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40 villages keen to co-host Intl Terra Madre Festival in Nov

SHILLONG: Representatives of 40 villages from various parts of Meghalaya gathered together at the Meghalaya Basin Development Authority Hall, Shillong, on Saturday as a joint step taken in preparation for the upcoming International Mei-Ramew 2015 to be held in the State in November.
The International Mei-Ramew (also known as Indigenous Terra Madre), is a major milestone hurtling towards NESFAS and all the individuals, communities and partners engaged in various NESFAS activities. This edition of the event, tentatively scheduled between November 3 to 7, will be the second of its kind; the first was held in Jokkmokk, Sweden, in 2011.
The selection of 40 communities, who will participate in the event as co-hosts, was based on their desire to take part in the event, their agreement to fulfill of certain criteria set by NESFAS and their active involvement in the preservation of their local agro-biodiversity.
The gathering, which was facilitated by A.K. Nongkynrih, Head of Department, Sociology, NEHU, was called with an aim to discuss the community’s involvement in the International Mei-Ramew, scheduled programmes prior to the event, committees to be formed and their functions, and communities’ participation and representation.
This coming together of the communities’ representatives would ensure the further collaboration with NESFAS and the final resolution towards the upcoming event. Among the various topics of discussion, was the issue of presentation of their villages to visiting delegates, which is scheduled for the fourth day of the event; a handful of villages will be selected for international and national delegates to visit and experience the local biodiversity.
Chairman NESFAS, Phrang Roy, who was also present at the meeting, while addressing the gathering, pointed out that at the IMR, Meghalaya, will be projected in an international platform with delegates representing Indigenous communities from all over the world participating in the event.
Quoting the African proverb “Until the lion has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story”, Roy stressed on the importance of communities playing a major part in the event.
The event should not be portrayed as one that was held for them but one that was held by them.
He urged the communities to put forward their best. He also spoke of the unique aspects of host communities emphasizing on their matrilineal culture and preservation of forests through sacred groves as their major attraction.
Perhaps one of the striking decisions put forward by the participating communities was their desire to act as change agents in the preservation of agro-biodiversity, conserving traditional knowledge and rural empowerment.
Other decisions would cover sustainable development, community well-being and unity and also to showcase their respective cultural prosperity, which would subsequently promote local food.
“Steps have been taken to collaborate the working of NESFAS with the Government in this project,” said Bibhudutta Sahu, Project Director, NESFAS, while congratulating the community members on the work done so far.
“NESFAS will facilitate the Festival while the Government will lend NESFAS and the communities its support. The International Mei-Ramew 2015 will be Meghalaya’s highlight for the year,” he added assertively.
The state level meeting of the same congregation will be held from May 12. The NEHU campus, Shillong, will be the venue for the first three days of the conference while the fourth day will entail visits to some of NESFAS communities for visiting delegates. The event will conclude at the Sacred Groves at Lawkyntang, Mawphlang, in a food festival which will be open to the public.

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