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Food security means that a community has stable and sufficient access to nutritious food. Climate change further threatens Indigenous communities from maintaining secure access to country foods. Indigenous food sovereignty is a means by which food security for Indigenous communities is achievable. Having measurable indicators for food sovereignty in Indigenous communities can go a long way in securing the long-term health of Indigenous peoples.

While food security focuses on protecting and distributing food and produce from existing food systems, food sovereignty emphasises having a democratic approach that engages all community members and food producers in building and sustaining local food systems. Food Secure Canada highlights seven pillars for food sovereignty:

  1. Focusing on food for people
  2. Building knowledge and skills
  3. Working with nature
  4. Valuing food providers
  5. Supporting local food systems
  6. Putting control into local initiatives
  7. Food as sacred/gift of life

Indigenous food sovereignty is action-oriented and connected to a broader social movement that considers the needs of future generations. However, determining how to gauge where progress is being made in securing the overall health of Indigenous communities through Indigenous food sovereignty is difficult to achieve. Every effort should also consider the capacity of Indigenous communities to be engaged for long-term engagement.

Indigenous food sovereignty indicators can be used to build both community food systems and improve overall community health. Through a literature review, content analysis, and Indigenous community engagement, a collective of Indigenous and non-Indigenous university researchers has identified seven Indigenous food sovereignty indicators:

  1. Access to resources
  2. Production
  3. Trade
  4. Food consumption
  5. Policy
  6. Community involvement
  7. Culture

An additional twenty-five sub-indicators are identified  and are intended to be transferable to diverse Indigenous communities across differences of “cultural values, history, traditions, geography governance, beliefs, resources, capacity, and goals.”

One of the limitations of this research is that current public policy does not typically connect food sovereignty with public health priorities and so the implementation of these Indigenous food sovereignty indicators will require leadership to meet community expectations that link food security with sustainable health and wellness in Indigenous communities. Indigenous food sovereignty indicators can also be used to frame health promotion initiatives at the local community level by supporting Indigenous approaches to farming, harvesting, cooking, and language revitalization in conjunction with enhancing scientific work.

Indigenous food sovereignty projects worth considering in terms of their efforts to build food security and to heal from centuries of colonization include: Ginawaydaganuc Food Sovereignty Project; a project of the Pauquachin and T’Sou-ke First Nations of South Vancouver Island called Feasting for Change; and projects led by 28 different organizational efforts worldwide. Many of the projects combine seed saving, financing, guidance and mentoring by Elders, food preparation, and feeding programs.

Indigenous-led food sovereignty projects, combined with an application of indicators to gauge for impact, could offer a powerful means to manage and overcome Indigenous food insecurity, while promoting long-term Indigenous community health in the context of climate change.

 

By Leela Viswanathan

 

(Image Credit: Johnny McClung, Unsplash)

An appreciation of place is crucial to understanding the impact of climate change on the health of Indigenous peoples. A place-based understanding of climate change can help to recognize how changes in the environment effect physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual facets of both individual and community health and well-being.

The terms ‘place-focused’ and ‘place-based’ are used primarily by non-Indigenous governments, academics, and planning and design professionals. For example, the Government of Victoria, Australia has offered explanations for how they use both place-focused and place-based approaches in their work. Place-focused approaches involve highlighting a particular place to ensure that government-driven or other service-related plans cater to the characteristics and experiences of people living in a specific geographic area. By contrast, place-based approaches engage with people from a particular geographic area to bring meaning from their cultural and environmental contexts, histories, and practices, to develop solutions to problems, using a process of shared-decision making.

While land dispossession and other impacts of colonialism, and climate change effects continue to disrupt the attachment to place for many Indigenous communities, not all place attachments have been lost. Increasingly, Indigenous communities are engaging in their own community planning processes that could be considered by non-Indigenous planners as “place-based.” Examples of Indigenous-led community plans in Canada, that incorporate elements of culture, health, and well-being, include the Six Nations Community Plan and M’Chigeeng First Nation Comprehensive Community Plan, among others. By comparison, Canadian municipal official plans often exclude direct references to cultural and health factors; these become the content of supplementary plans and policy reports. However, place-based approaches to community planning and official plan processes are becoming more popular among local governments for reasons that often include climate change resilience.

The emotional and psychological health effects of climate change among Indigenous peoples around the world are largely understudied, however, the existing literature attributes these effects to “changes in place attachment, disrupted cultural continuity, altered food security and systems,” and other factors. For example, in the community of Nain, located in Northern Labrador, Canada, an “appreciation of place” is crucial to understanding how sea ice, and its uses by the Inuit, have a positive impact on Inuit mental health, even with the increase in physical injuries, and reduced access to their traditional environments, brought upon by climate change.

Focusing on the ongoing impact of the current combined pandemics of climate change and COVID-19, the Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change (IHACC) program highlights a connection between the protection of key places for Indigenous foods and medicines in remote Indigenous communities in Uganda, the Peruvian Amazon and the Arctic ecosystem, and the protection of Indigenous knowledge, practices, and rights of Indigenous peoples to access their lands.

Place, climate change, and Indigenous health are connected. Together they reveal how different threats to Indigenous traditional environments negatively impact overall Indigenous health. Subsequently, the contributions made by Indigenous-led community plans to reduce climate health effects on Indigenous communities are also worth further exploration.

By Leela Viswanathan

 

(Photo Credit: Erik McLean, Unsplash)

Events

The Arctic Resilience Forum will be convened every Wednesday from 11:30am – 1:00pm (EST) over a series of ten weeks, beginning October 7, 2020. The online series seeks to engage a broad audience in conversations about how to build the resilience of Arctic communities and ecosystems across a variety of focus areas, including:

  • October 14: Food Security
  • October 21: Renewable Energy
  • October 28: Human Health and Pandemics
  • November 11: Broadband Connectivity
  • November 18: Gender
  • November 25: Socio-Ecological Resilience
  • December 9: Infrastructure
  • December 16: Respecting Traditional Indigenous Knowledge Systems

NOTE: Individual session pages will open up with registration for specific events approximately one-week in advance.

Click here to register for individual sessions.

Click here to register for multiple sessions.

 

(Image Source: Arctic Council, https://arctic-council.org)