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Tropentag, September 20 - 22, 2017 in Bonn

"Future Agriculture: Social-ecological transitions and bio-cultural shifts"

Wisdom of the Mountains

Frederik van Oudenhoven

Ethnobotany, The Netherlands


The Pamiri people in Tajikistan and Afghanistan have long been among the most isolated communities in the world. They live according to centuries old traditions, yet increasingly must deal with Western influences entering their lives. One of the areas in which these changes are most visible is on the dinner table, where foreign foods are replacing traditional ones. The consequences for local crop diversity (the Pamirs are considered a globally important centre of diversity for important fruit and grain crops) are profound.
Together with local agricultural scientists and fellow researcher Jamila Haider, I documented Pamiri crop varieties and their numerous uses for food and medicine. It resulted in the publication of With our own hands, a 688 page book highlighting the critical role of the people of the Pamirs as custodians of their food, seeds and traditions. It is also the first document to chronicle this hitherto orally transmitted (food) culture in printed form, in a manner accessible to the Pamiri people themselves. Every community, school and community centre in the region received a copy.
In the film Wisdom of the Mountains we travel to the Pamirs with the first copies of our book, bringing it back to the farmers, scientists, cooks and teachers who helped make it. Through their stories we explore the tremendous contrasts between the Afghan and Tajik Pamirs, between visions of progress and development. And we learn how osh is made, one of the most iconic dishes of the Pamirs.

Keywords: Afghanistan, food culture, Pamir, Tajikistan

Contact Address: Frederik van Oudenhoven, Ethnobotany, The Hague, The Netherlands, e-mail: fvanoudenhoven@gmail.com

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