Indigenous Food Systems



IndigenousFood Systems

Knowingand understanding indigenous systems in relation to the bio culturalframework assists communities to plan, manage and maintain theirresources for growth of future generations. This paper seeks toexamine the bio-cultural framework. In addition, the scope of thepaper will also be grounded on examining the manner in which bio-cultural Framework assists to explain and understand Indigenous foodsystems.

Overviewof the bio cultural Framework

Thebio-cultural framework is a structure that influences and determinesthe availability of food through the political, psychological andecological topography while influencing the cultural factors thatshape their acceptability and preparation of the food(Ember and Ember, 2003). Additionally, the bio-cultural framework canbe defined as a system that denotes how the dishes and foods in acertain physical and cultural context affect individual’sconsumption of food in that particular setting (Bryant, 2003). Figure 1.0 below provides a clear indicator of the bio culturalframework structure.

Figure 1.0 The Bio culturalFramework

Howthe bio- cultural Framework assists to explain and understandIndigenous food systems

Oneof the ways in which the bio- cultural framework assists to explainand understand indigenous food systems is by defining the manner inwhich the physical environment influences this systems. Forinstance the soil structure and texture could determine the amountand type of crop grown in a particular area over a given time. Someareas are able to produce certain foods while in other areas it mayvary thus influencing diet system. Genetic and environmental aspectslike destruction of forests, mining and use of chemicals to increasesoil fertility also play a part intransforming the diets ofindigenous societies. Also, today in many of the regions occupied byindigenous societies forests have been cleared to give way to theraising of cattle. This has also changed the dietary system of thissocieties. Tchoumba (2005) discloses that the livelihoods of Pygmiesin Cameroon were traditionally inclined to fishing, gathering andhunting in the forests. However, agriculture has become anincreasingly significant activity as part of their survival strategysince forests are dwindling in number.

Also,the bio- cultural framework assists in explaining and understandinghow technology influences the food system of indigenous societies.The adoption of technology in food production and animal rearing hasresulted in production of food in large amounts while at the sametime genetically modified food has given rise to decline in soilproductivity, texture and fertility. The use of technology alsoinfluences the bio cultural framework in that the indigenousecosystem is destroyed and as a result natural methods of foodproduction like cultivation, fishing and hunting interfered with(IFAD, 2003). Thiscan therefore result in low yield and lack of variety in terms ofdiet and diversity.

Socialorganization is one another factor that influences indigenous foodsystems. The manner in which people carry out their day to dayactivities, for example introduction of cash crops as opposed tosubsistence crops, specialization in livestock farming as opposed tocrop farming and growth in population play a significant roles ininfluencing indigenous food systems. Clearing of forests toaccommodate growing population affect rain patterns and as a resultfood production declines with the population present striving andcompeting for the rare resources. This results in poor dietary andlack of proper and enough food. On the same note, it is difficult topredict different seasons and as a results cultivation of essentialcrops meant to be consumed holistically could prove tricky.Destruction of natural human habitats could result in droughts,rising temperatures and disease(IFAD, 2003).

Anumber of communities have different beliefs and traditions as aresult of this, different communicates practice new and differentmethods of farming which prove detrimental to a community’s intakeand diet. Genetic heritage and resources influence indigenous foodsystems in that these communicates only practice a particular methodof farming and only produce a particular amount and type of food on agiven scale with the belief that one or others do not offer anyamount of nutritional content to their diet. The manner in which sometypes of food are produced also leaves a lot to be desired with alarge number of nutrients being lost in the process of preparation(Woodleyet al, 2009).

Ideologybe it political, cultural or social plays a part in influencingindigenous food systems. Political systems like government policycould affect the growing of different crops rearing of differenttypes of livestock which may be of benefit to individual diet.Policies afflicting food security and cultural identity lead to loseof livelihood which in turn lead to lack of sustainability of humanpopulations. Ideological policies affect people who mostly live incountries where there is military and political differences with alarge percentage of the population prone disease and starvation(Woodleyet al, 2009).

Thesocioeconomic environment of a particular area affects the biocultural framework of an indigenous food system in that large amountsof land which hitherto could be used for agricultural activitiesbeing cleared for income generating purposes. This interferes withthe system in that a large number of the population is afflicted withlarge tracts of land being turned into cash cows at the expense ofcultivation with the produce given off barely able to take care ofthe needs of the local population. Different crops or variousnutritional value are therefore not produced thereby giving way topoor eating habits and stunted growth(IFAD,2003).


Thebio cultural framework is a vital cog in in explainingand understanding Indigenous food systems.The framework can be used to explain how the socioeconomicenvironment, ideology, the physical environment and socialorganizations influence foods systems among this communities. In conclusion, it can be stated that the bio-cultural framework iseffectiveproviding a clear understanding of what indigenous society eat, howmuch they eat and how they prepare their food.


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Ember,R and Ember, M.(2003). Encyclopediaof Medical Anthropology: Health and Illness in the World`s CulturesTopics.Springer Science &amp Business Media.

IFAD.(2003). IndigenousPeoples and Sustainable Development.Roundtable Discussion Paper

forthe Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Session of IFAD’s Governing Council.Rome.

Tchoumba,B. (2005). Indigenousand Tribal Peoples and Poverty Reduction Strategies in

Cameroo. ILO.

Woodley,E, Crowley, E, Pryck, J , Carmen, A. (2009).Culturalindicators of Indigenous Peoples` food and agro-ecological systems.FAO.