Terra Madre on the BBC Food Programme: Part 1

The BBC Food Programme, hosted by Dan Saladino, discusses diverse aspects of food culture through a weekly radio show, and over the last two weeks it has devoted two whole episodes to Terra Madre. In the first episode we heard inspiring stories from Africa, of three people facing different struggles, and how being part of the Terra Madre network improves the lives of local communities in Africa.

More than 20 types of honey are produced by the locals in the village of Rira, in the highlands of southeastern Ethiopia.

For Haji, one of the local producers, honey is both a source of nutrition and of income. The villagers have developed an unusual and ingenious production method: the build beehives out of bamboo, then “smoke the bark of a tree to perfume the hive and attract the bees. These long bamboo tubes are coated in leaves, sealed with animal manure and then placed 25m high up in trees among the rainforest canopy.”

Though Ethiopia is one of the world’s biggest sources for honey, the majority of the yield is used to make a honey wine. The market for honey wine is very small, and largely confined to within the country, so prices remain low for the producers. This is where the Slow Food network has tried to help the producers. At Terra Madre, Haji was able to meet with other honey producers from Japan, Macedonia and Brazil in order to share experiences and find new ways to sell their products. This in turn encourages new generations to continue the tradition, and keep Ethiopian honey culture alive.

Edie Mukiibi is Vice President of Slow Food International and one of the networks leading figures in Uganda.

Edie’s story concentrates on the value of protecting the biodiversity of bananas in Uganda, where they have been used as staple food for more than a thousand years. The current problem, Mukiibi tells us, is that the global banana trade focuses on a single variety, known as the Cavendish, at the expense of all others, thus threatening their existence. The situation is rather more difficult to comprehend in Europe, where consumers have more or less never had contact with any other banana varieties. Vast production of the Cavendish has led to the spread of fungal diseases, such as Panama disease, which threaten its very existence, yet more Cavendish plantations are still being established in Africa. At the Terra Madre Kitchens the true variety and value of Ugandan bananas were on display, showing the importance of saving this irreplaceable biodiversity.

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More than half the population in Sierra Leone, West Africa, are subsistence farmers.

Still recovering from a decade-long civil war and more recently, the Ebola virus, it is one of the poorest countries in the world. We hear the story of Ibrahim, who was taken away from his family at the age of nine by rebels. For the next seven years, he was forced to fight against his own people and the government, attacking villages and participating in horrific violence. During a UN-brokered ceasefire in 1999, Ibrahim returned to his home village with two carats of diamonds he had stolen from the rebel army. Here, he gave the diamonds to his uncle, who passed them on to Ibrahim’s father. His father then sold the diamonds, and used the money to buy his son’s freedom. Following his return, he was rejected by his community for having fought with the rebels—a fate which befell many former child soldiers. The key to his forgiveness? Food. Four years ago, Ibrahim discovered one of Slow Food’s community gardens, part of the 10,000 gardens in Africa project, and rediscovered a passion for agriculture. “I plant food, I give food to people who cannot feed themselves, people whose hands have been amputated [in the war]”. This work has led to Ibrahim’s renewed acceptance by his community: an extraordinary example of food’s power to build, and rebuild communities.

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Listen to the first episode here.

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