In the last 20 years, the Presidia have become one of the projects that successfully embody Slow Food’s vision of food production and biodiversity. It involves 78 countries and more than 15,000 producers in every region of the world, all with the shared goal of preserving the cultures, tastes and agro-diversity of local areas.
In 2017, Slow Food partnered with IFAD to launch a project to empower indigenous youth and their communities, improve the livelihoods of beneficiaries by protecting and promoting their food heritage, and uphold the sustainability and resilience of their practice.
The first component of the project consisted of providing support to five existing Indigenous Slow Food Presidia and creating five new Indigenous Slow Food Presidia.
The following products and peoples were involved:
- Honey – with three Presidia: Wichí Wild Honey in Argentina, Ogiek Honey in Kenya and Nahua Honey in Mexico;
- Waraná and Manioc flour – with two Presidia in Brazil: Sateré-Mawé Waraná and Kiriri Manioc Flour;
- Black and the Blue Crabs – with two Presidia: Providencia Black Crab in Colombia and Esmeraldas Blue Crab in Ecuador;
- Wild Fruits: Gran Chaco Wild Fruits in Argentina;
- Agave: Oaxaca Mixteca Agave in Mexico;
- Sheep – Red Maasai Sheep in Kenya.
Slow Food carried out a case study to analyze the progress of these Presidia, in particular Wichí Wild Honey in Argentina and the Red Maasai Sheep in Kenya, both newly established Slow Food Presidia.
The Wichí people in Argentina and the Wichí Wild Honey Slow Food Presidium
“Supporting honey gathering reaffirms us as the Wichí people, especially in the face of the cultural homogenization that globalization represents. Defending honey gathering is also defending our traditional culture, knowing how to recognize our own lives and the ownership of the forest and ourselves too, since this ownership is what gives us our identity.”
Juan Ignacio Pearson, coordinator of the Wichí Wild Honey Presidium.
The Wichí are the largest indigenous people of the Gran Chaco region, in Argentina, an area at the border between Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay. The Wichí have their own language, which is also one of the three official languages of Chaco Province in Argentina.
Honey, “Tsawotaj” in Wichì, is traditionally gathered by looking for wild honeycombs in hollow trees. Honey and wax are collected together and separated through pressing. Afterward, the honey is filtered three times through a cloth to remove impurities, before being packaged for sale.
The Larguero community in the Salta Province, where the Presidium was established, comprises approximately 50 Wichí people. The Presidium’s objective is to bring together in the same network producers, chefs, gastronomes, specialists and institutions who are interested in preserving and promoting the honey gathered by the Larguero community, as well as Wichí knowledge, culture and traditions.
Through the Project, the community organized training sessions, purchased equipment and constructed a new extraction space, with improved hygiene to meet official standards and hence sell honey on international markets. In 2020, the Presidium started selling its honey with the Slow Food label.
From 2019 to 2020, the Presidium doubled the purchase price of honey from gatherers and increased the market price by 30%, while in 2020 the quantity sold before the end of the harvesting season had increased by 75%.
Honey gathering among the Wichí is a traditionally male activity, but gender-based workshops were organized at which a gender expert talked about gathering and the use of carob flour in traditional nutrition. Then, to allow women too to benefit from the Presidium, they organized exchanges between the Larguero women and the neighboring indigenous women-led Slow Food Gran Chaco Wild Fruit Presidium, the women in both Presidia being wild fruit gatherers and carob flour producers.
The Maasai of Kenya and the Red Maasai Sheep Slow Food Presidium
“The Presidium changed my life in a way that has made me more aware of my roots, more aware of my culture, more curious about how our forefathers survived during hard times. And learning this has helped me to become more aware of the conservation of plants and animals, like the Red Maasai Sheep, that was almost becoming extinct”
Tunda Lepore, coordinator of the Red Maasai Sheep Presidium
The Maasai people of East Africa live along the Great Rift Valley in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. Traditionally, they were semi-nomadic people who survived periods of drought by searching for water, pasture and salt-licks wherever they could be found. Nowadays, because of climate change and the ban on their entering national parks and reserves, they are finding it harder and harder to survive.
The Maasai traditionally rely on cattle, goats and sheep. The Red Maasai Sheep is a traditional breed, resistant to arid conditions and diseases. However, after the British and national governments introduced the more productive but less resistant Dorper breed, the Red Maasai almost became extinct.
Slow Food Kenya proposed the Red Maasai sheep for a Presidium because of its uniqueness and, considering the benefits that would be generated, to help the Maasai people in the difficult situation in which they found themselves (mainly due to severe droughts and the impossibility of moving animals to better pastures and water).
By September 2020, the Presidium had 41 members, 20 of whom were youths when they joined, 19 of whom were women. The Presidium also left plenty of room for female participation, as women are considered to be highly skilled in identifying the best animals.
During the first year, the Project’s activities consisted of intensive training on subjects ranging from leadership and marketing to animal husbandry and nutrition.
Subject as it is to the rhythms of nature, the Presidium will be slow to show economic returns, but forecasts are promising. Since September 2020, in fact, the flocks have thrived, their numbers supplemented by the birth of several lambs.
Expanding marketing options and empowering youth
The expansion of marketing options for all Presidia has been the most successful outcome, also contributing to increasing the revenues of their members.
The Project significantly contributed to empowering the indigenous communities where the Presidia were established and offered an invaluable opportunity for many youths to develop a sustainable livelihood in their native areas.
In conclusion …
As it comes the Project to a close and looking at all the Presidia supported by it, we can draw some important conclusions.
All Presidia are managed by Indigenous Peoples and comprise products that have a strong cultural relevance for their identity, represent their local area and are a key element for the food security of the communities involved, directly and/or through income generation. Establishing the Presidia improved the initial economic status of members with better marketing opportunities thanks to improved product quality and food safety and larger production volumes.
The Presidia have helped empower youth, who have become key players, and adults by valorizing their traditional knowledge and enhancing it with new skills and know-how to better address their changing context.
The Presidia help in the key areas of biodiversity and environmental conservation, and economic development. Presidia membership is stable and there is expansion potential across all groups, thanks to the visible benefits generated through the establishment of the Presidia themselves.
For articles about the events and the project visit our page.
The collaboration between Slow Food and IFAD began in 2009, sharing a vision of supporting small-scale, diversified production and consumption mechanisms that focus on improving the marketing of local products. Such mechanisms reflect principles of quality, biodiversity and environmental conservation. They also guarantee the fair pricing of agricultural products that adequately compensates the work of smallholder families.
IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided about US$17.7 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached some 459 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub.