Ethnobotany, branding, and a communication gap for local food products
Recently I attended the Hornbill Festival in Kohima town, Nagaland. It was a great event in many ways. But when I bought local food products I found a lack of effective communication.
Here is an example - a packet of dried bamboo shoots. The overall appearance of the package was very nice, with black, brown, and white colours that complemented the brown, dried shoots inside.
Here is the full text on front and back of the package, from top to bottom on each side.
Produce of Self Help Groups of Nagaland
Under Transformative Livelihood Intervention Project
Dried Bamboo Shoots
Naturally grown products of Nagaland
Facilitated by: The Department of Women [sic] Development, Government of Nagaland
Packed by: Genial Society, TLI Meriema, Kohima, Nagaland
Date of packing: 3.20. Net Weight: 100
M.R.P.: 100 (Incl. of all taxes)
Best before: [blank] from date of packing
OK - so that is all interesting information for the visiting tourist willing to pay a relatively high price for a small amount of a local product. But at least three things are missing.
The package designers have told the buyer nothing about:
(1) the actual farmers growing the bamboo (who? where?) (who are the 'self help groups'?),
(2) the botanical identification (bamboo genus, species, and variety)
(3) how to use the product (general uses? example recipe?).
The designers have assumed that the buyer already knows how to use dried bamboo shoots in general, and this fine-cut form of dried bamboo shoot in particular.
The essential problem seems to be that the people sponsoring this product appear most interested in promoting themselves to the buyer, to the exclusion of information that might be of most interest to the buyer.
This is not a good way to sell a product, and not the best way to promote the product sponsors.
It is good for the sponsors to be known to buyers, but at point of sale the information most needed by a possible buyer should be given, and should be made most obvious.
This example highlights a need for more communication between local farming communities, their private and public supporters, ethnobotanical researchers, and customer user groups. I write as an outsider, raised in New Zealand and working in Japan.
We have similar communication problems in these countries too!
I would welcome comments here by others in Nagaland, India, and beyond.