Yara Dowani (top left) and Mingxin Li (bottom right)

CLIMAVORE x Jameel at the Royal College of Art announces recipients of 2024 Food Action Awards


CLIMAVORE x Jameel at the Royal College of Art (RCA), a partnership between CLIMAVORE and Community Jameel developed at the RCA, has announced the recipients of its inaugural Food Action Awards as Yara Dowani (Research Action Award) and Mingxin Li (Emerging Practice Award).  

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.

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 and 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.

Professor Christoph Lindner, president & vice-chancellor of the Royal College of Art, said: 'The Food Action Awards are an exciting investment in the potential for artistic practice and research to impact the way we can adapt food systems in the context of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. CLIMAVORE x Jameel at RCA is enabling such vital investment and the outcomes will give us a greater sense of how we can live and thrive in partnership with nature in the future.’

Cléa Daridan, head of arts and culture, Community Jameel, said: ‘We are very pleased to be launching the CLIMAVORE x Jameel at RCA Food Action Awards, which reflect Community Jameel’s commitment to a multidisciplinary approach in responding to the climate crisis, including through food. With these awards, Community Jameel is proud to be supporting Yara Dowani in Palestine and Mingxin Li in Tibet, and we look forward to further engaging with them over the next year.

Alon Schwabe and Daniel Fernández Pascual, said: ‘We are extremely excited that in their first year the CLIMAVORE x Jameel Food Action Award attracted almost 100 applications from 24 countries across the world. The selection process has been invigorating with diverse, innovative and incredibly strong proposals, responding to some of the most urgent conditions and CLIMAVORE seasons that are emerging in the climate crisis. We are delighted to be working with the winner of the 2024 Food Action Award, Yara Dowani from Om Sleiman Farm and the Emerging Practice Awardee Mingxin Li to support the development of their practice over the next 12 months. We are also happy that we can highlight some of the truly exceptional proposals we have received and are looking forward to being in dialogue with many of the applicants.’

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.