Past Perspectives for Future Dietary Resilience

Project Team: Hayley Saul, Oliver Craig, Michael Spate, Nicholas Fuller, Alison Betts

Project Support and Funding: The Leverhulme Trust and the Edwin Cuthbert Hall Chair of the Archaeology and Mythology of the Ancient Near East, University of Sydney

Of the 795 million undernourished people globally, 52% (that is, 415 million people) are from countries that make up the Himalayas (FAO-IFAD-WFP 2015, Rasul et al. 2019). In a recent review of the challenges facing the Hindu Kush Himalayas, and opportunities to address them, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) nominated current and future food security to be a priority area. According to this report the causes of regional food insecurity include a loss of culinary diversity as more climate and disease vulnerable ‘cash-crop/mono-cropping’ strategies are practised; climate change and its consequences (e.g. greater pest infestations, altered growing regimes); low levels of market development for traditional and diverse foods, and; policies that are not designed to tackle mountain-specific food systems (Rasul et al. 2019). This Project seeks to address food insecurity in the HKH by investigating the archaeological heritage of a range of traditional crop varieties that, in development studies, have come to be termed as ‘Neglected and Underutilised Species (NUS) (e.g. buckwheat, millets, sesame etc.), as well as prehistoric strategies for seasonally supplementing nutritional health using non-timber-forest-products (NTFPs), or foraged foods. Further, the Project will translate its findings into resources that promote traditional agro-diverse food systems at the community level and in schools, as well as lobbying policymakers to build sustainable food systems that foreground those NUS which are adapted (and more adaptable) to the changing climate. Further, the Project seeks to produce popular outputs that promote heritage cuisines to tourists and tourism providers, thereby stimulating the development of local markets for NUS and NTFPs.

Sustainable Development Goal/s: