เครือข่ายเกษตรกรรมทางเลือกภาคอีสาน

Youth and Food Security

In Youth Activities on 03/08/2009 at 5:08 am

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From July 25-26, youth groups from Mahasarakam, Kalasin, Roi Et and Yasothon provinces gathered for a weekend-long camp at Don Daeng focusing on food security and local food.  Day 1 got everyone together to exchange about food – what do you like to eat?  What do you like to cook?  What do you eat the most often? were the questions asked of everyone during the morning.  We were able to conclude that Esan youth still love to eat som tam (a green papaya salad with chilis and fermented fish sauce) but when they get the chance, Korean BBQ and KFC are very popular choices.  With this in mind for the afternoon, we set the kids “free” to put together dinner.

Three groups with menus for the evenings’ meals in hand set out to three locations that were unknown to them when they left Don Daeng.  Eventually, the groups arrived at their respective “food resources”: Big C (a popular grocery store/shopping mall), the district’s fresh market and a local, organic farmers fields.  Korean BBQ was the planned menu for two groups, and for the group that visited Big C, buying ingredients was easy (though it required most of their budget).  But for the group that went to the local farmers’ fields, their BBQ menu quickly went out the window…to the dismay of 12 previously very excited kids.  Instead, the kids needed to work with what the farmer had in his fields – morning glory, lemongrass, chili, bamboo shoots, mint and pandan leaf.  Initially disappointed, this group worked together to make a new menu and gathered together a delicious dinner – for free!

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Everyone was exhausted after a long afternoon cooking and dinner was delicious – fried chicken and Korean BBQ from Big C, grilled tilapia with chili sauce from the districts’ fresh market, and last but not least, stir-fried morning glory, Esan’s classic sup nohmai and a pandan leaf tea.  We formed a panel of judges, and to the surprise of many, the dishes from the local farmer were voted to be best all-around.  Sunday morning featured a lesson on how to make a whole grain rice drink from Red Jasmine rice, and reflection on the previous day’s activities.  The contrast between each groups’ experiences got everyone thinking about their own communities’ food systems.  With the help of the Wai Sai Hua Jai youth group, I gave a presentation on our Food Ways research and showed the video made with the help of the CIEE Spring 2009 student group.

I hope it got everyone thinking about ways to learn about their communities’ food system and start thinking about ways to improve it or support local foods.  P’ Ubon Yoowah also led a discussion about the meaning of food security and the power of consumption.  Here in Thailand, food security has become about accessibility and sustainability, as agribusiness consolidates production, farmers’ own food security is threatened, and consumers’ health is at risk due to the high use of chemicals, antibiotics and other unsafe inputs used in intensive production.  As youth continue to grow disinterested in Esan food traditions, we need to find ways to keep indigenous plants and local dishes a part of our diet.  They are a safe, healthy important way to support local farmers and take care of our bodies.

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By the early afternoon, all the youth groups spent time brainstorming ideas for future activities in their home communities.  With the help of farmers’ group members, youth groups will begin this learning process and engage other youth in their communities – organizing activites similar to this past youth camp, or growing vegetables for their community market.  Thanks again to P’ Breeo, Udee, Jack and the Sang Fan club members who came out to help organize the camp, I think we all agree that it helped the youth groups think critically about where their food comes from and their own consumption.

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