Showcasing the aromas, colors and flavors of Mozambique; helping local producers and promoting agrobiodiversity; safeguarding the sea and the land; and protecting their guardians… All this and more every last Saturday of the month at the Earth Market in Maputo.
Guardians of the sea
As shoppers wander past the stalls, taking in the bright colors and the smiling faces of farmers who have come from the countryside surrounding the capital, they can buy traditional leafy greens, vegetables, fruit, fresh fish, rice, fruit juices, jams and street food such as samosas, rissois and bajias, the country’s typical bean fritters.
Everything is local, seasonal and artisanal, sold by the producers themselves, who bring not only their wares to the market, but also their stories. Some come from far away, travelling along long dirt roads and across rivers to reach Maputo. For example, the fishers from Macaneta, a village in the Marracuene district around 40 kilometers from Maputo. Before coming to the market, they spend the night catching bluefish, garapa, shrimp and more. They are fishers, but they are also the guardians of the seas and the coasts, which to them have represented food, identity and a living, for generations. They respect the times when the fish are reproducing, only catch adult fish and use artisanal methods, such as rods, which have a minimal impact on the environment. Their laws are dictated by nature and the sea, not by the market.
The vegetable growers of Baía de Maputo
Flora, a vegetable grower from the small town of Catembe, is the president of the Autoapoio association, which runs the Chamissava community food garden (one of the 10,000 African Slow Food gardens). The garden covers around a hectare, the sandy soil cultivated by 12 women who work together, preparing compost, saving seeds, managing the water and raising chickens. At the market, Flora proudly sells traditional greens (leaves from manioc, amaranth, pumpkin, sweet potato and beans) and the ingredients for flavorful sauces (carril) served with rice or millet, manioc or corn porridge. Autoapoio is not just an association of producers; Flora’s women are also the guardians of a plot that has belonged to their community for generations. The plot is currently threatened by the increasing urbanization of Maputo, another African capital experiencing an incredible rate of growth. As the new road connecting Maputo and Catembe passes right by the garden, defending the land from the spread of cement is becoming increasingly tough.
For these small-scale producers, the Maputo Earth Market represents a meeting place where they can sell but also talk about their products, explain how they are grown, describe their cultural and nutritional value, and suggest traditional recipes for preparing them. A place for many communities to share their stories and their daily challenges, the Earth Market offers a valid alternative to the African markets run entirely by middlemen and traders.
The Maputo Earth Market was started in 2013 by Slow Food in collaboration with the GVC NGO. It is part of a project to support sustainable agriculture funded by the Emilia-Romagna Regional Authority. The market is coordinated by GVC with the support of UNAC (the national union of Mozambican farmers), the NGO ESSOR and the Convivium Muteko-Waho association. It is held on the last Saturday of every month from 10 am to 4 pm. The 13 participating producers sell street food, fresh fruit and vegetables, jams, alcoholic beverages and juices, grains, peanut butter, fish and eggs. For more information email [email protected].
Find out more about the Earth Market project.
This article was first published in the Slow Food Almanac.