Global Agriculture

FAO and Chef Fatmata Binta Announce New Project to Empower Women Fonio Producers in Ghana

30 March 2024, Ghana: A new project aimed at supporting women fonio producers in Ghana has been announced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and acclaimed chef Fatmata Binta.  

 The project is designed to provide specialized training to approximately 100 women involved in fonio cultivation, enhancing their skills and boosting their productivity and income. Funded by FAO under a Technical Cooperation Project, the training will include hands-on sessions on fonio production, harvesting, packaging and accessing markets. 

Fonio, an ancient, nutrient-packed grain known for its resilience and ability to thrive in less fertile soils, has traditionally been cultivated by women in Ghana. However, it has been undervalued despite its nutritional and environmental benefits. This project aims to change the narrative by focusing on sustainable practices, empowerment, and economic development. The push for better production is part of the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31 which is organised according to the Four Betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life.  

Arslen Bounemra, FAO Representative in Ghana, said: “This project is a pilot that we hope can be scaled up and replicated in other fonio-producing countries. Fonio is a powerhouse ingredient that should be more well-known and consumed more widely.” 

Chef Fatmata Binta is an influential figure in the culinary world having won the 2022 Basque Culinary World Prize, sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize of cooking. Born and raised in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to first-generation Sierra Leonean Fulanis of Guinean descent, Chef Binta is now based in Ghana and travels the world advocating for fonio and putting African cuisine on the global dining table. 

“Through this project, we are not only preserving a piece of African culinary history but also empowering women to take control of their futures. This is a testament to what we can achieve when we work together for a common good,” she said. 

Project activities will commence in April 2024, coinciding with land preparations for the next growing season. The women farmers have been organised into a group by Chef Binta and are part of a bigger ‘culinary village’ initiative that the chef is working on to highlight African indigenous ingredients.  

FAO and Chef Binta began a close collaboration during the 2023 International Year of Millets (IYM2023) including an Instagram campaign encouraging chefs to cook with millets, and a special Dine on a Mat Fulani culinary experience in Accra with a spotlight on fonio.  

The announcement comes as Chef Binta takes part in the IYM2023 closing ceremony today (March 29) in Rome, Italy, alongside the FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu and other special guests.

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