Need for documenting traditional food systems of tribals: FAO

Puducherry, Dec 1 (PTI) There is a need for documentation of traditional food systems of the tribal population to "retain" and "protect" them in a number of countries and this is "never more so" than in India, an FAO official said here today.

"There is a clear imperative to protect traditional food systems, local food resources and their biodiversity in a number of countries and this is never more so than in India," Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative in India, Gavin Linday Wall said at a conference here.

This would also provide evidence of successful food-based interventions that are improving the well-being and health of tribal people in India, Wall said.

He was speaking at the three-day international conference on ''Traditional Foods'', which was inaugurated by Puducherry Lt Governor Iqbal Singh.

The FAO official said there were 84.3 million tribal people in the country representing over 300 languages and cultures.

Each traditional food system might contain up to 250 species of traditional food alone as well as additional bio-resources for medicines. This knowledge base is a treasure worthy of national attention and protection, he said.

"The very nature of a programme to achieve these improvements means that it focusses on women and children who often have the worst indicators of nutritional status," Wall said.

The FAO has been undertaking preparatory work on traditional foods in Himachal Pradesh which had shown keen interest in promoting Indian systems of medicine, especially Ayurveda.

He said gaps in knowledge regarding the nutrition and health of tribal people should be identified and a plan of action for both research and interventions would be needed to to inform and enrich policy and its implementation.

The country''s traditional foods have inherent safety mechanisms, Iqbal Singh said.

Chief Minister V Vaithilingam said Puducherry government would encourage investors in food processing industry from within and outside the country.