The Tuareg toma is a traditional product threatened with disappearance. Its production, preservation and consumption are connected with the Touareg territory and identity. It comes from the Oudalan region is a vast border area with the Sahel, located on the border that divides Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.
The tome tuareg is a dry cheese, made with goat (Russian goat of Maradis breed), ewe (Bali Bali breed) or zebu’s (humped cattle’s) milk (Gaubè, Azawak and Gudaji breeds), raised by Tuareg shepherds. Animals are milked and the milk is filtered. The three milks are never mixed. A piece of dried kid’s stomach provides the rennet, made by drying the stomach piece and then macerating it in room temperature raw milk. The curdled milk is mixed with a stick, and after 15 minutes the cheese is placed on a dry cloth and then pressed until the evening. The result is a soft cheese that may be consumed immediately, but which traditionally is eaten after a few days.
Nowadays, the majority of the Tuareg people are settled. They made the cheese during the rainy season, in June, July and August. During the drought, the breeders take animals towards Mali, 15-20 km from their villages. Animal breeding is an old tradition closely connected with this population, where importance with in the family relates to the number of animals one raises. For the nomadic people, animals are considered as brothers, and not as owned properties. They are raised in free-range pastured systems, returning to their stalls when they desire, and with babies left with the mothers. The roles and the homework between women and men in Touareg society are divided: the men take care of animals, while the women take care of the milk, its preservation, its transformation, and its distribution between the members of the family.
Currently, Tuareg toma is produced according to demand and sold among the families. Overpopulation exercises pressure on the environmental resources, which risks damaging the small local productions like this one. This cheese risks being lost because it is tied to the identity of the Touareg people, who are also threatened.