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Film shows diverse food heritage of Thailand's Karen hill tribes

08 Feb 2017

The film “The Making of Rotational Farming” shows the extraordinary diversity of food produced by just one community

A new film tells the story of a workshop about rotational farming and agroforestry in Hin Lad Nai, a community situated in the hills of northern Thailand. The indigenous Karen people in the area use traditional farming methods and agroforestry to grow and harvest a wide range of crops.

The workshop was organised after a local farmer spoke at a seminar about harvesting wild honey for a community business. To learn more, a group of chefs, academics and students visited the village. As well as learning about rotational farming and local crops, the visiting chefs prepared meals using local ingredients.

The 16-minute film shows visiting chefs amazed and excited by the variety of produce available as a result of rotational farming.

The Karen people’s rotational farming system balances the clearing and burning of land with long fallow periods lasting many years. The system has been shown to contribute to carbon sequestration (PDF) in high fertility soil and community forests.

During the workshop, local people explained how they are able to grow many different crops and also harvest wild food and grow crops such as tea in the surrounding forest.  The film highlights the villagers’ extensive traditional knowledge, and the importance of local spiritual and cultural practices associated with the forest and rotational farming system.

Crops grown and harvested by the local community ranged from upland rice, to wild tea, cucumber, fruits, honey, as well as many others. The large area of community forest is cared for by the community, and provides them with food, herbs, wood and bamboo.

The film shows how rotational farming system provides food and nutrition security for the indigenous community, while sustaining and restoring biodiversity and ecosystems of an area of 32,000 sq km of tropical forest.

The film was sponsored by the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre, and was made with the help of the Inter Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association (Impect), the Karen Network Cultural and Environment (KNCE) and the Pakakenyaw Association Sustainable & Development (PASD).