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Indigenous-led projects support food sovereignty, food security in B.C.

May 16, 2023 at 9:04 am  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

Indigenous governments, communities and businesses are increasing their food sovereignty and food security through projects that strengthen their food systems and success within the agriculture and food sector.

“Our government is supporting Indigenous communities with their food security, food sovereignty and economic development goals and it is important we work together to build strong, self-sustaining food systems that respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights and cultures,” said Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food. “This program is creating more food and agriculture opportunities for Indigenous communities, and taking an important step toward the equitable participation of Indigenous Peoples in the B.C. agriculture sector.”

The Indigenous Food Systems and Agriculture Partnership Program (IFSAP) is supporting Indigenous governments, communities and businesses with agriculture, food processing and food-systems planning, as well as training and skills development, technological adoption, scaling up productivity and profitability, and climate change adaptation.

The Nuu-chah-nulth Youth Warrior Family is bringing renewed energy to traditional seafood gardens along the west coast of Vancouver Island, in four Nuu-chah-nulth territories. Youth Warriors from eight Nations, aged 12 to 25, are supported by their Elders, community mentors and external experts to restore, manage and celebrate clam gardens. This traditional practice used by Indigenous communities along the coast will help enhance the habitat of intertidal species and support the food sovereignty and security goals of many communities.

“Restoring the Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood Gardens project provides food security so we can take care of ourselves and is reinvigorating a tradition we used to do,” said Hayden Seitcher, 22, Tla-o-qui-aht community co-ordinator, Nuu-chah-nulth Youth Warrior Family. “Having the community come together creates opportunity to connect and create new roots for the youth.” 

The Ucwalmicw Centre Society is an Indigenous-led non-profit group that has been working with St’at’imc territory members on the Ucwalmicw Community Farm for 10 years. Their Indigenous food-security project includes planting, growing, harvesting and processing organic fruit, vegetables and seeds to distribute to the community. The society has a greenhouse, cultivated fields and a diverse apple and stone-fruit orchard. Funding is supporting the completion of a building space for food processing, storage and distribution, and to host food-security training.

“The IFSAP program funding is helping us to finish our construction phase of the new Food Security Building in T’it’q’et, which will complement the large Ucwalmicw community farm and serve as a beautiful location for local food processing, distribution and educational opportunities,” said Chelsea Tims, community farm manager, Ucwalmicw Centre Society. “The construction of the building has also offered us opportunities to employ local contractors in the community.”

Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government is using the funding from the program to support the expansion of the community garden, host traditional foods and harvesting workshops, develop Tŝilhqot’in training and educational materials, and to pilot a community farmers’ market. The project is helping increase access to affordable and fresh food while reducing travel to the closest grocery store, approximately 200 kilometres away.

“We are working toward building a food system that will improve food security in our community for generations to come,” said Dalton Baptiste, administrator, XGFNG First Nations. “The funding from this program will enable us to grow our own food in our community and will support the passing along of our traditional teachings.”

The program was developed with guidance from the B.C. Indigenous Advisory Council on Agriculture and Food. The program is funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Government of British Columbia, and delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC. 

The New Relationship Trust is also developing a new $30-million program in consultation with B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food to help First Nations achieve their agriculture goals and strengthen self-sustaining Indigenous food systems. The program is expected to open in July 2023.

Quotes:

Chief Byron Louis, Okanagan Indian Band, and chair of the BC Indigenous Advisory Council on Agriculture and Food –

“The Indigenous Food Systems and Agriculture Partnership Program represents a meaningful step in increasing investments toward the success of Indigenous Peoples’ food systems and supporting their priorities and approaches. The B.C. Indigenous Advisory Council on Agriculture and Food provided input on the design and scope of the program to better align with Indigenous-identified funding needs and priorities. We see this program as a reflection of Province’s deepening awareness and commitment to Indigenous Peoples’ food systems and agriculture.”

Shelley Leech, co-chair, BC Indigenous Advisory Council on Agriculture and Food

“Indigenous Peoples have always had a unique relationship with the land, the water, the air, the fire and every living thing that lives on this Earth. This relationship is reciprocal. We look after the land and the land provides for us. We have evolved for centuries as the world around us has changed. Indigenous Peoples have had to adapt and learn new ways of doing to maintain this unique relationship. In this critical time of climate change, we are again needing to find new ways to adapt in order for our families, our communities and Indigenous Peoples to survive and ensure survival for the next seven generations. This means creating new economies right here in our communities in the area of food security, while safeguarding and nurturing the plants, trees, animals and water to ensure the next generations will hold this knowledge of the sacred relationship we have with the land. We can do this.”

Jack DeWit, chair, IAF board of directors –

“The IAF team was honoured to be a part of the development and delivery of this innovative program. Preliminary results show that the projects are demonstrating success toward increased food security.”

Learn More:

Indigenous Food Systems and Agriculture Partnership Program: https://iafbc.ca/ifsap/

B.C. Indigenous Advisory Council on Agriculture and Food:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/business-market-development/agricultural-trusts-and-councils/bc-indigenous-advisory-council-on-agriculture-and-food

Indigenous communities, businesses get support to increase food security:
https://news.gov.bc.ca/27488

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