More products at risk of extinction from Brazil, Mozambique and Angola board the Ark of Taste.
Every element of an ecosystem is essential to the survival of all the others. This is why biodiversity is our insurance for the future, guaranteeing the equilibrium so urgently required by our increasingly threatened planet. Getting to know local areas and protecting livestock breeds and plant varieties, food products and gastronomic traditions is a critical priority, particularly as the loss of biodiversity becomes more and more of an emergency.
The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity is well aware of the dire situation. Supported by the G.Lo.B (Governance Local para a Biodiversidade) project, co-funded by the European Commission, it is carrying out intensive mapping and research in order to welcome new products to the Ark of Taste and encourage decision-makers to define and adopt public policies that promote the safeguarding and promotion of agrobiodiversity, while also improving quality of life and reducing the economic and social vulnerability of small-scale producers.
The project is working in specific geographic areas (Angola, Brazil and Mozambique) where the changing climate and socio-economic changes have seriously endangered the survival of many traditional foods and native varieties. In Brazil, for example, the prolonged absence of abundant rains has damaged the local biodiversity, while recent years have also seen a loss of vegetation in the desert areas in the northeast of the country, due to deforestation and fires. These factors mean the production of honey is now at serious risk, particularly the honey produced by the Mandaçaia bee (Melipona mandaçaia), and the Munduri bee, protected by the Ark of Taste. The honey is primarily processed by the women from the local communities in a semi-arid region of Bahia, and production has been heavily affected by the spread of agriculture and the use of insecticides on crops in the areas where the bees live. The situation for fish stocks is not much better. Environmental degradation, unregulated fishing, improper use of land and the construction of infrastructure that blocks the natural reproduction of species have all led to a decline in the available fish and a loss of fish biodiversity in river basins. Some species, like the pacamã, have almost disappeared as a result.
In Angola too, the progressive drying of pastures has made the semi-nomadic herding of the Mucubal, Cavelocamue and Bibala ethnic groups increasingly difficult. The survival of their livestock breeds and their products are therefore at risk. They include the Carneiro sheep and a typical soured milk, leite azedo, both on board the Ark of Taste. The challenges of nomadic livestock herding and the scarcity of milk are pushing the communities into what is effectively a forced conversion to sedentary farming, and they are losing many of their traditions. Climate change in general has had a strong influence on the country’s biodiversity. One example is the almost complete disappearance of the maungo, a moth whose caterpillar is an important source of protein and income for rural communities. The insect’s presence is closely linked to the rains, increasingly rare for some years now, and the mopane tree, which is suffering from intense deforestation for charcoal production.
In Mozambique, meanwhile, agricultural policy tends to favor the intensive and widespread farming of a few crops, using hybrid or genetically modified seeds. As a result, the food available is increasingly standardized, but hard for local people to access due to its high cost. They are suffering, and so too are the local animal and plant species, like tseke and maphilua. Both wild plants, they ensure a supply of fresh, untreated food even at times of extreme drought, but the decline in their use is placing them at high risk of extinction and endangering the rural communities who for centuries have made them a dietary staple.