In the heart of Kita, Mali, a quiet food revolution is taking root, and is poised to change the lives of many. As the world celebrated World Food Day 2023, a five-day Smart Food workshop unfolded in the Kayes region, bringing together 31 women and 21 men with a common goal—to unlock the untapped potential of local food crops, including sorghum, millet, groundnut, and cowpea.
Beyond enriching household nutrition, the Smart Food training sought to empower participants with the skills needed to create economic sustenance with locally sourced ingredients.
The workshop kicked off with a strong focus on hygiene practices, emphasizing the importance of cleanliness in ensuring safe food production. Participants also had the opportunity to delve into quality assessments of raw materials.
A central component of the training involved the creation of ten diverse recipes, showcasing the versatility of local ingredients. From complementary flours, enriched porridge, vegetable soup, and enriched bread, to packaging and labeling, participants learned how to turn their homegrown crops into nutritious, marketable products.
"One of the sessions in this training focused on cooking with complementary flours based on germinated millet, sorghum, and groundnut flour, and we learned how to make sorghum-based bread."
"We even converted cowpeas into soup, which is truly a novelty for our community. I can confidently say that we were once in the dark, but now we stand in the light," said Ms. Assitan Soucko, from the village of Bendougouba.
Mr. Seydou Coulibaly from the village of Sadiola echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the need to shift from imported foods to locally processed products.
"This training is of great importance to us, because we produce many of these cereals such as cowpea, groundnut, millet, and sorghum. It has allowed us to better understand the value of these cereals and realize that what we possess can be useful to us."
The workshop also sought to enlighten participants on the importance of balanced diets and the integration of local ingredients.
Ms. Natou Soucko from the village of Karaya explained, "I learned to cook cowpea soup, sorghum-based djouka, and enriched porridge. This training helped me understand that filling the plate to eat is not necessary, but balanced diets are the best way to improve nutrition. Furthermore, local ingredients can effectively replace certain imported products in our diet."
Several participants expressed their desire to take this newfound knowledge back to their villages, efforts which will support the workshop’s long-term goal of empowering communities.
Ms. Kadidia Koumaré, the trainer from the Institut of Rural Economy (IER), underlined the significance of local products in addressing nutritional deficiencies and promoting a healthy diet. She explained that the EU-APSAN project focused on millet, sorghum, groundnut, and cowpeas due to their resilience to climate change and their role in fighting malnutrition.
Amplifying Smart Food Awareness
The celebration of World Food Day extended beyond the workshop. ICRISAT's communications team engaged with a community radio station to raise awareness about the Smart Food initiative and related projects. The team initiated a radio contest with champions and winners set to receive Smart Food tokens as awards.
“The Smart Food initiative is all about harnessing and utilizing the potential of local resources for food and nutrition security. Let us work together for positive change,” said, Ms. Agathe Diama, Head of Communications and Smart Food Coordinator at ICRISAT-West and Central Africa.
Community Leaders Call for Local Smart Food Crops and Sustainable Nutrition
The workshop concluded with a community mobilization effort, led by the Prefect of Kita, Mr. Abraham Kassongue, who called for an increased utilization of local Smart Food Crops.
“These crops hold immense potential in the fight against hunger and malnutrition,” Kassongue said. "It is important to incorporate millet and sorghum-based products into daily diets and emphasize the numerous health benefits associated with their consumption."
Photos: Mr Abraham Kassogue, Prefect of Kita speaking to his community members about local smart food crops' potential to better nutrition.
This impactful workshop was organized by ICRISAT in collaboration with the IER and the agricultural sector of Kita. Many farmers and processing organizations played integral roles, operating under the auspices of the EU-APSAN-Mali project, further highlighting the collaborative efforts aimed at promoting food security and nutrition in the region. Together, they are sowing the seeds of positive change and community empowerment.
Participants in the UE-ASPAN-Mali activities in Kita.
Project: Enhancing Crop Productivity and Climate Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security in Mali (UE-APSAN-Mali)
Funder: The European Union
Partners: Institut d’économie rurale (IER); Farmer organizations (Union locale des producteurs de céréales-ULPC, Sene Yiriwaton, Coopérative des producteurs de semence du Mande-COOPROSEM, Union Nietaa et Jigiseme; Extension services; National Directorate of Agriculture-DNA and in particular the agricultural sectors of Kayes, Ségou, Kita, Koutiala and Yorosso regions; NGOs (Mali Agricultural Market Development Trust – MALIMARK, European Cooperative for Rural Development-EUCORD, Association Malienne d’Éveil au Développement Durable-AMEDD); seed companies (SOPROSA, Camara Semence, Dounka fa, Faso Kaba and Zamoho); Universities in Mali; CORAF/WECARD; and ICRISAT.