Rescuing food traditions around the world

Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) “is a coalition of seven of the most prominent non-profit food, agriculture, conservation, and educational organizations dedicated to rescuing America’s diverse foods and food traditions.” You can download here their great book explaining what these traditions are. There’s also a map of North America’s “totem foods.”

Same topic, different region: Dr Lois Englberger of the Island Food Community of Pohnpei (right, with some of her NGO’s information products) has made Pacific Magazine’s list of “293 Pacific Leaders You Need To Know” because of her efforts to promote local island foods, food crops and food traditions. Congratulations, Lois, and keep up the good work!

Barcoding the Kruger Park

Botanists are collecting all the plants in the Kruger Park, according to this article. Fine, admirable: it’s good to have a full inventory of the flora of such an important protected area. We’ll know what crop wild relatives and medicinal plants grow there, for example, and thus perhaps be in a better position to tailor management interventions to suit them (at least in some parts of the park), and monitor changes. But actually that’s not why the specimens are being collected. Rather:

“We hope to be the team to identify the genetic bar-code for plants,” said team leader Dr Michelle van der Bank of the department of Botany and (Plant) Biotechnology.

That’s at the University of Johannesburg. I’m not sure I understand the logic, though. I doubt the Kruger is the most botanically diverse place in South Africa, or the most convenient (not to say safe) to collect in. What am I missing here? Anyway, it should make for some fun fieldwork.

Map it or lose it?

Funny how stories which originate from opposite ends of the world but that are closely related sometimes appear — through sheer coincidence — on the same day. Here’s a case in point. Exhibit number one: an article on how Ndorobo tribesmen “over-ran a protected forest reserve in eastern Uganda last April and hacked down thousands of trees (which had been) planted by a Netherlands-based firm” called FACE (Forests Absorbing Carbon dioxide Emissions) as part of a carbon credits scheme. There’s no doubt the people were forced from their ancestral lands back in the 90s, but FACE says that these communities retained rights over some forest resources. Big of them. The article doesn’t say what kinds of trees were planted, nor what other resources the displaced people retained rights to, apart from firewood. Now here’s exhibit two: indigenous communities in Amazonia are using GPS and Google Earth to map their ancestral lands and the resources they manage within them. You have to wonder whether this technology would have helped the Ndorobo.

Wet Wet Wet

The GlobWetland project uses remote sensing and GIS to address the threats faced by the world’s wetlands. Do we know how many crop wild relatives are found in wetlands? Or even how threats to wetlands affect genetic diversity in adjacent agricultural areas? I think plant genetic resources people and the ecosystem conservation crowd need to link up a bit more, and I can’t help thinking that wetlands might be pretty good meeting ground.