For thousands of years the ancient Dogon people have lived in their harsh, awe-inspiring environment on the Bandiagarà escarpment between Mopti and Timbuktu, in Mali, a chain of red sandstone cliffs running from north to south across the Mali plain.
The fields are located by the barrages, small dams built in the 1980s to provide more water and increase the production of shallots, the only product sold in any quantity (fresh or dried).
Dogon shallots are renowned at markets throughout Mali due to their unique sweetness and flavor from the rocky land. They are eaten fresh or dried.
Drying can be carried out using a traditional method that involves grinding the shallots in a stone mortar, shaping the resulting paste into pellets and drying them in the sun.
More modern methods (introduced by various NGOs, particularly the Piedmontese Re.Te), involve cutting the shallots into thin slices and drying them for one or two weeks on lattices in the sun.
Traditional vegetable gardens have fruit trees (mango, orange, karitè). One area is used for cereals (rice, corn, millet, fonio) and peanuts, another for vegetables and legumes. The women transform the flowers, fruit and leaves of each plant (whether wild like baobab, or cultivated) into a condiment called somè in the Dogon language.
The Dogon Somè Presidium includes several products, though shallots are at the base of traditional Dogon somé. These condiments are basic ingredients in Dogon cuisine: they are used in sauces and soups and on vegetables or meat.
The Presidium includes several villages and involves the whole chain, from cultivation - using native and self-produced seeds, harvesting, and processing through to packaging.
What is a Slow Food Presidia?
The Slow Food Presidia are projects sustaining quality production at risk of extinction, protecting unique regions and ecosystems, recovering traditional processing methods, safeguarding native breeds and local plant varieties.
Check out our website: http://www.slowfoodfoundation.com/presidia
Photos — Paola Viesi