Peter Volz’ experiences with IGCS, Tamil Nadu, and the 5th IGD

My exchange with the Indo-German Centre for Sustainability (IGCS) took place in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India on October 13-15, 2023, however, there were also in-depth meetings and exchanges in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.

The objective of the IGD (Indo-German Dialogue) is the exchange between Indian and German scientists and other stakeholders on interdisciplinary local sustainability activities. The topic of food systems and especially regional sustainable practices has become a focus of the exchange, which has been taking place for several years now. I, Peter Volz, had previously participated in this format and had a longer research stay at the IITM in Chennai in 2021. One result of this research was the publication with Dr. Christoph Woiwode titled “Towards a Sustainable Transformation of the Food System in the Chennai Region” (see online here). This topic was also addressed at this year’s meeting in Tiruvannamalai. 

Special attention was paid to the role of local processes, “Genus loci – Locality matters,” at this year’s IGD. The German side therefore focused on the importance of food councils and similar structures for shaping the food system. The Agronauts have been working on this for many years and co-founded the food council in Freiburg. In addition, Peter Volz is currently supervising an Indian scientist who is working in Germany on food councils and a possible transfer of this concept to India.

The Cologne Food Council was also represented by Managing Director Florian Sander. 

The concept of food councils was presented at the meeting in Tiruvannamalai and there was some interest in the approach from various Indian stakeholders, e.g. from the “Edible Roots” initiative from Delhi. A stronger and continuous exchange on the implementation of food councils between Germany and India was also addressed, e.g. via a blog/website and learning exchange. The IGCS could provide a good framework for this. This was a result that is now being worked on as a follow-up. 

In addition to the content-related exchange, the IGD program also included an introduction to the hosts of “F5”, a cultural program and a visit to the famous pilgrimage site of Tiruvannamalai. This time, 28 people from initiatives in the field of sustainability (e.g. regional organic food) were represented, including 5 initiatives from Germany.

What was particularly striking about the IGD was that the participants were very motivated and interested. Some had already taken part in an IGD. This created a constructive atmosphere. In addition to the presentation of the various projects, there was also an intensive exchange on how the different approaches in Germany and India can enrich each other. Continuity was also addressed. The important role of Dr. Christoph Woiwode, who has been promoting the exchange for years, was emphasized.

In addition to the participants, there were guest speakers and a visit from Tirivannamalai and a farmers’ cooperative. There was also a cultural program and very good sustainable food. 

The IGD was therefore a complete success, strengthening the links and cooperation between India and Germany in the field of sustainability.

On experiences with the IGD

The Indo-German Dialogue (IGD) was held from October 13-15, 2023 in Tiruvannamalai, South India. 28 people from initiatives in the field of sustainability (e.g. regional organic food) were represented, 5 of them from Germany. The theme was “Genus loci – Locality matters” and therefore it was very appropriate to introduce the concept of food councils. The increased focus on sustainable and climate-friendly nutrition can be addressed and ideally improved locally through food councils. Examples from Freiburg and Cologne were given during this exchange. Further exchange on the topic via blog/website etc. was considered. 

In addition to the substantive program, excursions with exchanges with small farmers and a cultural program were also offered. The exchange with the smallholder initiative was a particular highlight of the trip. The dialog between India and Germany is an enrichment for me. Impulses can be set and the continuity of the IGDs enables in-depth exchange.    The work in the research organization “Die Agronauten” deals with the topics of nutrition and agriculture. These topics are particularly close to my heart, as they have a major impact on our health, economy and health. I have been practicing exchange between Germany and South Asia (Sri Lanka, India) for many years.