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5,000th item boards the Ark of Taste

Sustain member Slow Food UK celebrates honey from Burkina Faso as the 5,000th item to become part of the online catalogue of forgotten and endangered food.

Tapoa honey. Photo credit: Slow Food International

Tapoa honey. Photo credit: Slow Food International

Honey made by the Gourmantché people in the eastern Tapoa region of Burkina Faso is the product Slow Food has chosen as the 5,000th passenger to board its Ark of Taste, which records foods that belong to the local culture, history and tradition of places all over the planet.

The Ark of Taste groups them into various categories—animal breeds, fruits, vegetables, baked goods, cheeses and so on—and serves as a unique resource for anyone interested in rediscovering and promoting the immense heritage of food biodiversity that humans have accumulated over the centuries.

Slow Food has selected this honey, of particular importance to the identity of the indigenous Gourmantché people, as a sign of support for the country’s local communities. Terra Madre Burkina Faso was held here for the second time on February 2 and 3, organized by Slow Food in the capital of Ouagadougou. Despite serious challenges due to the threat of possible terrorist attacks, local activists decided to go ahead with the event to show that good, clean and fair food can be a force for peace. Slow Food delegates came from across Burkina Faso but also from Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Togo and Ghana to participate in the gathering, which through exchanges of culture and experiences is making the Slow Food network in West Africa stronger than ever before.

Choosing Tapoa honey as the 5,000th Ark product sends a strong message of solidarity with all the farmers and food producers who are defending their food traditions, and therefore food biodiversity, despite the growing difficulties they face due to the terrorism and political instability affecting a number of African countries. It is also significant that the product is made by bees, whose declining populations are one of the clearest indicators of the risks we face as human activity continues to throw natural equilibriums off-balance.

The Ark of Taste

Launched in 1996 the Ark now includes many foods that are a key element of the identity of indigenous peoples, like the Australian Davidson’s plum, and rare products, like Racemosa wild coffee from South Africa. Inclusion in the online catalogue on the website of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity is the first step to ensuring these products are not lost forever. This is then supported by the actions and creativity of Slow Food’s network around the world. At a local level, Slow Food members and supporters, chefs, artisans and local markets effectively adopt the Ark of Taste product, organizing events with its producers, using it in recipes and highlighting it on menus, activating a promotional circuit often based on gastronomic word of mouth and tips on cooking techniques.

Over its 22 years of life the Ark of Taste has welcomed passengers from 150 different countries: the Makah Ozette potato from the United States, Guatemala’s Ixcán cardamom, ræstur fiskur (fermented and dried fish) from the Faroe Islands and maqaw, a mountain spice gathered by the indigenous Atayal people of Taiwan.

Published Sunday 10 March 2019

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