to come here and that many of my colleagues come and discuss as I have been what we are going through.
I taketh advantage to tell you that in Colombia on October 30th we are going out on the streets; all the indigenous of the country are going towards the streets to move, to tell the Government that we are tired of the breach of agreements and disrespect for our lives and of our Mother Earth; and that peace is not only achieved with the cessation of hostilities, of weapons; peace must come as well with the implementation of programs, projects to recover the destruction others have made to our Mother Earth.
We have not made the displacements, the damages are not made by us, and we did not put mining in our territories.
That is what I wanted to say, I will not bore you anymore; but I want to tell you an experience we had in the Sibundoy Valley and that has worked; and with that, my doctors, illustrious, I am not speaking. I think that if we arrive here, when speaking of our experiences we can articulate many things, I think we can carry in this basket every proposal and idea, and we can speak of many things and take our experiences to our territories, because it is finally where we need them. How good to count on you, because we have many limbos and questions to ask about academy issues; and if we can talk to him, we will do so.
So I want to speak about Asochagras, the Association of the Inga Indigenous Chagras of the Sibunduy Valley. (I will stand up. I wanted to stand up to tell you of this Association.)
We were taught... and I have nothing against religions, but we were taught that with education we were also going to be taught how to eat; later we realized that it was the opposite, they were taking away our ancestral knowledge and were imposing on us another way of life, and were taking away the nutritional diets with which we had subsisted from generation to generation.
We realized that with the food the Government was giving us, we were becoming defenseless and new diseases appeared that did not use to when we did not have the implementation of the Government; that is why Asochagra was born.
Asochagra had a mission and it was the sustainability of the chagras. One did not only have to pay attention to special days to sow, but charges have always been there. And the chagra is: “the refrigerator of the non-indigenous”, that is the translation. When you go to the refrigerator, you open it and find what you want; we find it in the minimum unit of soil, but it is not frozen rather fresh.
Protecting the natural resources, environment, and biodiversity. It so happens that in the indigenous territories there have never been monocultures of anything. What did we mean? That we can be sustainable.
Job creation. We had never suffered because of money, but it so happens that in our territories everyone wants to have a bicycle, a motorcycle. Then that changes and goes against our knowledge and sustainability.
Improve food security or food sovereignty. I was saying, they did not want to eat our products if there was no rice; and rice is not from our culture.
What have we done? We have articulated what I have told you. Now not everybody can touch the products for a sow; we have nothing against it, but if the grandparent says: “You are sick, you have your period, you cannot sow today, you cannot reap, you cannot touch”, that also keeps the protection issue.
Look, the main objective of our chagras is to produce in a sustainable way the Inga chagra, obtaining products of good quality and quantity to improve the food security, create jobs; and it impulses us towards the green markets in a competitive way.
What has this taught us? Previously we used to make divichido and there was one thing we changed: if you had beans and I had corn, we exchanged; we looked and there, a unifying theme, of sharing. And to impose again this system of the chagras has given us again the possibility of sowing in order not to buy, sow to not buy; and what we have left we can commercialize for what we cannot produce.
These are the ways of how we find pastures, how we make them and how we obtain crop diversity in a minimum unit of soils.
There are some of the products we have, and which generally are also sowed and support and contribute all the members of the family. This allows having healthy food, chemical free. If you do not give chemicals to the body, then you are going to avoid many diseases.
Look, there is something we learned, and it is that while we live or kawsay kamayan, while we live we share, sing, but above all, while we live we project and prevent.
If we want to leave an inheritance to our future generations, we must worry about cleansing ourselves; in order to cleanse the Planet we must cleanse ourselves. We are like a pot, our body is like a pot: if you throw and throw, and throw in and do not wash it, how does the pot end like? It gets dirty, right? Likewise that is how are body is, also our heart, and our mind.
We must then prevent in order to cure the Earth; and for you to tell someone to change, you must be doing well.
I think there is a lot of fabric to cut; and as we have said: we are speaking about peace; and for us to speak about peace we must be doing something good ourselves. We, the indigenous peoples have said: count on us to build, not to destroy; count on us for peace, never for war; and speaking about food is important.
I also think that it is important to make a recovery issue of the ancestral knowledge; also a transmission of the ancestral knowledge issue has to be made in order to speak about the continued existence and permanence.
I think we don not have to demonize the alimentary cycle issue, or demonize medicine; everything is so transversal.
I think that just as the food policy of the FAO, OPS, of the UN, are valid, also the nutritional criteria of our grandparents must be valid. We should not be afraid to implement the indigenous issue, because we are not only contributing to our communities, but also we are thinking in all the communities in general.
That is an invitation our grandparents say: “Thinking beautiful, thinking pretty we will walk, thinking pretty we will arrive, and thus we will leave a beautiful teaching.”
Once again, count on us for peace, never for war; that is a lovely teaching of our grandparents.