February 3, 2023

The Slow Food Community for Promoting and Preserving Traditional Foods in Negros Island, in partnership with Slow Food and the Philippine Region VI Department of Tourism, has seen good results in the second year of the “Food and Tourism for Rural Development in Western Visayas, Philippines” project.

The project aims to identify, promote and preserve the local gastronomy and cultural heritage of Western Visayas, a diverse local food system that can act as an added incentive for international and domestic tourists. Both kinds of tourism are equally important, with domestic tourists facilitating the transfer of money from urban to rural areas and from richer to more vulnerable parts of the country. The increased economic benefits associated with tourism are by no means limited to the direct actors in the food system, but are shared amongst all the stakeholders in the area. They also serve as a potent incentive for retaining rural livelihood models and help to counteract the gradual displacement of people from rural areas to cities.

This project has been an important step for Slow Food to identify and safeguard the local biodiversity in Western Visayas and to develop sustainable local value chains as viable alternatives to the mass-produced and imported foods that are replacing small-scale local production.

Blessed with an abundance of unique local biodiversity from both land and sea, the region has much to offer, with 161 products identified in the initial biodiversity mapping exercise. Given that the mapping was undertaken while Covid-19 restrictions were in place, this is an excellent starting point, and each province of Western Visayas is continuing to identify more locally specific products, thanks to the diversity of cultures, communities and landscapes in the region.

Of the 161 identified products, 10 were already on board the Ark of Taste, Slow Food’s catalog for food products at risk of extinction from around the world whose inclusion criteria can be found here. Thanks to the work carried out by the local mapping teams in each province, 10 new products also joined the Ark of Taste during this phase, bringing the total number of Ark products in the Philippines to 75. The full list for the country can be found here. Additionally, three products from Western Visayas have been identified as potential Slow Food Presidia: Tinigib corn and Ube Kinampay from Negros Island and Tultul salt from Guimaras.

In order to preserve and promote the food diversity highlighted during the mapping phase, these local products must be given sales channels. To help with this, a monthly Slow Food Earth Market will be established in Silay, Negros Occidental, offering consumers a place to buy good, clean and fair products. Members of the Slow Food Community in Capiz have also shown interest in starting their own Earth Market in the near future. Earth Markets not only shorten the distribution value chain from farmer to consumer, making for a fairer and tastier local food system, but also serve as an inclusive and convivial place open to all.

Another way to support unique local products is collaboration with chefs. Thanks to the strong and active Slow Food Community in Negros Island, 12 chefs have already confirmed their commitment to joining the Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance. The next step is to create and launch the Alliance, the first in the Philippines, in Western Visayas. Cooks from Capiz, Iloilo, Aklan and Antique are planning to join the project, playing their role to preserve and promote the region’s unique food biodiversity and culture by showcasing local ingredients and sharing the stories of farmers and food producers with local, domestic and international audiences

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