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AIMday: The Beginning of Fruitful Dialogues on Food Sovereignty

Panel discussion concluding the impressions during AIMday. From the left project partners Mika Aromäki, Janne Näkkäläjärvi, Lena Maria Nilsson and the moderator Jing Helmersson. (Photo. Maja Bonta)

Written by Lena Maria Nilsson

Várdduo, Umeå University, Sweden

AIMday sustainable Development in Sápmi was the first workshop arranged within the DEA project, and was held March 3, 2020, in Umeå, Sweden. Due to the pandemic situation. It may also be the only face-to-face meeting which is possible to arrange during the project period. AIM day is a dialogue methodology developed by the University of Uppsala in Sweden. The base model for AIM day was adapted to a Sámi setting through the preparations for the DEA project, and this is how we did it:

Preparations for AIM-day was initiated during autumn 2019, since the plane was to co-arrange it with the annual Sámi Cultural Week (Ubmejen Biejvie). During autumn 2019 questions was collected from Sámi organisations, companies, entrepreneurs with a connection to Sámi culture, older Sámi and other bearers of traditional knowledge. In total, 11 questions were received this way, and represented 7 Sámi organisations, and 12 representatives for these organisations attended the day together with 18 researchers and 9 uncategorised participants. During Aimday, question owners met with researchers in small discussion groups. The aim with this was that it should lead to an exchange of knowledge, experiences, and ideas, based on current issues that both researchers and Sámi bearers of knowledge were interested in.

One of these organisations was the Sámi NGO Slow Food Sápmi, a supporter of the DEA project. Since I was one of the researchers attending this discussion, I will describe it a little more in detail.

The question from Slow Food Sápmi was, as follows:

How can research clarify the relation between Sámi food and food sovereignty, as a part of Indigenous People’s rights?

And as an explanation for the question, Slow Food Sápmi declared:

The UN's interpretation of food sovereignty is too narrow today. It focuses on the individual not on the collective. This disadvantages the reindeer herding. The EU's definition of food sovereignty is also contradictory. While the EU provides support for the development of Sámi food, the EU pursues a predatory policy that counteracts food sovereignty. Slow Food Sápmi's key word is good-pure-fair. In order for Indigenous peoples to have access to their own food, they must have rights to fishing, hunting, reindeer husbandry and more. Sámi people must have the right and access to land and water to be able to provide their own food. Climate change and extractive activities are examples of activities, which are threatening Indigenous peoples all over the world. How can indigenous peoples strengthen their rights through food sovereignty?

During AIMday only one representative of Slow Food Sápmi attended the seminar. The other, an active reindeer herder, cancelled his engagement in the last minute due to fear for the pandemic. The question from Slow Food Sápmi was discussed in a group of 8 researchers. All sat in a circle, making the discussion resemble of a campfire chat.

After AIMday, my dialogue with Slow Food Sápmi has continued. Right now, I am working on a book chapter to the forthcoming anthology “The Sámi World”, for which the dialogue initiated during AIM day sustainable development in Sápmi has had a profound impact.

The blog would be too long if I should try to describe all the other dialogues performed during AIMday. In brief, many of the other questions were also connecting sustainable development with cultural sustainability and Indigenous rights.

A complete list of the questions is still available on the AIMday homepage:

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