Indigenous Food and
Deepening the rich and diverse traditional knowledge on subsistence and health systems across generations of forest-based communities.

Many non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are utilized as staple foods and medicines by forest-dependent communities. For many indigenous peoples and local communities, traditional gathering of NTFPs, hunting, and fishing are vital adjuncts to farming and together cater to their primary subsistence needs. Additionally, these NTFPs are essential ingredients in traditional health care systems especially in traditional medicine.

While there is a general acknowledgement and recognition that food from the forests and traditional food systems play a vital role in nourishing communities and sustaining indigenous traditions, much is to be explored in terms of producing collaborative studies and research on the subject to explore the nutritive values of available forest and wild foods and to document its seasonal availability. Recognizing that a gap in knowledge, awareness and understanding among the general public, policymakers and even youth in communities exist, NTFP-EP seeks to link stakeholders and strengthen a community of practice to facilitate and champion programs on indigenous food and community health.

NTFP-EP continuously works on building a platform that allows for extensive knowledge research, documentation, development and dialogue around the subject not only within its network of partner communities, but also with those from the academe, government and civil society. The NTFP-EP seeks to bridge local and cultural information about wild foods, scientific and policy analysis.

Overexploitation or overharvesting of non-timber forest products is a current reality and a challenge faced by the network. With shrinking forestlands, strong acculturative pressures, and glaring neglect of the role of subsistence uses of NTFPs, the continuation of traditions related to indigenous food and inter-generational transfer of relevant knowledge and skills pose a significant threat not only to forest protection and conservation but also the relevance of forests to peoples.

NTFP-EP believes in promoting the cultural, nutritional and medicinal values of forest foods and in restoration efforts to revitalize the indigenous food landscape. The network continues to work on initiatives that help us learn more about the value of indigenous food to culture, health and well-being. We believe that it is important to understand and nurture traditional ecological knowledge on indigenous food and health.

With this, NTFP-EP identifies the following target outcomes and strategic actions:

    Target outcomes:
  • Increase general public awareness, appreciation and knowledge on the subsistence uses of NTFPs
  • Advocate for food related forestry and development policies that take into account the changing food habits due to limited/threatened access for communities
  • Raise awareness and cultivate pride on forest food culture, especially among the indigenous youth
    Strategic actions:
  • Conduct capacity building for communities on data collection, monitoring and analysis (including the nutritional value of indigenous food, status of wild foods, e.g. depleting, endangered, etc.) and community level scientific documentation and analysis of wild foods and NTFPs
  • Advocate for the propagation of wild food gardens, nurseries and demonstration sites in its partner communities
  • Conduct information campaigns on sustainable harvesting practices in its partner communities as part of the NTFP-EP’s efforts in awareness-raising on indigenous food and health.
  • Conduct health and nutrition workshops, learning exchanges and exposure visits, and food and cultural festivals
  • Conduct case studies on the issue of food related policies and the changing food habits of forest-dependent communities. These studies will include investigation on access to forest food and corresponding changes in food habits
  • Publish articles, case studies and other materials for public awareness and advocacy on indigenous food and health Develop and implement an advocacy agenda on forests for food security and community health

Current and recent projects that the NTFP-EP network is implementing related to this theme include:

  • Support for research, documentation, analysis and publications on forest foods and wild foods
  • Wild Tastes in Asia: Coming Home to the Forest for Food (2019)
  • Enriching the Palate, Vol. 2 (2019)
  • A pictorial guide of some useful plants of Sarawak (2016)
  • Honey research and analysis through the Madhu Duniya network (2020 – present)
  • Support to the establishment of wild food and community gardens in India, Palawan, Philippines and Sarawak, Malaysia
  • Support for resource monitoring and documentation of indigenous food such as honey, sago and fruits from the forest
  • Expert group on wild foods, biodiversity and livelihood

Activities are implemented with support from the following donors: IUCN NL, Misereor, the Linking People and Forests project of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation/ Svenska Naturskyddsföreningen (SSNC), Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) through the ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change project (ASFCC) and the Wild foods, Biodiversity and Livelihoods project of the Swedish International Agriculture Network Initiative (SIANI).

Green Intermediaries