Cameras in the Hands of Indigenous Youth: Participation, Films, and Nutrition in India

Elsevier, Current Developments in Nutrition, Volume 6, 1 August 2022
Rao N., Narain N., Sabir G.

Background: Indigenous communities in India have diets that do not fulfill all of their minimum nutritional requirements. Given the unaffordability of healthy diets, these communities rely on common-pool resources to make up for shortfalls in food. Yet, such foods are devalued as "backward,"and accessing them is regulated by unequal gendered roles. Objectives: To explore the central role of community participation in documenting and transmitting indigenous knowledge about the role of locally available foods in improving dietary diversity. Methods: Through a participatory action research approach, 10 Santhal youth were trained to make films about a range of locally available foods and other issues of concern to them (Santhal/Santal is a native ethnic group in India). These films were broadcast on a YouTube channel and screened locally. A thematic content analysis of 49 films was undertaken, alongside interviews with the filmmakers and focus group discussions with viewers who attended 4 film screenings. Results: A majority of the films produced drew on intergenerational and indigenous knowledge about edible plants, insects, and rodents; skills in foraging and preparing food; awareness of the benefits of the food; and sustainability issues across the traditional food systems. The filmmakers initially focused on responding to community needs and showcasing Santhal cultural practices. Their later films began to reflect on aspects of their culture that needed to be preserved, revived, or modified. Audiences noted the relatability and relevance of the provided information, generated ideas and priority themes for further documentation, and expressed the need for revival and modification of certain cultural food practices. Conclusion: A participatory filmmaking process in the context of community nutrition can enable participants to question unequal power relations by enabling the most marginalized to voice their own perspectives with the support of cameras and filmmaking skills.