Elevating Indigenous Food System Initiatives the World Can Learn From - SecondMuse

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    SecondMuse is proud to support regenerative, sustainable and culturally appropriate food system projects that can be blueprints for a more climate conscious world.

    When we talk about solutions to climate change and food insecurity problems, we naturally tend to talk about the future. Where will we be in 20 years? 50 years? 100 years? We also tend to talk about innovation: What new technology, infrastructure, energy sources, and agricultural practices will improve food security, health, and reverse the climate crisis that’s already unfolding? Many solutions to our current crises also lie in systems as old as humanity that don’t involve innovating something completely new, but instead reviving and adapting practices from the not-so-distant past alongside the innovations of the 21st century.

    Until industrialization, colonization and globalization transformed the way communities had lived for centuries, humans lived more symbiotically with the planet. The economies that housed, clothed, and fed our ancestors were circular: Resources were used, reused, repurposed, and returned to the earth. Food was (and often still is) at the heart of these circular economies. Food was locally-sourced, nutritious, culturally appropriate, and less environmentally degrading compared to most present-day food systems.  

    Today, Indigenous communities around the world are an important link to both that past and to a more sustainable future. Many of these communities were or are among the last to retain the wisdom, knowledge, and practices of sustainable and regenerative food systems that are increasingly relevant to a world facing a climate emergency. With global food systems now accounting for a staggering ⅓ of all human-induced emissions, governments, institutions, and other Powerholders must rethink just about every aspect of how we feed the world.
    As a company striving for a more environmentally and socially just future, SecondMuse is grateful for the opportunity to support several Indigenous and Indigenous-allied groups forging more sustainable food systems the rest of the world can learn from. We are supporting these groups by helping them to hone their visions and connect them to potential partners and funders.

    Indigenous Food Sovereignty Projects

    Two of the Indigenous teams we have supported are among 10 finalists recognized through the Rockefeller Foundation’s Food System Vision Prize. The initiative invited people and organizations in 2020 to create inspiring, compelling, and actionable visions of the world’s food systems by 2050. 

    Watch the 7Gen project synopsis video.

    The 7Gen project team created a vision of food sovereignty on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in the U.S. State of South Dakota. Once home to buffalo herds that sustained the Sicangu Lakota people for generations, the Reservation is now a food desert in one of the poorest counties in the United States. By empowering regional food entrepreneurs to learn sustainable practices, such as seed breeding, regenerative farming, and sustainable buffalo harvesting, the 7Gen team is working toward a future in which people eat accessible, nutrient-dense, plant-based food and ethically sourced bison and wild game as their ancestors did. Their “7-generation” plan envisions these food system changes also improving the economic, physical and spiritual wellbeing of the entire tribe. Implicitly, their vision addresses emissions by curbing the tribe’s dependence on the few big box grocery stores that currently serve the area, along with the global supply chains that keep them stocked. While the initiative aims to primarily benefit the Lakota people in the region, it also stands to be a model for other rural and/or indigenous food systems. 

    “Our vision to create a sustainable, regenerative, culturally appropriate food system for our people in the region by growing our own food, embracing regenerative agricultural practices —  those are the kinds of solutions the entire planet needs,” Wizipan Little Elk, a member of the 7Gen team said in a video detailing the team’s vision. “And if we can do it here, in the third-poorest county in the United States, we can for sure do it anywhere in North America, and I believe we can do it anywhere in the world.”

    Watch the kwayeskastasowin wâhkôhtowin synopsis video.

    We also had the opportunity to support the kwayeskastasowin wâhkôhtowin team from the Candian Prairies whose name in the Cree language refers to “setting things right” among “all our relations.” The loose network of Indigenous people and their allies – from academics and educators to environmentalists and ecologists —  joined forces to pursue a project that imagines Canada’s Treaty Four Territory transforming into a food sovereign region by the year 2050. Their vision involves the establishment of a solutions lab which will enable people from across the region to come together and exchange ideas about local food system solutions. Central to their vision is the idea of the interconnectedness between food, environmental and human health.

    Multiplying Impact

    We also worked with the kwayeskastasowin wâhkôhtowin through the Food System Game Changers Lab, an initiative supported by a range of organizations, including the Rockefeller Foundation and SecondMuse. The Lab aimed to multiply the impact of food system visions by strategically matching teams with partners pursuing similar solutions in diverse parts of the world. 

    The Food System Game Changers Lab helped match the team from Canada with teams from Nigeria and Hawaii to form a cohort dedicated to elevating Indigenous food systems. During a 12-week Solutions Accelerator Program, the cohort began devising a common solution for their shared goal of making “culturally appropriate nutritious food accessible and affordable for everyone.” After honing a plan to develop a network of solutions labs to promote and enhance Indigenous food systems, we worked with them to refine their story and the pitch they would use to advance their work. 

    We know that a multitude of solutions will be needed to address the range of connected problems our planet faces. We also know that applying lessons from our past is just as important as innovating new solutions for the future. For these reasons, we’ve been grateful for the chance to both learn from and support Indigenous-centered solutions to catalyze a better future for us all.