Terra Madre Burkina Faso: Voices From the First Terra Madre in West Africa

The name Burkina Faso translates as “land of honest people,” and this beautiful, fascinating country on the western Africa is home to over 60 ethnic groups—and as many languages—who have inherited an enormous cultural and environmental wealth which translates into a unique heritage of biodiversity. Through its projects and network of members and activists, Slow Food contributes to the protection of this rich wealth.

In February this year, Burkina Faso hosted the first West African Terra Madre. Thanks to this international event, the local network was able to come together and talk about traditional foods, cuisines and bodies of knowledge, laying the foundations for the formation of an even stronger network, one that includes local authorities, associations and the Burkinabé people themselves.

Let’s hear from some of the people who took part in the event.

“The time has come for Burkina Faso to reflect on its agricultural, gastronomic and traditional heritage in a new way, with pride. Pride that it can find by turning its back on a Western approach that scorns subsistence agriculture, degrading it as wretched and recognizing development only where profits are accumulated. There are new paradigms now, and it is no longer necessary to replicate all the mistakes of the old West in order for the country to find its own path forward.”

CARLO PETRINI, Slow Food president

“I’m thrilled with the success of the first Terra Madre Burkina! The event allowed us to concretize the philosophy of a global movement in the local area. Organizing Terra Madre in Burkina allowed us to create a network and a force that will complement the biennial gathering of the Terra Madre network in Italy. I want to thank Slow Food and the Fondazioni for Africa Burkina Faso for having supported the initiative and for all of their commitment, as well as all the members of the Slow Food network in West Africa who joined us in Ougadougou. We must also thank the Burkinabé authorities for their support, the members of the Burkinabé Slow Food network, the small-scale producers who took part and all the people who made our meetings and marketplace come alive. A particular thank you to our international president, Carlo Petrini, who even though he could not participate firsthand, was with us in his heart. Long live the Slow Food network!”

JEAN-MARIE KOALGA, chair of the Terra Madre Burkina Faso organizing committee and Slow Food convivium leader

“Terra Madre Burkina Faso has let me discover the strength and the involvement of Africa in the fight against GMOs, which are responsible for the disappearance of our native seeds and the degradation of arable lands, benefitting multinationals that dominate small-scale farmers and leave them in debt. For the first time in West Africa, thanks to the event and its debates, we have understood with clarity the objectives of Slow Food. I’m happy to have taken part.”

GYSLAIN ESSEHIN, member, Côte d’Ivoire

“Terra Madre Burkina Faso made it possible not only to get to know the Slow Food network in Burkina, nearby countries and in Europe, but also to meet the country’s authorities. Above all, Terra Madre means meeting.”

HABIBATOU GOUMBANE, Slow Food convivium leader, Burkina Faso

“Terra Madre in Burkina Faso was a great, unique opportunity for exchange and sharing between producers, cooks, consumers and experts, essential not only for the local communities but also for Burkina Faso in general. Thanks to the meetings held during the event, we hope to be able to begin a new activity of promotion and safeguarding of a local crop at risk of extinction, fonio.”

THEOPHILE SANOU, Bobo-Dioulasso gardens coordinator, Burkina Faso

“It was important to see the producers converging from all over Burkina Faso and neighboring countries to participate in the first Terra Madre in West Africa, to exchange experiences and knowledge and affirm the centrality of agrobiodiversity within a sustainable development model. With a firm conviction that this is the right path to be taking, it is the hope of the banking foundations behind Fondazioni for Africa Burkina Faso is that the message launched with energy and enthusiasm at Terra Madre Burkina will be transformed into a collective consciousness.”

DANIELA DEL BOCA, member of the general council of Compagnia di San Paolo

“Terra Madre Burkina was a great occasion for exchanging experiences for the Slow Food network in French-speaking Africa; however it was most of all an opportunity for sharing the association’s ideals and philosophy with local institutions and the Burkinabé people. I think that this can be seen as an excellent starting point for future dialog between rural and urban contexts. I returned to Italy after this fantastic experience with vivid memories of the faces of the women from the Slow Food network in Burkina Faso, of their dignity and their pride in presenting their products, their country and their traditions.”

CRISTIANA PEANO, agronomist and Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity consultant


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