Celebrating Kiriri susú

19 Jul 2019

The Slow Food Kiriri Manioc Flour Presidium promotes susú, a product typical of everyday life in indigenous villages.

Have you ever heard of susú? This delicacy is a typical food for 700 indigenous Kiriri families, who live in an area of 12,320 hectares of preserved forest in the Banzaê indigenous territory in the semi-arid region of Bahia, Northeast Brazil. Organized in 12 villages, on November 11 the Kiriri will commemorate their return to their territory after years of fighting to reclaim the land of their ancestors.

The Kiriri live in an ecoregion known as the Caatinga, and it is from this landscape that they harvest a variety of fruits, tubers, roots, and plants to feed their people, whose livelihoods are based mainly on agriculture, ranching, and the collection of Licuri, cashew, cambuí, murici, and cajá. Manioc is the staple food for Kiriri families, and susú is a classic manioc-based preparation that accompanies some local dishes. Susú is made from manioc flour, and its preparation, which involves many people, is a moment of sharing and socialization. To obtain the dough, the manioc is peeled, grated by hand, and placed on a piece of cloth that is then twisted to squeeze out the liquid. This process produces a dry, fibrous mass, which is refined by passing it through a sieve made of straw. The dough is formed into a circular shape and baked in a clay pot on a wood-burning stove.

I was lucky enough to take part in the preparation of susú during the season of the tanajuras, winged ants or the “caviar of the Kiriri.” The local families wait anxiously for the months of May and June to hunt the ants after thunderstorms and celebrate this unique moment of the year. Traditionally, beijus (tapioca crepes) are made from manioc paste, and the result is a fine and crunchy product. Susú, on the other hand, is obtained from whole manioc mass, and is therefore denser and more fibrous.

Manioc cultivation is one of the main agricultural activities of the Kiriri; it guarantees their food sovereignty and provides the raw material for their traditional flour. The villages mobilize to harvest process the flour that will be consumed throughout the year. The village of Marcação has two manioc processing facilities, one for the production of flour, led by men, and the other for the production of biscuits, under the command of young people and women. Flour is produced from September to November, and the annual yield is about 15 tonnes. Kiriri Manioc Flour is very different from the others, since the starch is not separated from the mass. In this way, the products made from the flour are soft and sweet.

Currently, the territory of Banzaê is suffering from long droughts, which affect the production of manioc and flour, putting one of the Kiriris’ staple foods and sources of income at risk. Faced with these challenges, through the Kiriri Manioc Flour Presidium, Slow Food has been carrying out a project to promote flour and other manioc products. This project involves the Kiriri youth of the Marcação Indigenous Village, who dialogue with the other local villages about social and biological diversity in order to strengthen the indigenous food culture. Kiriri Manioc Flour will be one of the products featured at Terra Madre Brasil, which will bring together products and producers from the five regions of the country, and will take place next year in Salvador, Bahia.

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