In this paper, I focus on the revival of an Indigenous community seed festival known locally as Burlang Yatra (‘Indigenous Biodiversity Festival’) in the district of Kandhamal in Odisha (India). This annual event brings together millet farmers to share knowledge and practices, including exchange of Indigenous heirloom seeds. Such community seed festivals remain largely underappreciated (and underexplored). Investigating Burlang Yatra through a social-ecological lens allowed for a greater understanding of its capacity to build and strengthen relationships, adaptation, and responsibility, three key principles that together link the social and the ecological in a dynamic sense. These principles, driven by intergenerational participation and interaction as well as social learning, can be seen as fostering ‘social-ecological memory’ of millet-based biodiverse farming. The festival’s persistence and revival illustrate a form of grassroots self-organising that draws on values of an Indigenous knowledge system. Within a restorative context, it has the capacity to repair and restore cultural and ecological relationships that the community has with their own foods and practices. This paper offers a new understanding of community self-organising from a social-ecological perspective and particularly in a marginalised context as supporting the revitalisation of Indigenous food systems.
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- community self-organisation
- indigenous seed festival
- indigenous knowledge