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Yaks in Wetland Pasture, February 2024

Key details


  • 4 June 2024


  • RCA

Read time

  • 3 minutes

CLIMAVORE x Jameel at RCA reimagines foodways for drylands and wetlands in the climate crisis. It advances ecological networks to produce new knowledge and action towards spatial justice. The Food Action Awards are given to support projects that advance food systems in the new seasons of the climate crisis, led by international practitioners, collectives and researchers in the areas of architecture, visual arts, food studies, farming, queer ecologies, environmental humanities and related disciplines.

The first award, Research Action, consisting of £25,000, went to Yara Dowani for her project Regeneration Towards Liberation which tackles a season of drought by testing syntropic farming as a regenerative method for food production in Palestine. As the co-founder of Om Sleiman farm, Yara is engaged in conducting field trials, building on her multiyear efforts to find a model for a regenerative polyculture that can produce healthy food for the community and a collaborative ecosystem using native plants and available local resources. The jury found Yara’s passion and approach contagious. The award will enable Om Sleiman Farm to expand its work with women and food collectives on the ground that can reach similar geographies facing the challenges of limited water access, aquifer exploitation and drought across the Mediterranean and beyond.

Om Sleiman Farm

The Emerging Practice award for recent RCA graduates, consisting of £15,000, went to Mingxin Li for the project Golden Butter, Golden Motherland, which looks into ways to address the disappearance of the yak herding wetlands in Tibet. Engaging the local community in seeing, riding, collecting, producing, tasting, storytelling, and memory retrieval—the project aims to reactivate and transmit ancestral food and pastoralist knowledge between generations to form new networks that can support ongoing and future environmental crises. The jury was impressed by the engagement with the community, the research-led practice, and the multiple possibilities the project can expand locally and internationally for pastoralist communities and drained wetlands worldwide.

Both proposals demonstrate critical and forward thinking, specificity, situatedness, political commitment and a distinctive research theme and methodology.  The projects will start in summer 2024, and complete their work within 12 months. During this time, CLIMAVORE x Jameel at RCA will be supporting and advising on the projects through regular exchanges with the teams.

The Food Action Award jury was chaired by Danielle Burrows (CLIMAVORE x Jameel at RCA) and consisted of: Cooking Sections, Cléa Daridan (Head of Arts and Culture, Community Jameel), Christine Eyene (eye.on.art), Rahul Gudipudi (Senior Curator, CARA), Adrian Lahoud (Dean, School of Architecture, Royal College of Art), Abby Rose (Farmerama Radio), and Paulo Tavares (autônoma / FAU, Universidade de Brasília).

The jury also wanted to give the following six Honourable Mentions to commend the work of:

  • Alys Fowler
  • Cao Minghao & Chen Jianjun
  • Dharmendra Prasad and Pujita Guha (Harvest School & Hosting Lands)
  • Qanat
  • Tizintizwa Collective
  • Yoshiharu Tsukamoto Lab

For this first edition, almost 100 applications were received for projects across five continents, including in India, Kurdistan, Palestine, Hong Kong, Tunisia, Japan, Morocco, Iraq, Spain, Sápmi, Wales, Canada, Nigeria, Türkiye, USA, Philippines, Italy, UK, Mexico, Hungary, Lebanon, Indonesia, Peru to Colombia. The jury commended the diversity and quality of the applications, their rigour and wide-ranging nature of the topics addressed. The projects focused on a range of human-made seasons that include: drought, wetland disappearance, monoculture, ‘invasive’ species, saltwater intrusion, exhausted soils, and wildfires. The next round of Food Action Awards will be launched in spring 2025.

The announcement follows the third edition of Istanbul’s annual water buffalo festival - Manda Festivali - which took place on Saturday 1 June this year in Ağaçlı village near Istanbul in Türkiye, hosted by CLIMAVORE x Jameel at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in partnership with the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV). The Manda Festivali is part of CLIMAVORE x Jameel at RCA’s Water Buffalo Commons project.

The festival highlighted the presence and permanence of both water buffalo and herders in Istanbul, while preserving the historic food heritage of such practices. Bringing together local herders, musicians, ecologists, artists, biologists, cheese makers and the general public, the festival offered a full programme of activities including a chance to sample water buffalo milk delicacies in outdoor tastings, served by EK BİÇ YE İÇ and local producers.

This year, the festival offered Istanbul’s residents, food producers and environmentalists an opportunity to come together and highlight, celebrate and support the cultural and ecological importance of both buffalo herding and Istanbul’s endangered wetlands, in order to maintain pastoralist landscapes in contemporary society.