A science based cookbook on biocultural biodiversity


The cookbook, With Our Own Hands, from The Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan and war-torn Afghanistan documents the unwritten knowledge about the remarkable crop diversity in the region, that can hold keys to coping with extreme weather events and other aspects of environmental change.

The cookbook started as a scientific research project analyzing the links between poverty, culture and biodiversity in the agricultural areas in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The region, characterized by plateaus and steep-sided gorges, has many different microclimates and harbors a remarkable biological diversity. Species evolve – often by the hands of farmers – to cope with these differing conditions creating many varieties. With climate change, crops selected to maximize production in the global food system are increasingly vulnerable to crop failure due to extreme weather events. The diversity of crop varieties in the Pamirs make it an important repository for global food resilience. While many seeds in the Pamirs have been collected and saved in the Svalbard seed vault, the knowledge and practice that created and maintains those seeds is not frozen along with those seeds. This book documents this knowledge. The book which contains 130 recipes, brings to life, for the first time, the Pamir region’s ancient rich agricultural and cultural heritage – the assumed origin of rye, many varieties of legumes, walnuts, apples, pears, apricots, mulberries, and over 150 varieties of wheat. The book was published in 2015, with a second edition in 2017. A documentary film was made about the return of the book to the Pamirs. The book and film have inspired a range of new initiatives in the Pamirs, including local food restaurants, field schools, food festivals and a renewed sense of hope and pride in the role that biocultural diversity plays in global food system transformation.