TURIN, JANUARY 24 – Terra Madre comes for the very first time to West Africa. The meeting, organized by Slow Food and the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, will be held in the Burkinabe capital of Ouagadougou on February 3 and 4. Two new Slow Food Presidia will be launched in the occasion, for red rice from Comoé (established thanks to support from the Region of Piedmont) and the Arbollé yam variety (supported by Fondazioni for Africa Burkina Faso).
Burkina Faso has had its share of difficult history. After a period of French colonial rule that lasted from the late 1800s until 1960, the country slowly began seeking a new form of self-determination. The immediate post-colonial era was marked by coups d’état and military activity, leading to the years of revolution led by Thomas Sankara, known to many as the “African Che Guevara.” He applied his revolutionary approach to many areas, including food production policy. With his friend Pierre Rabhi he began working on an agricultural reform based on agroecological principles and food sovereignty. But the process ended in 1987 when Sankara was assassinated.
Now, the Slow Food network in Burkina Faso is trying to bring the focus back to the importance of local foods and the country’s extraordinary traditions, the fruit of centuries of intermingling between ethnic groups and cultures.
On February 3 and 4, Terra Madre Burkina Faso will present the results of three years of intense work. During this time, Slow Food has been learning about and mapping the country’s native food products, working with the food communities, creating two Presidia and 120 community and school food gardens and providing support for other organizations fighting against GMOs.
The event, organized as part of the Fondazioni for Africa Burkina Faso initiative, will bring together small-scale farmers and food producers, cooks, researchers, students, agronomists, journalists, artists, and consumers.
It will include a market where local food producers can sell their products, including gatherers from the Comoé-Léraba forest, Peulh-ethnicity cheesemakers and communities linked to the 10,000 Gardens in Africa project. A thematic exhibition will give visitors a chance to discover the value of local biodiversity through the 20 Ark of Taste products. As well, two new Slow Food Presidia will be launched, for red rice from Comoé (established thanks to support from the Region of Piedmont) and the Arbollé yam variety (supported by Fondazioni for Africa Burkina Faso). Additionally, on Friday February 3, the documentary The Seed War, an exploration of the global seed market directed by Clément Montfort and Stenka Quillet, will be screened at the Centre Culturel Français Georges Méliès. Along with organic agriculture, local foods, the importance of the soil and the strengthening of food sovereignty among local people, the theme of seeds will also be the focus of other meetings the following day, held at the Maison du Peuple. The event will close with music from Hado Ima. Inspired by ancient proverbs, his songs have long dealt with universal themes like the right to water and land, the role of women, peace and love.
“The time has come for Burkina Faso to reflect on its agricultural, gastronomic and traditional heritage in a new way, with pride,” said Carlo Petrini, the president of Slow Food. “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. There are new paradigms now, and it is no longer necessary to replicate all the mistakes of the old West in order for the country to find its own path forward.” (@OnuItalia)