On Fadiouth Island in Senegal, the women rise early each day to tend to children and domestic chores before beginning their work transforming local millet into couscous. The laborious process is carried out over two days: the grain of locally grown millet is husked, sifted, and washed in the sea before being ground to create an unusual salted couscous. This ancient tradition has been passed down through generations of the indigenous Serer people, and today local women are being supported to continue upholding their community’s food security through the Slow Food Fadiouth Island Salted Millet Couscous Presidium.
Like the Serer, women all around the world are responsible for growing, transforming and preserving local harvests. In the demanding environments of the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan, women in the Pamir Mulberry Presidium harvest more than 60 varieties of mulberries, which are enjoyed fresh or used to make jams and sweeteners for tea. In Brazil, in the dry lands of the Sertão, the Umbu Presidium producers collect fruit from the wild umbu tree to produce jams and preserves. And in Macedonia the traditional recipe for slatko, a wild fig preserve using otherwise-inedible fruit, remains in the hands of a few women united in the Wild Figs Slatko Presidium.
In these areas, as in many parts of the world, women traditionally have an important role in providing food for the community and for their families. They cultivate the soil, look after the seeds of traditional plants, and safeguard recipes of the local cuisine. Yet the situation of women farmers is too often a story of a denial of the fundamental and inalienable right to feed themselves.
We tend to forget that the future of many developing countries is in the hands of women. According to FAO, if women farmers had access to the same opportunities and resources as their male counterparts, their productivity would rise significantly and the food security of millions of people would be improved. Our job is to support them, put their demands for rights at the center of debates on development, campaigns and actions of political pressure from civil society. We must support their projects and sustain their work, as we have been doing in the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity’s projects.
Today, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Slow Food salutes the women around the world whose work is essential to communities, families and the future of agriculture.
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Fadiouth Island Salted Millet Couscous Presidium, Senegal
Pamir Mulberry Presidium, Tajikistan