With a focus on the youth, the North East Network (NEN) Nagaland observed the World Food Day at Chizami in Phek district of Nagaland on Friday to bridge the growing gap between young people and local food systems.

Programme associate, NEN Resource Centre, Chizami village, Keviselhou Mepfhou said it was also an attempt to help the youth understand the significance of local food, rediscover and appreciate traditional recipes, explore and exchange innovative recipes using local ingredients.

On the occasion, the NEN Nagaland organised a cooking competition for rural youth at the NEN Resource Centre at Chizami under the theme “Grow, Nourish, Sustain, Together”.

The event brought together 65 participants, mostly youth members from Chizami and neighbouring villages. Altogether 11 teams from Chizami village, Chizami town, Thetsumi, Enhulumi and Sumi took part in the cooking competition.

The cooking competition comprised two categories – indigenous cooking category and innovative category.

Two films on food were screened at the event.

An NEN official Wekowe-u Tsuhah highlighted the significance of the World Food Day, which is aimed at creating awareness on hunger and healthy lifestyle.

Tsuhah challenged the youth participants to reflect on the food choices they make every day. She asked them whether the food they choose is healthy and supporting food system that is sustainable for us and our planet Earth.

“Covid-19 pandemic has taught us a lesson that we can build resilience only if we sustain and strengthen our local food and economic systems,” she added.

Citing the World Food Day theme, Tsuhah exhorted the participants to grow diverse plants to nourish a growing population and sustain the planet Earth together.

Guest speaker and a custodian knowledge holder, Kekhweu T. Mero, in her message, reminded the youth that God has blessed us with diverse herbs and seed-bearing trees for food. “It is our responsibility to take care and sustain them,” she said.

Mero shared her concerns that many people have increasingly abandoned their own agricultural lands and are not food secure anymore. This is a dangerous trend, she said.

Mero stressed that the youth must take the responsibility to reverse this trend by getting involved in growing food and also encourage elders and parents to continue to do so.

She also underscored the importance of being self-reliant and not to depend fully on the market for food.

She shared with the participants the cultural, nutritional and medicinal values of some wild herbs and cultivated crops such as millets, perilla, black sesame and corn.

Colo Mero, director, Life Ministries and advisory member, NEN Nagaland, elaborated on the potential of developing local food business. For this, he said, one has to have a passion and develop necessary business skills.

He encouraged the youth to rise up and take the opportunity to develop food business as there are numerous livelihood opportunities for growers, distributors, restaurants, etc. He asserted that “food is an art”.

Taste, presentation skills, quality control, hygiene are some of the most important points to be taken care of in food business, he stated.

Bhadra Gogoi

Bhadra Gogoi is Northeast Now Correspondent in Nagaland. He can be reached at: bhadragogoi@yahoo.com