Discover the Slow Food Ark of Taste, a world of agrobiodiversity to save

Also known as “lucky islands”, the Quirimbas form an archipelago north of Mozambique. Ibo, with a little more than 400 inhabitants, is one of the main islands; the place is said to have accommodated Vasco de Gama during his circumnavigation of Africa. The village streets and houses on Ibo still echo the long Portuguese rule.

Fishing is the main activity here and every day men go to sea on long motorless sailing boats, mostly catching shrimp, a well-known resource of Mozambique.

On the island, as well as in small areas of the mainland, Coffea racemosa Loureiro is grown, a lesser-known species alongside arabica and robusta that belongs to a group of species commonly known as "wild coffee".    

Endemic in Mozambique, Coffea racemosa Loureiro has adapted itself to the local climate: this plant grows at heights ranging from sea level to 1500 meters, can withstand long dry seasons (up to nine months) and is not particularly demanding (it grows well even on sandy soils and needs relatively little shade).    

On Ibo, the plant still grows wild, but every family raises one or two plants in the market garden, usually close to coconut palms and banana trees, using the coffee family consumption.

Cherries are sun dried a few days over bamboo and jute shelves and occasionally reshuffled. Once the skin, pulp and seeds are thoroughly dried, cherries are hand hulled.    

In the early decades of the 20th century, Ibo coffee was exported to Europe, where it was used to soften coffee blends from Brazil, Sao Tomé and Java, which have very strong flavors and high caffeine content. Between the 1970s and 1980s the market fell into a crisis and since then the number of plantations has significantly dwindled.    

Particularly appreciated for its low caffeine level, Ibo coffee, once brewed, develops intense herbal flavors (mainly laurel, but also mint, eucalyptus and licorice), the distinguishing feature of this unique and interesting product.    

In order to protect this coffee production Slow Food started a Presidium in 2012, thanks to the co-operation between the Slow Food Pemba Convivium, the Quirimbas National Park, Mozambique WWF and a group of fishers from Ibo Island.

The Presidium aims to improve the harvest phase, drying facilities and postharvest handling, thus offering an excellent product. The second phase includes coffee promotion at a local and national level: to do this a small, user-friendly roaster has been bought, packaging has been improved and producers have been trained in all processes, including roasting and end marketing.

An important objective of the Presidium is to safeguard a unique ecosystem: Ibo coffee may significantly boost the income of local fishers, taking the pressure off fishing as a livelihood and preserving the ecosystem balance of Quirimbas National Park.

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.

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Photos — Archivio Slow Food

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