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In the capital city of Lomé, more and more people are eating cheap imported food. The OADEL organization educates people about the health and social consequences of this practice and helps small farming families in the surrounding area in the marketing of their products.
Organization for Food and Local Development (OADEL)
Since 2003, the organization has been strengthening sustainable small farming by providing education and helping farmers process their products.
In Lomé, OADEL has opened an organic food store where only local products are sold. The work of the organization benefits around 2,500 small farming families and 9,600 consumers.
Four energy-efficient stoves for preparing food: EUR 52
An hour of radio airtime for educational work: EUR 150
Printing costs for 1,000 information folders: EUR 300
It is still early in the morning; the sun is barely above the horizon. Nevertheless, Cathérine Womas is already stirring four large aluminum pots and chopping vegetables: Onions, eggplants, green peppers and the leaves of the baobab tree are transformed between her nimble fingers into strips and cubes in no time at all. The charcoal burners under her pots radiate heat, steam rises from the simmering sauces. Despite all this, the 61-year-old looks completely relaxed. "I like to cook," she says, "especially the recipes that I learned from my grandmother." One example is Kondono, the sauce of Baobab leaves, which she enriches with small smoked fish.
As skilled a cook as Catherine is, it’s not every day that she finds herself simultaneously handling four separate fires. But this week, she is one of the volunteers at the "Alimenterre" food fair in the Togolese capital of Lomé. The name is a combination of the French words for "food" and "earth". At the annual event, OADEL, a partner organization of Brot für die Welt, presents food from local farmers. This includes the dishes that Cathérine and the other women prepare fresh every day.
"We want to show people how versatile and delicious their cooking can be with local products," explains Tata Ametoenyenou, the head of the organization. Above all, he wants to reach the members of the growing middle class who like to buy imported goods for reasons of prestige. "They consider themselves to be 'more modern' or 'civilized'," says the 43-year-old. OADEL wants to change their minds. After all, what comes from Togolese fields is generally fresher. In addition, it is mostly grown organically.
"We want to show people how varied and delicious you can cook with local products"
Finally, OADEL is also advocating for a change in eating habits for political reasons: "When we buy local products, we create income for the farmers' families and jobs in the manufacturing industry," says Ametoenyenou. "This is the only way to overcome poverty in Togo."
As good and healthy as the local foods may be, without the educational work of OADEL they could hardly survive on the market. They are usually more expensive than the imported goods, which are often subsidized by the government in their countries of origin, such as the US and the EU. One kilogram of locally grown rice costs 700 Western African francs (about EUR 1) in Togo, but the cheapest rice from Thailand, Vietnam or the US costs only about half that, namely 450 francs. The same is true of cooking oil: a liter of imported sunflower oil or peanut oil goes for an average of 700 francs. The high-quality Toglese palm oil costs almost twice as much, namely 1300 francs (about EUR 2).
Through radio broadcasts, films and brochures, as well as events in schools and at the Alimenterre fair, OADEL is explaining the reasons why this price difference is justified: because in Togo almost everything is handmade, because the goods are not subsidized by the state, and because the quality is usually higher. "Take the tomato for example", Ametoenyenou says. "The tomato content is often very low for imported canned goods, the rest consists of corn and dyes." This, of course, is cheaper than the largely pure product of the small farming families supported by OADEL.