The project Empowering Indigenous Youth and their Communities to Defend and Promote their Food Heritage, financed by IFAD, started in 2018 through an agreement between Slow Food, IFAD, and the Kiriri community of Banzaê. The project emerged to bring new income alternatives for young Kiriri people by promoting the manioc of the Kiriri people and biodiversity, with the general objective of improving local livelihoods, protecting and promoting food heritage, and maintaining the sustainability of the indigenous practices of the Kiriri of Banzaê.
It is worth highlighting that this was the first project geared to young people, in which they made the decisions and definitions regarding activities, respecting the three project components: increasing the economic value of products linked to food heritage; providing institutional support for the local network and strengthening the Indigenous Terra Madre network; helping to manage and disseminate traditional knowledge and knowledge developed through the project. Cultivation of manioc and its derivatives is the focus of the project, including sociocultural and environmental question. Discussing manioc from the semi-arid areas of Bahia immediately raises the issues of climate change, biodiversity, food and nutrition security, working in networks, income generation, innovations, sustainability, empowerment of youth, and political lobbying. These issues are addressed throughout the project.
We discussed this with Revecca Tapie, coordinator and facilitator of the Slow Food Nordeste network.
How was the community 10 or 20 years ago?
The history of the indigenous Kiriri peoples in Banzaê has been marked by the struggle to regain land and to return to the territory of their ancestors. After yeas of claims, in the 1990s, 12,320 hectares of land in the municipality of Banzaê, in the state of Bahia, were officially demarcated as indigenous Kiriri land. Over the years, the families organised and expanded across the territory, currently forming 9 villages with approximately 665 families. A long period living on unproductive land, because of the arrival of farming and appropriation by squatters on indigenous territory, affected the local food culture and cultural aspects of the Kiriri, who now no longer live just from what they produce and hunt. However, they have still maintained traditional crops like maize, manioc, and beans, and spiritual rituals like the toré, traditional costumes and clothes, and social organisation with the chief as representative.
A funny anecdote about something that happened during the project activities?
During reconnaissance of the production areas in the village of Marcação, they suggested that we should finish the activity by all sharing some typical local food. The main dish was susú, made from the same dough used to produce manioc flour. The visitors were invited to peel and grate the manioc under the watchful eye of the Kiriri. Although they thought they were doing it right, they did not pass the test, because the Kiriri hold their utensils differently.
What is the most important change for the community brought by this project?
The biggest change was involving young people in the entire process of producing and marketing in the biscuit factory, so they got to know all the administrative and financial aspects of marketing, further empowering them in supplementary activities alongside agriculture. Another great lesson was the change in the starch biscuit recipe, adding typical products from the Caatinga biome and from family farming, showing the diversity of production, and promoting the indigenous identity. The autonomy to make decisions and offer opinions about project implementation was a great lesson for the young Kiriri people, and this offered a new perspective on working in networks.
Which activity was most important in the process?
The practical activities had a positive effect, increasing motivation and understanding of the project objectives among beneficiaries. These practical elements included: exchanges; participation in the Indigenous Terra Madre network; training on the Slow Food philosophy; creating the production protocol; evaluation and creation of new labels; developing new recipes; finding practices and tools for fiscal, financial, and administrative management of the enterprises to suit the local situation; and a study on expanding new sales channels. The promotion of local cultures, and the survey of local production and the indigenous food culture in line with Eco-gastronomy, was important for establishing contact between the young and old in the village of Marcação.
How do you think that the community will carry on in the future?
The Covid-19 process left young people very unsure of how to progress with the activities, as dialogue was needed within the Fortress to understand the planning changes caused by the pandemic. However, the project is leaving a solid legacy, with materials generated to guide activities and promote the Slow Food fortress of manioc, promoting local biodiversity and contributing to training and knowledge management among young Kiriri people.
Did Covid-19 affect the activities of this project, and what was the response?
Yes, it was decided within ACIKSAM (the Kiriri Indigenous Community Association of Santo André de Marcação) that visits to the indigenous territory from outside should be stopped, and face-to-face activities stopped in February 2020. This affected the work schedule, and plans to hold an Eco-gastronomy workshop, with the participation of Terra Madre Brazil, to market the products and hold an exchange with other indigenous peoples of Brazil. However, the activities were continued remotely, and there was re-planning to meet demands like acquisition of equipment, production of labels, finalising the production protocol, producing promotional material, meetings with leaders, and support for the local process with young people.
How do you and the community that you worked with feel today about the Slow Food network? What would you like us to do together in the future?
There is great potential and a great challenge when it comes to strengthening the indigenous network in Brazil; there is scope to expand political lobbying and promotion of the local food culture and biodiversity. The participation of the Indigenous Terra Madre network in Latin America was very important, to inspire Brazil to expand and share experiences. In future there could be coordination between indigenous peoples in Brazil for a future Indigenous Terra Madre. Extending partnerships for marketing with the Slow Food Brazil network offers great potential, as many young people got involved in the project; they are interested, and these sales could generate income for everyone.
How do you imagine the community in 10 years time?
In 10 years time, we want to reap the fruits of all the work and effort that we are putting into this and other projects that are supporting knowledge in the community and promoting the culture of the Kiriri people outside. We also hope to involve the parents of these young people in the process. I believe that in 10 years time the work will expand both in the manioc flour processing unit and the biscuit factory, generating income and autonomy for young people and strengthening local production.