For Australia Awards alumna Dr Matina Joshi Vaidya, conserving traditional Nepalese food-technology and making it popular across the world is the ultimate dream.
Among the few women holding a leadership position in a Nepalese government institution, Matina is not only working towards enhancing the industry, she is also passionate about sharing her knowledge with future generations.
Born in a culturally rich Newar family in Patan city of Kathmandu valley, Matina has a strong affection towards traditional food and food technology. She has closely observed people from her neighbourhood preparing typical Newari food such as yomari, bara and chatamari, and is concerned that these cuisines, which were popular in the past, are now losing their popularity.
“With varieties of food from around the world now available in Nepal, indigenous food-items have lost their significance. We are facing the danger of losing our traditional food and technology”
– Dr Matina Joshi Vaidya.
Working as the Deputy Director General at the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, Matina is among the few Nepalese women to have become Joint-Secretary at the Government of Nepal. She holds a doctoral degree in food technology from the Federation University Australia. She got this opportunity to study in Australia in 2009, as a recipient of an Australia Awards Scholarship; then known as an Australia Leadership Award.
Matina was intensely involved in a rheological and textural analysis of food during her doctoral programme. These analyses, according to Matina, help understand the technology applied to particular food items. “I wanted to impart that knowledge to my colleagues in Nepal to conserve the technology used in traditional and indigenous food that is on the brink of being forgotten”.
As an effort to impart her knowledge, Matina took the initiative to introduce textural analysis instruments to study the textural quality of indigenous products of Nepal. She believes that these instruments will help the younger generation understand, preserve and promote traditional food technology.
Only a few women are directly involved in policymaking at many of Nepal’s government institutions. Matina is one of them. The department, where she holds a senior position, is the umbrella institution for food technology, with 25 offices located in different parts of Nepal. It is a challenging task to hold a leadership position in such a vast organisation, and Matina loves the challenge. Recalling the knowledge she received through leadership development training in Australia Matina says, “one should be prepared to operate outside their comfort zone, to be able to unleash their potential and achieve success”.
Matina has also made a significant contribution in drafting a new ‘Food Act’. According to Matina, the existing Act dates back to 1967 and does not adequately address the domestic and international risks and challenges in food safety. As an effort to address the shortcomings of the existing Act, the new ‘Food Act’ has adopted the farm to fork approach where additional food-safety related requirements are added to comply with international laws and standards.
Apart from this, Matina is also leading a team, drafting directives, food standards and guidelines. “I am happy to note that my team has prepared 15 food standards and four directives have now been approved by the Government of Nepal and are brought into implementation”, she says with delight.
Matina says the analytical skills and the in-depth knowledge on food-technology she gained during her time in Australia was instrumental in drafting such policies. “I want to contribute towards the enhancement of food technology as much as I can. I also want to take traditional Nepalese food to the world. I will continue my research on traditional and indigenous food technology and impart that knowledge to the younger generation”, says Matina, determined to ensure that the world remembers traditional and indigenous Nepalese food in the years to come.