Slow Food Africa 2007


Supporting Local Food Traditions in Africa

UPDATE: Slow Food Africa/Terra Madre progress (5/17/08)

Slow Food AfricaLast year we launched Make Food Not War at the biannual international gathering of the Terra Madre network, organized by Slow Food International, and discussed ways to support food sovereignty and culinary traditions in Africa. Following in the footsteps of that meeting, in February of 2007 farmers from all over the world gathered at the "Forum pour la Souveraineté Alimentaire" (Forum on Food Sovereignty) in Sélingué, Mali, and declared food sovereignty that guarantees good, clean, and fair food to be the priority for people living in poor countries. In fact Africa is home to a host of vibrant efforts and campaigns to strengthen the cultural appreciation for, and the market share of indigenous African national and regional cuisines. It is also a region with the most acute need for the resources to support these campaigns, so we hope the examples below inspire others to learn more and to find out how they can collaborate with Slow Food International (www.slowfood.com) to advance this work.

This year Make Food Not War and Slow Food International will be supporting and helping to publicize specific food sovereignty campaigns in four African countries; The Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Gabon. These campaigns are intended to increase public awareness on the importance of local consumption as a key factor in supporting local and traditional food production.

Slow Food AfricaIn the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Slow Food convivium (the local Slow Food chapter in the town of Kiwandja, on the border with Uganda) will facilitate four educational activities in the Province of Nord-Kivu. Three of these activities will involve children, teachers and families in schools; another one will address food producers, fishermen from Lake Edouard, cooks, vendors, nutritionists, as well as opinion leaders from the Rutshulu region in the north of the country. These public activities are meant to raise awareness on the importance of eating local food and promoting traditional products, to encourage the growth of the local farmer's market, and will all be concluded with a communal tasting of maracuja juice "afya" and of the pineapple wines "karibu" and "tangawizi".

Slow Food AfricaIn Senegal a series of workshops are being prepared for school children at Le Point d'Interrogation restaurant in Dakar, one of the few restaurants in the country where original Senegalese ingredients are used and traditional Senegalese dishes are served. During these activities students will work side by side with cooks in the kitchen, so as to gain first-hand (sensory) experience of food, and detailed explanations will be given on production techniques, products' characteristics and cultural aspects related to dishes/ingredients. Another component of this project is lending support to the local monthly magazine Agri Infos, which is specifically addressed to a Senegalese rural audience, and is a central communication tool for promoting the idea of "eating local" in Senegalese rural areas.

Slow Food AfricaIn the Ivory Coast, a country still rebuilding itself after years of war and strife, the Slow Food convivium (the local chapter of Slow Food), is organizing a year-long training called "Cooking Traditions and Culture" in the school of the city of Korhogo in the southern region of the country. The audience for these forums is school children, but also their families, the cooks of the schools' canteens and the schoolteachers themselves. The motive of these gatherings is to raise awareness about the importance of eating food from Ivory Coast instead of imported food. Parallel workshops will be organized with the women cooperatives that provide food to school canteens, to focus on the importance of producing food without chemicals and according to ecologically sustainable and traditional techniques. School lunches will also be organized for children who attend schools without canteens in neighboring "maquis", i.e. the small and very simple restaurants that offer local wholesome cuisine.

Slow Food AfricaIn Gabon the Groupement d'Entraide pour le Développement Rural (Solidarity Group for Rural Development) is organizing for the first "North-South Gastronomic Day" to be held in Mitzic, in the region of Woleu Ntem, in Spring of 2008. The three-day festival will celebrate both indigenous Gabon food culture as well as the food traditions of foreign communities living in the country: people from Cameroon, Congo and Guinea. The event will feature conferences and debates on the social impact of food traditions and on how to reinforce the idea of local consumption by African peoples. Workshops held by cooks and producers are geared towards fostering an exchange of experiences among food producers from different geographical areas, and will allow participants to taste and recognize the characteristics of typical food and beverages. Finally, starting from the "First North-South Gastronomic Day" GEDER members will classify all Gabon traditional recipes and eventually edit a comprehensive book on the theme.

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