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Traditional foods and their role in health and nutrition security in the HKH

HUC Secretariat
Storying the sustainable intelligence of the Earth in the new Himalaya

The unique gastronomy of the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region is a fusion of soybean-alcohol consumption from the north and dairy and vegetables from the south. The South Asian food culture originated in the Indus Valley Civilization around 8,000 years ago, when the cultivation of cereal crops such as wheat and barley as staple diets as well as domestication of cattle for milk and meat were recorded. The consumption of milk and milk products in Nepal can be traced back to 900 BCE, which indicates the ancient and rich food culture of the Himalayan people. Traditional foods are sources of bio-resources and bioactive compounds that boost immunity and ensure food and nutrition security. Global agriculture has gradually lost its diversity, with a shift from diverse systems to a narrow range of crops. Of thousands of known plant species, only nine supply over 75% of the global plant-derived energy. Wheat, rice, and maize account for more than half of dietary energy supply. In the HKH, for instance, traditional food crops such as barley, millet, buckwheat, and beans are either neglected or underutilized. Indigenous knowledge on traditional recipes and preservation methods has also therefore eroded from local socio-cultural systems. There has subsequently been renewed focus on the promotion of traditional food crops, which are being relabelled as “future-smart foods” in view of their high potential for nutrition security, climate resilience, market value, and agrobiodiversity. These crops are being revived in the HKH and other regions through focused research, production technology, public–private partnership, and change in consumer behaviour.


About the webinar

This webinar brings together international experts in food science and agricultural economics, practitioners in food and nutrition security, and civil society and private sector representatives from the HKH and beyond to discuss the importance of traditional foods and their functionality and health-promoting benefits as well as specific foods and nutritional concerns and challenges for mountain communities. The webinar is open for microbiologists, food scientists, agricultural economists, social scientists, and practitioners in relevant fields in the HKH. It is also relevant to entrepreneurs promoting local produce as a part of mountain heritage and tourism and to pharmaceutical producers of alternative functional foods. Preference for enrolment will be given to faculty and graduate students from HUC members and practitioners affiliated with institutional partners of ICIMOD. The webinar will be jointly convened by Jyoti Prakash Tamang, who is serving as ICIMOD Mountain Chair (2019–2021), and Eklabya Sharma, Deputy Director General, ICIMOD. It will be part of the preparation for the inception of the HUC Thematic Working Group on Mountain Foods and Nutrition Security.



The webinar will involve two 90-minute sessions punctuated by a two-hour break. Each speaker will present for 15 minutes, followed by a 15-minute Q&A.

Convenors:  Jyoti Prakash Tamang, ICIMOD Mountain Chair

    Eklabya Sharma, Deputy Director General, ICIMOD

Time (NST) Programme
09:20–09:30 Participants check-in on Microsoft Teams
09:30–09:45 Opening Introduction – Chi H Truong (Shachi), Programme Coordinator, HUC, ICIMOD Welcome remarks – David Molden, Director General, ICIMOD
Session I Chair: Eklabya Sharma, Deputy Director General, ICIMOD
09:45–10:00 Use of Chinese traditional medicines and functional foods in relieving mild symptoms and assisting post-COVID-19 recovery – Yi Cai, licensed practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine and lecturer at Department of Global Health, School of Health Sciences, Wuhan University
10:00–10:15 Gastronomy and health benefits of Himalayan ethnic foods – Jyoti Prakash Tamang, Professor, Department of Microbiology, Sikkim University, India, and ICIMOD Mountain Chair (2019–2021)
10:15–10:30 Therapeutic potential of Indian Ayurvedic herb Ashwagandha: Biology to biotechnology – Sunil Kaul, Senior Research Scientist, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science & Technology (AIST), Japan
10:30–10:45 Lactobacillus plantarum from Indonesian traditional fermented foods and its potency as a probiotic agent – Endang S Rahayu, Professor, Department of Food Microbiology, Faculty of Agricultural Technology, Centre for Food and Nutrition Studies, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia
10:45–11:00 Q&A
11:00–13:00 Break
Session II Chair: Jyoti Prakash Tamang, Professor, Department of Microbiology, Sikkim University, India, and ICIMOD Mountain Chair (2019–2021)
13:00–13:15 A present-day view on traditional food fermentations – Wilhelm Heinrich Holzapfel, Chair, Professor, Advance Green Energy and Environment Institute (AGEE), Handong Global University, South Korea
13:15–13:30 Myanmar’s traditional foods – Nilar, Professor and Head, Department of Industrial Chemistry, Mandalay University, Myanmar
13:30–13:45 The importance of traditional mountain crops for food and nutrition security: An economic perspective – Abid Hussain, Food Security Economist, ICIMOD, and Lipy Adhikari, Research Associate, Livelihoods, ICIMOD
13:45–14:00 Changes in agriculture and livestock patterns in Hindu Kush Karakoram and Pamir – Melad Ul Karim, National Lead, Agriculture and Food Security, Aga Khan Foundation, Afghanistan
14:00–14:15 Promoting and marketing local foods in Kailash landscape – Dipak Bahadur Budha, Chairman, Himalayan Corner Pvt Ltd, Nepal
14:15–14:30 Q&A
14:30 Closing remarks by the two co-conveners

Agenda and speakers' profile


How to register

Please click on the ‘Apply for webinar’ button on this page to register your interest in the webinar. If you face any difficulty accessing the form, please write to huc@icimod.org mentioning the nature of the problem. We will reach out only to selected participants through email with further instructions to join the webinar.