The first of West African food communities will be held on February 3 and 4 in Ouagadougou Burkina Faso. Organized by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity as part of Fondazioni for Africa Burkina Faso, the event will promote the right to food run by 28 banking foundations which are members of ACRI, the association of Italian savings banks and foundations.
Participating in the event will be producers from the two new Burkinabe Presidia, the Comoé red rice and the Arbollé yam variety. Slow Food Presidia are projects that support quality food production at risk of extinction, protect unique regions and ecosystems, recover traditional processing methods and safeguard native breeds and local plant varieties.
“The Slow Food network in Burkina Faso wants to see a renewed focus on the importance of local foods and production techniques, in order to protect the extraordinary traditions that have come about thanks to centuries of intermingling between ethnic groups and cultures,” said Carlo Petrini, the president of Slow Food. “The time has come for Burkina Faso to reflect on its agricultural, gastronomic and traditional heritage in a new way, with pride. Pride that it can find by turning its back on a Western approach that scorns subsistence agriculture, degrading it as wretched and recognizing development only where profits are accumulated.”
The Presidia for red rice will protect a traditional variety from Comoé province, in the south of Burkina Faso, near the border with the Côte d’Ivoire.
The Presidium was started in 2016 thanks to a collaboration between the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, the Region of Piedmont, Coldiretti Piemonte, the consortium of Piedmontese NGOs, the Province of Vercelli and the Association Inter Villageoise de Gestion des Ressources Naturelles et de la Faune de la Comoé-Léraba (the inter-village association for the management of the Comoé-Léraba natural resources and fauna).
The Presidium’s aim is to preserve the local variety of Oryza glaberrima and to promote the local cultural identity, as well as to provide local people with an economic alternative to poaching and the over-exploitation of resources.
The Arbollé yam is a variety grown in the seven villages of the commune of Arbollé, 50 kilometers north of Ouagadougou. Its cultivation is increasingly rare due to the spread of other more profitable crops, a reduction in the amount of arable land available and the abandonment of agriculture by young people. The Presidium was launched following the mapping of food products carried out as part of the Fondazioni for Africa Burkina Faso project and meetings with food communities to promote local resources.
Slow Food has been working in Burkina Faso since 2010 focusing on two main projects: the creation of a network of community and school food gardens and the mapping of local food products. These two main projects have strengthened in 2014 thanks to the Fondazioni for Africa initiative, a project funded by the ACRI Foundation in collaboration with several Italian NGOs.
Over the years, a substantial network of activists has developed in the country, making it possible to identify the first local products at risk of extinction (there are currently 20 in the Ark of Taste), create a network of food gardens (currently numbering 124 in the country) and exchange experiences, while working to protect biodiversity and affirm the right to food sovereignty.