Africa Regional Meeting

28 Oct 2006

Yesterday saw the focus of Terra Madre turn to Africa, with a regional meeting for the continent presided over by Aminata Traoré, the writer and former Culture Minister for Mali.

During the inauguration of Terra Madre on Thursday she denounced the industrialized countries of the West for the harm they have done to her homeland, but yesterday she spoke directly to the people of Africa. ‘We are also to blame for the situation in Africa,’ she said. ‘We don’t believe in what we produce — our women buy fabric made in the West with our cotton, instead of helping the local textile industry’.

The only way to fight these contradictions is to create a network of small communities, and she recalled Carlo Petrini’s words: ‘the future is in local economy and not ruthless globalization’.

The governor of the Matruh region of Egypt said that the future of agriculture was organic but that new technology must be exploited. He then suggested that the next edition of Terra Madre be held in Egypt. ‘It would be a way for us to touch the problems of our continent directly’.

Samuel Muhunyu spoke for Kenya: ‘We are getting food communities communicating with each other, creating dedicated websites where they can share experiences and projects’. Small steps, but they show how Terra Madre’s dream of a network of producers is becoming a reality in his country.

The public debate that followed was focused on the need for communities to come together. ‘We cannot just talk about our products,’ said a pepper producer from Guinea. ‘We have to start a collective thought process which doesn’t end with Terra Madre’.

Aminata Traoré spoke again at the end, expressing her disgust with African politcians. ‘We are fed up with your false promises’, she shouted. ‘You have turned us into the garbage can of the West!’

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