"In Mali, there is a proverb that says: ‘to see once is better than to hear a story a thousand times'," said Kadidja Djenepo, a producer of mango products from Djenné, Mali. "I have returned home to my country after having participated in - and seen with my own eyes - a wonderful meeting of the Thousand Gardens in Africa network, focused on training and exchange. I knew that Morocco was setting an example for what Slow Food and Terra Madre can achieve in Africa, but being able to actually touch it makes it clear. Now our challenge is to take home this experience, copying and adapting their successes. I thank above all the small-scale producers of Morocco who gave their time to teach us about their work. I am certain that Slow Food will reap the benefits of this network."
The meeting took place from April 12 - 17 in Errachidia, in northern Morocco, bringing together Slow Food representatives (producers, members, supporters, youth, coordinators of food communities, Presidia and gardens etc.) from French-speaking African countries (Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Egypt, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Benin and the Ivory Coast). Also attending was Fanny Brechard, a member of Slow Food Landes, a French convivium that is active in Mali. The meeting was made possible thanks to the work and passion of Lhoussaine El Rhaffari, a Slow Food international councilor, and to Lahcen Marani, member of the association against desertification .
The five-day event offered courses ranging from simple techniques in composting and irrigation to tools to fight against desertification, such as agroecology systems for the sustainable management of oases. Cooking competitions and presentations were held and the Ark of Taste and Slow Food Presidia projects were discussed. Participants were able to visit exemplary producers in the region who spoke about value adding, suitable packaging and creating descriptive labels to tell the ‘real' story of their products. They also visited Maroc Taswiq, a distribution project that deals with the products of over 600 Moroccan communities and works with the chefs participating in the Moroccan Alliance Between Chefs and Small-scale Producers.
Beyond its success in sharing practical information, the meeting was an inspiring experience full of great positive energy: a continuation, small though it may be, of the spirit of Terra Madre.
The meeting in Errachidia was financed by Compagnia di San Paolo.
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