[CTA] A network of chefs aimed at promoting stronger linkages between value chain actors in the culinary and agriculture sectors has been launched in Central Africa. Chefs for Development was previously operating exclusively in the Caribbean and Pacific after being officially unveiled in October in the Cayman Islands, during the Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2016.
Designed to foster access for small-scale producers to tourist markets, and promote healthier, locally sourced food for all consumers, Chefs for Development (Chefs4Dev) has already scored considerable success in the ACP regions where it is working.
As well as organising activities on the ground – including training for young chefs, culinary festivals and TV shows – Chefs4Dev also operates as an online community. Its website serves as a platform for chefs in ACP countries to share news, experiences and recipes.
The innovative platform is coordinated by CTA, together with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO), the Pacific Community (SPC), the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), the International Fund for agricultural Development (IFAD), Women in Business Development Inc. (WIBDI) and local chefs, farmers' organisations and agribusinesses.
Extending the initiative to Central Africa at today's launch in Yaoundé, Cameroon, CTA's Stéphane Gambier said that the Chefs for Development platform offered a valuable opportunity for rural communities in Central Africa, where it will be developed together with the platform for farmers' organisations in Central Africa the Plateforme Sous Régionale des Organisations Paysannes d'Afrique Centrale (PROPAC).
"Chefs are key players in the agrifood value chain. They play a decisive role in choosing which ingredients are used on the menus," said Gambier, speaking on the third day of the Regional Forum on Cassava in Central Africa, being staged this week in Yaoundé. "They know the products and they know the producers and processors. They have a unique position as cultural ambassadors, they can promote the tourism sector and help to secure increased market access, generating income and jobs for rural communities."
The five local chefs taking part in today's launch pledged to offer more local dishes on the menus that they offered to their guests.
"In many hotels and restaurants here in Cameroon, there is a tendency to neglect African cuisine," said Patrice Tomo, head chef for the Hôtel Merina in Yaoundé. "We need to go back to our roots and revisit African cooking. We need to present guests with our local dishes, before offering those from other places."
Chef Emile Engoulou, from the Restaurant Le Club Municipal, is also President of the Cameroon chefs' association, which was launched to highlight the country's cultural and culinary heritage.
"We want to promote local cuisine among young people in Cameroon, and for them to understand what it is," he said. "It's a question of raising awareness and putting products from Cameroon at the heart of our cuisine."
Marie Joseph Medzeme Engama, the value chain expert for PROPAC, said that the plan of action launched today would involve forging closer links with local producers.
"Many of the chefs have encountered problems in terms of sourcing local ingredients, ensuring reliable quantities and quality of products," she observed. "That is because they are not in direct contact with the producers, and as a result, they often turn to imported products. This is one of the key issues we need to address as we develop this initiative."
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