The Indian sub-continent has had a long history of wild and domesticated plant and animal foods, along with rich, diverse communities that have been highly skilled food growers and gatherers. Women and men have been stewards and workers of the land, and guardians of thousands of traditional varieties of seeds, tubers and other plant material, safe guarding an unbroken thread of ethnoculinary practices and foods that have survived millennia.

However, there are many challenges we are facing today in terms of accessing safe and healthy foods. Climate change is loud evidence that we are losing much more soil, water and ecosystem integrity than ever before, at a rate that puts human survival on this planet at a great risk. Seed viability, resilience of crop yields and quality of food are endangered at the field level.

We may not have the exact figures, but this is evidenced in human crises like covid, ground zero in wars and natural disaster zones.

We are galloping towards a highly unsustainable situation where we, the people, no longer have a say about strategies of survival, or indeed how to hold together the socio- economic context of our lives.

“Food Justice is communities exercising their right to grow, sell, and eat healthy food. Healthy food is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally-appropriate, and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers, and animals.”

Socially just food systems cannot be delinked from an ecologically unjust one. There are no quick fixes for this large scale crisis, but there are living examples of small efforts that are working towards keeping alive some level of food justice in our world.

The speaker, Sunita Rao, is the founder of Vanastree, a small women farmers’ seed collective in the Western Ghats (Sirsi) and works with Punarchith in Chamrajnagar, on forest home gardens, small scale food systems and conservation of traditional seed varieties. She will share her field experiences, and highlight the work of local initiatives in Mysuru such as Prakriti Foods and Kracadawna Organic Farm that have steadfastly been working towards ensuring some level of food justice in our world.

There will be a display of organic, open pollinated seeds, organic produce and a sampling of food and medicinal plants that one can grow at home, even if we are city dwellers. The focus will be on audience participation and collaboration, rather than a lecture.