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Revitalizing ethnic cuisine for improved nutrition, nature positive food production, and equitable livelihoods


Microsoft Teams

Date & Time

08 June 2021


Bandana Shakya

Concept note


Revitalizing ethnic cuisine



The upcoming UN Food Systems Summit in September 2021 aims to bring together key players from the world to discuss and raise a collective voice for positive change in global food systems. There are five action tracks that align with the Summit’s objectives: 1) ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all; 2) shift to sustainable consumption patterns; 3) boost nature-positive production; 4) advance equitable livelihoods; and 5) build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stressors to strengthen food systems. Each action track is designed to address possible trade-offs with other tracks, and to identify solutions that can deliver wide-reaching benefits.

The HKH Call to Action developed by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), in consultation with its eight member countries, outlines six urgent actions that emphasize mountain specific policies, and pro-poor gender and socially inclusive development pathways for achieving the SDGs. The Call also urges for a more robust regional cooperation, urgent climate action, and incentives and means for mountain communities to conserve and manage ecosystems. These urgent actions align well with the objectives of the Summit, particularly its focus on healthier, more sustainable, and equitable food systems.

Ethnic cuisines in the HKH reflect the region’s diverse ethnicities, traditions, and food cultures. They also reflect its rich agrobiodiversity as cuisines are directly linked to diverse food production systems, and traditional ecological knowledge of their use for food and nutrition security. Hence, preservation and promotion of ethnic cuisines is one action that is well aligned with the objective of sustainable food systems. Ethnic and traditional cuisines, with their simple preparation and ingredients sourced straight from the farm and forest are a good source of nutritious food (Action track 1). Awareness of the ingredients and their health benefits triggers sustainable consumption of fresh and unadulterated food (Action track 2). The preparation of ethnic cuisines is also closely linked to sustainable production and management of agrobiodiversity and agroecosystems (Action track 3), and also to food-based value chains and ecotourism (Action track 4). Preservation of ethnic cuisine also helps reinforce cultural identities and hence, empowers these communities to create resilient food systems (Action track 5). Awareness of the value of ethnic cuisines can thus help transform the way the world produces, consumes, and thinks about food.


About the webinar

With the homogenization of food production systems and a growing preference for energy dense processed foods in the market, the intake of and interest towards ethnic foods is gradually diminishing. The loss of ethnic cuisines also means the collapse of healthy food and dietary systems, loss of knowledge on the use of local biodiversity and their health benefits, loss of agrobiodiversity, and the degradation of overall food production systems.

To revitalize ethnic cuisines in the HKH region, ICIMOD is joining hands with its partners to document cuisines from four transboundary landscapes in the HKH region – the Far Eastern Himalaya, Hindu Kush Karakoram Pamir Landscape, Kangchenjunga Landscape, and Kailash Sacred Landscape. These transboundary landscapes have rich biodiversity, cultures and traditions that are reflected in the diversity of their ethnic cuisines. The documentation of ethnic cuisines can help us understand how the cuisines are intrinsically linked to local production systems, dietary environments, culture and traditions, societal bonding, food and nutrition security, and rural livelihoods and economy.

This webinar is being organized as one of the independent dialogues of the Summit to bring voices of mountain communities from the HKH and explore opportunities for future policy and programmatic engagement for promoting sustainable food systems in the region.



The objective of this pre-summit dialogue is to bring together a range of stakeholders – academics, policy makers, practitioners, businesses, and communities – to discuss how the revitalisation and promotion of ethnic cuisines can contribute to healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems. It will discuss key research and management issues, and the policy environment necessary to promote and sustain ethnic cuisines. The outputs of the HKH dialogue will be documented and shared with the global audience through UNFSS feedback form. Further, we will use this dialogue to explore partnerships and investments for the promotion of ethnic cuisine in the HKH region and beyond.


Time (NPT) Programme
9:15–9:30 Participants check-in on MS Teams
9:30–9:35 Briefing on the house rules by the host

Syed Muhammad Abubakar, ICIMOD

9:35–10:15 Opening session

Welcome remarks

Pema Gyamtsho, Director General, ICIMOD

Overview of the UN Food System Summit and the importance of GESI perspective

Stephanie Gallatova, Agribusiness Officer, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations

Keynote presentation

Jyoti P. Tamang, Professor, Sikkim University, India

Facilitated by: Bandana Shakya, ICIMOD
10:15–10:50 Experts’ insight: Panel discussion

Reinforcing action track 1, 2 and 3

Key research agenda around ethnic cuisines to link it with agroecosystem management and nutrition security

Tulsi Gurung, College of Natural Resources, Royal University of Bhutan, Bhutan

Slow food and their management for food and nutrition

Pius Ranee, North East Slow Food & Agrobiodiversity Society, (NESFAS), India

Role of home gardens and women in promoting ethnic food and cuisine, Pakistan

Hassan Munir Bajwa, Associate Professor, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan

Changing lifestyle, food culture and dietary diversity and impact on ethnic cuisines

Zhu Jie, Institute for Food Processing, Tibet Academy of Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Sciences (TAAAS), China

Moderated by: Abid Hussain, ICIMOD
10:50-11:15 Experts’ insight: Panel discussion (continued)

Reinforcing action track 4, 5

Linking ethnic cuisine to economy for resilience

Robin Amatya, SAARC Business Association of Home Based Workers (SABAH-Nepal), Nepal

Government’s role in sustenance of ethnic cuisines

Khaing Khaing Htwe, Department of Agriculture Research, Myanmar

Institutions and governance to promote ethnic cuisine to support resilient food system, agrobiodiversity and equitable livelihoods

Amba Jamir, Sustainable Development Forum of Nagaland (SDFN), India

11:15-11:20 Short video on key features of ethnic cuisines Facilitated by: Syed Muhammad Abubakar, ICIMOD  
11:20-11:40 Q and A session: Participants’ inputs Facilitated by: Bandana Shakya, ICIMOD
11:40 – 12:00 Closing session

Summary of key insights and way forward

Dhrupad Choudhury, ICIMOD

Closing remarks

Nakul Chettri, ICIMOD



Keynote speakers

Jyoti Prakash Tamang

Jyoti Prakash Tamang is a Senior Professor at Sikkim Central University, India. He is a pioneering food microbiologist with 35 years of experience in ethnic fermented foods and beverages of the Himalayas. His technical expertise includes ethno-microbiology, metagenomics, gastronomy, food safety, nutrition, and health. At Sikkim University, he has held several administrative positions – Dean of the School of Life Sciences (2012-2020), officiating Vice-Chancellor (2017-18), and Registrar (2011 to 2013). He holds a PhD in microbiology and two post-docs in molecular microbiology, and toxicology and environmental hygiene. He has authored several books and more than 180 research publications.

Tamang has received several national and international awards, including the National Bio-Science Award by the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, and Gourmand World Cookbook Award. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, India, and is also a member of several national and international food science and microbiology committees. Tamang is the current Mountain Chair for International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). Tamang is from India.

Stephanie Gallatova

Stephanie Gallatova is an Agribusiness Officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, where she is responsible for agro-industry and agribusiness development.

Gallatova has more than 20 years of experience in food and agricultural development programmes in the African continent. Her specific interests include design and implementation of public private partnerships for agribusiness development (agri-PPPs), improving the efficiency and inclusiveness of agricultural food value chains, and enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium agro-enterprises.

Prior to joining FAO, Gallatova worked with the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) UK, supporting initiatives on small-scale food processing, value addition, and post-harvest handling and marketing. She holds a BSc and PhD in Food Technology from the University of Reading, UK.

Expert panellists


Tulsi Gurung is an Associate Professor, currently serving as the Dean of Academic Affairs at the College of Natural Resources, Royal University of Bhutan, Punakha. She holds a PhD in Agriculture from Khon Kaen University, Thailand. She is one of the pioneers in transforming a training institute to a college offering seven undergraduate programmes, two Masters programmes, and starting PhD in climate studies this July 2021. She has initiated many international research collaborations, and staff and student exchange programmes with other universities. She teaches horticulture, crop production, sustainable agriculture, and climate smart agriculture, and has several journal papers to her credit. Tulsi is from Bhutan.

Pius Ranee

Pius Ranee is the Executive Director of the North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS). As one of the co-founders of NESFAS, he played an important role in the Indigenous Terra Madre conference and festival in North East India in 2015. He brings with him deep personal and practical understanding of the importance of local foods for food and nutrition security of indigenous communities. He has been actively promoting the Agroecology Learning Circles, where traditional knowledge and contemporary agroecology practices are proactively promoted. Ranee is from India.

Hassan Munir Bajwa

Hassan Munir Bajwa is an Associate Professor at the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan. Bajwa has 20 years of teaching, research, and outreach experience in the field of ecophysiology, crop husbandry, and fodder cropping technologies, especially in mountain ecosystems. Bajwa pioneered research on climate-resilient crops in Pakistan, and has more than 80 research and outreach publications to his credit. In 2003, he was conferred the ‘Star Award’ by South Asia Publications for his efforts to include new cropping options in the local cropping system. Bajwa is also a member of various national committees for curriculum development in agricultural sciences, and is leading the research group on alternative crops. He is from Pakistan.

Zhu Jie

Zhu Jie is an Associate Professor, currently serving as the director of the Institute of Food Science and Technology, Tibet Academy of Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Sciences (TAAAS). From 2007-2019, he worked at the Institute of Food Science and Technology, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, as the Vice Director of Key Laboratory of Agro-Food Quality and Safety, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. He was also the Division Chief of the Department of Scientific Research Management. He has a PhD in Food Science and is from China.

Robin Man Amatya

Robin Man Amatya is the CEO of SAARC Business Association of Home Based workers (SABAH), Nepal. He is a social entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in training and establishment of community-owned rural business enterprises, business management, and development. He is responsible for sustainable growth of SABAH and in setting up production-based community-owned rural sustainable enterprises focused on crafts, textiles, papers, and food. He also serves as the board member of several non-profits and development organizations, including development banks and investment companies. Amatya is from Nepal.

Khaing Khaing Htwe

Khaing Khaing Htwe is the Deputy Director at the Department of Agriculture Research, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, Myanmar. She brings with her extensive experience of implementation of development cooperation programmes related to agriculture, rural development, food security, food-based value chain, and livelihood development. Having served in the government for 35 years, she contributed to several institutional policy, research, and capacity development initiatives in Myanmar by engaging with diverse stakeholders from land users/farmers and government officials at union, regional and township levels. Htwe holds a Master’s degree in agricultural sciences from Chiang Mai University, Thailand. She is from Myanmar.


Amba Jamir is an environmental lawyer and development communicator. As a policy and development advisor, he specialises in rural development and upland resource management systems, participatory conservation, and development with special focus on shifting cultivation in the eastern Himalayas. He has worked extensively with the government, NGOs, international organisations, and with communities and civil society movements.

Jamir is the founding member of the Sustainable Development Forum Nagaland (SDFN) and the Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI). He is from India.