Bibudh Dhewaju/LI-BIRD

Food Fair: An Initiative For Promotion of Traditional Food Products


Posted on: 6/23/2016

By: Rita Gurung and Bibudh Dhewaju, LI-BIRD 

Smartly clad in traditional ‘Gurung’ (an ethnicity of Nepal) dresses, Sita Gurung, Babita Gurung and Lilu Gurung of Ghanapokhara, Lamjung, were preparing various food items of local crops in a stall. A curious group of onlookers were observing the food items, and inquiring them about what they were and how they were prepared.  

This was a scenario of ’Food Fair 2016’ organized by the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC), Regional Office, Bhairahawa, in coordination with the Lamjung Chamber of Commerce in Beshisahar, Lamjung from 17 to 18 June 2016. The food fair was organized with the objective of raising awareness on the importance of local food products and changing food habits of the consumers. The event was inaugurated and chaired by the Agriculture Minister, Haribol Gajurel.

Different sectors involved in the conservation of local crops and their utilization such as research and academic institutions including LI-BIRD, eco-tourism / homestays and organic businesses from the Western Development Region of Nepal participated through 30 stalls in the fair. Academic institutions presented their work on local crops for e.g. promotion of nutritious flour (Sarbottam pitho) prepared from finger millet, soyabean, maize and barley; value added products of fruits, etc. while commercial organizations and homestays sold local marketable products and served local food items such as Kodo ko dhindo, sel-roti, local liquor-raksi, Kaguno ko Bhaat and red rice (raato chamal ko bhaat). The homestay and local businesses are putting an effort to revive consumption of local foods gradually. The request for local food items from guests reveals that the homestay and ecotourism could be an effective way to promote local crops that also brings economic benefits to the local community. 

Visitors closely observing Amaranth's Sweet (Latteko Laddu). Photo: Bibudh Dhewaju

A wide range of visitors including general public, students from Lamjung Agriculture Campus, and officials from various Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations observed and consumed food items presented in the fair. The LI-BIRD team in Ghanpokhara exhibited knowledge materials such as flyers, booklets and brochures of their work on conservation and promotion of local crops. The site team displayed knowledge materials of Local Crop Project (LCP) which were appreciated by the visitors. Seeds of local crops -- cold tolerant rice, finger millet, foxtail millet, barley, naked barley and amaranth -- based on a model of Community Seed Bank (CSB) were also displayed by the team to promote conservation of local crops. The other major highlight of the stall was presentation of food items prepared by Sita, Babita and Lilu (farmers of Ghanapokhara) from local crops such as amaranth, naked barley and foxtail millet. 

Sita said, “This was a unique opportunity for us to learn about preparing and selling traditional food items in the market.” The stall generated interest among the visitors with the display of rare and unique local food items especially foxtail millet pudding which was loved by the visitors.

Menuka Lama, a student of Lamjung Agriculture Campus, said that she heard about foxtail millet very recently and was ridiculed by her parents for her ignorance despite being an agriculture student. She apparently enjoyed the taste of the pudding and said, “I feel we, especially the young generation, need to be aware about these crops and should promote them as much as possible.” Similarly, Sita Maya Lama, of Besisahar, shared her delight on being able to taste foxtail millet pudding. She told us that she used to eat foxtail millet rice during her childhood and the pudding refreshed  memories of her village.

LI-BIRD stall was awarded first prize in 'research and promotion of local crops' category. Photo: Bibudh Dhewaju

The event aimed to increase awareness of consumers on the potentialities and nutritional benefits of the traditional food materials. Krishna Rai, Research Officer of DFTQC, Kathmandu, believes that “to reduce the country’s dependence on major crop such as rice and imports of food products, local food items prepared from traditional and underutilized crops should be encouraged.” 

The organizing committee evaluated and awarded participants based on three categories -- research and promotion of local crops, local food production and commercial production of local crops. LI-BIRD’s stall was awarded first prize in the first category. Migendra Ghimire, Coordinator of Food Fair committee, said, “The event aims to conserve and initiate commercialization of the traditional foods. We found the initiative of LI-BIRD in Ghanapokhara in conserving and promoting traditional foods very impressive.”

Although farmers like Sita are burdened by the hardship of farming mainly due to out-migration of men from the villages, these kinds of events will certainly encourage them. LI-BIRD’s joint participation with local community has helped them to witness growing popularity and demand of local crops in urban areas. The event provided concerned stakeholders such as farmers, research institutions and private organizations to explore potentialities of local crops and opened ground for coordination. Ram Kumar Shrestha, the chairman of Lamjung Chamber of Commerce and  owner of Tukuche hotel at Beshisahar has shown his willingness to include foxtail millet pudding in hotel menu as dessert. This has paved way of working together in promotion of local crops and traditional recipes. 

Local Crop Project is funded by the Global Environment Facility, implemented by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and jointly executed by Bioversity International, National Agriculture Genetic Resources Centre (NAGRC) - Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NARC), the Department of Agriculture (DoA) and LI-BIRD.