Friday, April 13, 2018, it was just 1:00 pm, when, in front of a crowd of customers, sitting around the tables in the restaurant “Chez Alice” located in Marcory in Abidjan, Mrs. Pauline Epélékou, Director of Inades-Formation Côte d’Ivoire took the floor.

She announced to those who were there for lunch that two new dishes were added to the daily menu: fonio couscous with chicken Yassa and Fonio au Gras.

It was actually a free fonio tasting session, organized by Inades-Formation Côte d’Ivoire to promote this ancestral African cereal.

                                                                     Fonio grains

For the record, fonio has long been cultivated by the people of northern Côte d’Ivoire, where ecological conditions are favourable to its growth and development. For centuries, the consumption of this cereal has been an integral part of the dietary habits of these populations who master its production and cooking techniques. Fonio is also consumed in other African countries, including neighbouring countries in northern Côte d’Ivoire.

Because of the difficult nature of its processing, the consumption of fonio is unknown to a large segment of the Ivorian population, particularly urban dwellers who have become accustomed to the consumption of other cereals such as rice, maize and millet.

Yet fonio is a cereal with many virtues, rich in mineral salts and amino acids. Resistant to climatic hazards, it can easily replace rice and thus limit massive imports. Fonio is classified by Inades-Formation as a sovereignty food and is part of the foodstuffs it promotes through its Sovereignty Food Enhancement Project.

                                            Tasters in front of their fonio with Yassa dish

Giving People the Opportunity to Know Fonio

The objective of the tasting session was to offer the public the opportunity to discover or rediscover the flavours of fonio and get them to include it in their menu.

Moreover, the fact that the tasting took place in a restaurant was not accidental. This choice was intended to attract restaurant owners so that by seeing the interest customers could have in fonio dishes, they could consider putting it on their menu card.

In addition to customers of the restaurant who agreed to taste the dishes, other people from state institutions related to agriculture and food as well as local partners, invited by Inades-Formation, took part in the tasting.

Fonio is Digestible and Delicious in the Opinion of the Guests

The guests carried the first spoonful of fonio dish to their lips, with slight gestures of hesitation for some and confidence for others.

After the first bite, the faces lit up immediately most of the time, pleasantly surprised by the good taste of the fonio. The appreciation did not take long to come. In their great majority, the tasters judged the fonio dish delicious and digestible.

They said they are ready to consume fonio regularly if it is available and accessible on the market.

To promote food systems based on family farming, a forum was held at the General Secretariat of Inades-Formation on Wednesday, April 11, 2018, for the exchange of knowledge and experience on the promotion of dishes based on sovereignty food and the exploration of entrepreneurial opportunities for women caterers in Côte d’Ivoire.

This forum, organized by the General Secretariat in partnership with Inades-Formation Côte d’Ivoire in the framework of the programme to promote sovereignty food, was attended by some thirty women caterers, processors of sovereignty food such as millet, sorghum, beans/niébé and local chicken. These women came from the communes of Abidjan and other towns in the country, particularly in the north and centre of Côte d’Ivoire, where these foodstuffs are most consumed.

A view of the participants in the workshop

As a reminder, “sovereignty food” is, from a conceptual point of view[1], food crops and livestock and/or harvesting products traditionally dominant in the diet of the local populations of African countries South of the Sahara but which are today losing ground in terms of production and are increasingly less important in the household food basket. The causes of this loss of importance are diverse:

  • Gradual discontinuance, by producers, for reasons of arduous work, especially in terms of packaging;
  • Changes in consumption patterns due to substitution by other imported or hybrid seed products;
  • Decrease in support for the development of the family agricultural sector and food exchanges between urban and rural areas, the emphasis being placed on policies to promote export monocultures at the expense of traditional crops.

Yet, these cultures, true sovereignty food, have great virtues – globally recognized nutritional, therapeutic and cultural / traditional values (used especially for traditional rites or ceremonies, such as weddings, baptisms, funerals, etc.). Finally, they are resilient food crops (poor soils, climate change, etc.) and family farmers, especially women, are the repositories of a huge amount of knowledge and know-how accumulated on these products in terms of farming practices enriched from generation to generation, recipes for cooking “local dishes” and the preservation of agro-biodiversity.

Indeed, the concept of “sovereignty food” derives from these characteristics of resilience, knowledge and know-how accumulated on seeds, cultivation techniques and recipes for cooking. Thus, repositioning “sovereignty food” at the heart of the food systems of African countries will make it possible, among other things:

  • To consolidate and amplify the intellectual and cultural heritage of local populations (local knowledge, know-how and life skills) in terms of cultural practices and recipes for cooking “local dishes” enriched and transmitted from generation to generation, which constitute important levers of sovereignty in food;
  • To reweave the decisive links between cities and the countryside, to support the emergence of a social and solidarity-based economy (city-country solidarity), as an engine for improving the system for serving local and urban markets and to all actors involved in the production, processing and distribution of food obtained with dignity from their labour;
  • To stimulate awareness of the strategic role of sovereignty foodstuffs in local and national food systems and to draw the attention of decision-makers and the general public to the threats of disappearance of local food products and the current opportunities.

Intervention of  participants

The forum was articulated around the following objectives:

Linking women sovereignty food caterers and analysing together the stakes and challenges of the development of sovereignty food services from the perspective of the “concept of Proximity Catering;”

  • Collect practices and knowledge related to sovereignty food;
  • Stimulate initiatives to network women caterers of sovereignty food in Abidjan.
  • The participants thus discussed the importance of enhancing sovereignty food services.
  • Emphasis was placed on positioning the principle of food sovereignty, promoting foods recognized for their nutritional, therapeutic and cultural values, and the opportunities offered for entrepreneurship and empowerment of women.

The participants, who already know the values of these sovereignty foods, confirmed their adherence to this vision and thanked Inades-Formation for the initiative to promote these ancestral agricultural products.

Intervention of participants

Sovereignty Food, Products Appreciated by the Population but Insufficiently Promoted.

Women caterers participating in the forum recognized the interest that the population has in the dishes derived from sovereignty food and the potential market they constitute.

They believe that all segments of the population like to consume them. However, to regain a place of choice in the populations’ dietary habits, products should be promoted through better presentation of dishes, varied menus, modernization of sales stalls, sustained communication, etc. This requires women to be creative, innovative and determined.

They shared their experiences on the difficulties encountered in the carrying out of their sovereignty food-based catering activities at the organizational, financial, material, product availability, product prices, product quality and customer levels. They identified their needs to consolidate and promote their activities.

Thus, issues of hygiene, presentation, treatment of products have been identified. This was an opportunity for them to give advice to each other for the improvement of their commercial activity.

They expressed the need for networking between women caterers in order to guarantee the availability and quality of sovereignty food, exchange operational information and promote solidarity in their profession. They also identified various communication actions to promote sovereignty food.

This was also an opportunity to talk to the participants about the requirements in terms of managing sovereignty food orders to enable them to be more competitive in conquering new markets.

Intervention of participants

New Dishes Identified

This forum for women identified 16 new local dishes, often created or invented by the caterers themselves based on modern menus made from other cereals, vegetables or others.

Thus, the participants could realize the diversity of the proposals and the infinite possibilities to create new dishes, possibilities they had already seen through the samples of dishes and drinks based on the sovereignty food they had brought.

Pastry made from millet

Different dishes made from millet and beans made by the participants

Different dishes made by the participants

Women involved for further exchanges and collective learning

The forum closed with enthusiasm from participants and a commitment to deepen issues related to organizational aspects, the quality of food and beverage services, communication and networking.

Family photo of participants

[1] Concept Inades-Formation avec des dimensions économiques, sociales, environnementales et politiques

From March 5 to 6, 2018, Inades-Formation Burkina organized a workshop to identify and document by-products and dishes based on sovereignty food. This activity, which brought together some thirty local agricultural product processors from the Boucle du Mouhoun region, took place in the conference room of the Dédougou Diocese Welcome Centre. Objective of this workshop: Produce, in a participatory way, a capitalization document on by-products and dishes based on sovereignty food.

In 2017, Inades-Formation Burkina embarked on the implementation of the Program for the valorization of sovereignty food for sufficient, healthy and sustainable food for the populations of African countries south of the Sahara. This three-year program is implemented by eight member countries of the Inades-Formation network. It aims to promote food systems based on family farming for a decent life for all. In Burkina Faso, the Program, financed by the German NGO MISEREOR through the Inades-Formation General Secretariat, is implemented by Inades-Formation Burkina in the Boucle du Mouhoun region. This program aims to help promote the production, processing and consumption of three food crops: millet, cowpea and fonio. The organization of the workshop for the identification and documentation of the by-products and dishes based on sovereignty food is part of this dynamics.

Sovereignty food, food products historically anchored in the life of a given population

For Inades-Formation, the notion of sovereignty food refers to food products of plant and animal origin, historically anchored in the eating habits of the populations of a given region, in trade, in cultural practices. These products are known for their resistance to climate change, their nutritional quality and their low dependence on synthetic inputs. They play an important role in boosting the local economy. These are products for which the populations have developed a cumulative knowledge and know-how in terms of production and diversification of uses. Pascaline TAMBOURA/KIEMDE, Program Officer for Food Systems based on family farming at Inades-Formation Burkina, talks about the importance of promoting sovereignty food. “As far as food is concerned, we must and we can be independent from the outside world. We must put all the means necessary to be sovereign”. Pascaline TAMBOURA/KIEMDE was the main facilitator of the Dédougou workshop.

At this workshop for the identification and documentation of the by-products and dishes based on sovereignty food, guests, mainly women, came from two provinces of the Boucle du Mouhoun region. These are the Mouhoun and Kossi provinces. For two days, these women contributed to the identification and description of the various preparation stages of the different by-products and dishes based on sovereignty food. “From the information gathered from the workshop participants, I believe that we will be able to produce a very rich document on by-products and dishes based on sovereignty food,” says Pascaline TAMBOURA/KIEMDE.

Pascaline TAMBOURA/KIEMDE, Program Officer for Food Systems based on family farming facilitating the workshop






70 by-products and dishes identified and described

The first stage of the workshop consisted, after a brainstorming session, in the identification of by-products and dishes based on sovereignty food. Nearly 70 by-products and dishes were identified and grouped by category.

The by-products selected included, among other products: lumps of dèguè, couscous of millet, biscuits of small millet, bread of small millet, dèguè of fonio, cake of fonio, etc.

As far as the dishes are concerned, one can note the following: millet pancakes, small millet fritters, small millet porridge, small millet balls, etc.

“We can derive some satisfaction from the results of this workshop. We learned about the multitude and diversity of by-products and dishes based on sovereignty food that the participants revealed to us,” asserted Adama SOULAMA, Community Microfinance Program Officer at Inades-Formation Burkina and co-facilitator of the workshop.

In the second stage of the workshop, participants were asked to describe, in accordance with a framework, the various stages for the preparation of the identified dishes and by- products. The framework called for the following information to be collected for each by-products or dishes based on sovereignty food: the name of the knowledge holder, the equipment to be used, the different preparation steps, the time required for each step, ideas for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the product.

Targeted interviews with knowledge and know-how bearers on by-products and dishes based on sovereignty food

At the end of the workshop, Dakio Edith, one of the participants from Bonborokuy expressed her appreciation: “This workshop was a great opportunity to share knowledge about local dishes and it is a source of pride for us to talk about our dishes. As a women’s fonio processing organization, we were able to share our experience in the preparation of various dishes based on that food”. She added: “There are also fonio-based recipes that we did not know and that we  discovered with other participants in this workshop”.

Cookies and cowpea croquettes produced by the processors of the Benkadi Lomé Group of Dédougou

A regional workshop is planned for April for the representatives of the eight countries implementing the Program for the valorization of sovereignty food for sufficient, healthy and sustainable food for the populations of African countries south of the Sahara. During this workshop, a summary document of the various by-products and dishes identified in the eight countries will be produced for distribution to a wide public.