“If you want to get there first, walk alone; if you want to go far, walk together.” This African saying summed up the conference held today at Salone del Gusto to commemorate the signing of an agreement between the Piedmont Regional Authority and the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity to collaborate on development projects in Africa.
Representatives of some of Slow Food’s African Presidia, such as white Wukro honey from Ethiopia, mullet bottarga made by Imraguen women in Mauritania and Moroccan Argan oil, presented their stories and explained how Slow Food had helped them improve, promote and find a market for their products, for example by sending three Imraguen women to Orbetello in Tuscany to study hygiene techniques and learn how to upgrade the quality of their bottarga.
Mercedes Bresso, Piedmont’s President, explained that her region had set up 380 development projects in the Sahel region of Africa over the last 10 years, investing over 15 million euros and working in fields like environment, training, agriculture and irrigation. She said the Foundation’s role in this new collaboration would be to rediscover, safeguard and promote typical products. “Obviously we want to protect food security,” she said, “but also extract some extraordinary products to help save biodiversity.” As an example, she mentioned Planalto de Bolona goat cheese from Cape Verde, a Presidium supported by the region and a way for the local communities to add value to goat milk in an arid, mountainous area.
Slow Food President Carlo Petrini spoke passionately about “the problem of Africa” and what could be done to help. But he said that instead of the word “help,” we should instead talk about “restitution,” compensation for all the years of colonialism when Europeans took so much from the continent. And he said it was absolutely fundamental that any project established in Africa was run by Africans. The solution to Africa’s food-security problems, said Petrini, lay in small-scale agriculture, subsistence farming rooted in the land and its traditions and run by women.