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CTA. 1997. Exchanging recipes. Spore 67. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/48617
The cultivation of maize is a relatively recent introduction to the Sahelian countries, as a result of which most women have notinherited a traditional knowledge of how to process and prepare it. By contrast its preparation holds no secrets for...
The cultivation of maize is a relatively recent introduction to the Sahelian countries, as a result of which most women have not inherited a traditional knowledge of how to process and prepare it. By contrast its preparation holds no secrets for people in neighbouring countries where maize has long been cultivated. The Projet Action de VALorisation (AVAL) has therefore established a programme of South-South exchange of knowledge between three countries - Benin, Burkina Faso and Senegal in response to demand and available expertise. In Cotonou, Benin, a restaurant owner has revealed her culinary secrets to two Burkinabe women: the subtleties of making steamed maize pastry and the manual dexterity required for a successful maize pastry seasoned with chicken stock. It took ten days or so for her to teach everything she knew about the many ways of using maize. Maize was first introduced by the Portuguese four centuries ago and, with this long tradition behind her, she, like her fellow women, is a maize 'master chef'. By contrast, her Burkinabé neighbours had no access to maize until a few years ago and are therefore familiar only with to (ordinary pastry) and, possibly, couscous. The exchange of culinary information between countries in West Africa is the main objective of the AVAL Project. The idea is to promote an adequate supply of many different local food products. Women working in the food sector train others with similar backgrounds who come from neighbouring countries. This also helps to stimulate the development of new business initiatives. Three observations led to the decision to launch this project. Firstly, over the last thirty years West Africa has been faced with a major challenge: how to ensure an adequate food supply to towns and cities confronted with galloping population expansion. The principal response to this challenge must be the development of the urban food sector. Secondly, in some countries of the Sahel, for example Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, farmers have added maize and cassava to the crops they traditionally grow. This is a reaction to the droughts and famines they have suffered in the past and is intended to diversify crop production and therefore reduce the risks associated with crop failure. The new produce is principally destined for local consumption, but women are unfamiliar with processing and preparation methods. Finally, people living in cities are looking for new and more varied types of food. They could obtain these by adopting European recipes and food fashions, but there are many more advantages to adopting new African foods and recipes. Not only do these belong to the same ecological and socio-economic environment, but they also help to add value to local resources. Producers are the first ingredient The pilot phase of the AVAL project lasted two years, ending in March 1996. The first step was to identify the people who would take part in the information exchange, either as sources of expertise or as receivers of it. It is only through watching, imitating the methods and repeated experimentation and practice that this transfer of knowledge can be effective and long lasting. Prior to this, the proposed new products were tested in the 'consumer' countries before selecting those which had the best chance of being accepted and welcomed. The Benin-Senegal exchanges revealed, for example, that Senegalese consumers prefer granulated maize products, rather like couscous, to pastries that are too far removed from their customary local food. The first maize 'transfer' operation was from Benin to Burkina Faso, where it met with great success. The cooking lessons given by the Beninois restaurant owner to her Burkinabé colleagues were competent and effective. In their turn, the Burkinabé women transferred their new-found knowledge to the owners of 25 local eating establishments. The same type of transfer operation was undertaken between Benin and Senegal. Maize is not the only crop with which the project is concerned. Knowledge transfer from Benin to Burkina Faso has also been organized for methods of processing and keeping cassava. In Burkina Faso, as in other Sahelian countries, cassava tubers are simply boiled. Lack of information about processing techniques means that the tubers often go bad immediately after harvest, or they may be thrown away because of their toxicity. No more than a few hundred kilometres from these regions, in south Benin in particular, women prepare gari (which will keep for more than a year), tapioca, fritters and cakes. Furthermore, the traditional methods which they use remove the toxins from the cassava. Two members of a group of producers making gari and tapioca helped to train women from the village of Kpadiari in the east of Burkina Faso. Equipment necessary for processing (simple and easily copied) was, given to the village by the project. D The project not only anticipated exchanging information and know-how but also expected to be able to improve local methods and to introduce tools for new food processes. It was for this reason that an experimental food production unit was established in Benin to make aklui, a breakfast porridge of maize. The next task will be to sort out certain technical problems so as to make production profitable and suitable for small-scale independent business enterprises. Similarly, a decorticator has been set up in Senegal which, while well adapted technically, has yet to find its place socially and economically. The AVAL Project operates under the auspices of the Faculté des Sciences Agronomiques de l'Université du Benin, CIRAD-Sar (France), the Programme de promotion des céréales locales au Sahel (PROCELOS) and CNRST of Burkina Faso, ENDA GRAF and the Institut de technologie alimentaire (Senegal). In view of the successful results achieved during the pilot phase, an extension of the project is envisaged for the coming years. Mali, Togo and Cameroon have already expressed their interest in being integrated into the programme. Mathurin Nago FSA/UNB 01 BP 526 Cotonou BENIN