2014

Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo

Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

Mauritania
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Mauritania Map, Slow Food, 2014, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

Small-scale fishing in Mauritania is threatened by a perverse system: industrial fleets, mostly foreign, are plundering its fish-rich waters, causing serious problems for local communities.

Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo, Slow Food, 2014, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

In 2006 Mauritania sold fishing rights to the European Union in exchange for a reduction in its public debt, giving up the fight against overfishing and encouraging a new form of colonialism. The industrial fishing boats hire and fund the local fishermen and the fish is frozen and taken to North Africa or Europe for processing.

Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo, Slow Food, 2014, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste
Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo, Slow Food, 2014, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste
Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo, Slow Food, 2014, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

The damage has been enormous. Almost 50% of mullet stocks are at risk and the fish-processing activities, including botargo production, traditionally practiced by the Imraguen women have been abandoned.

Few are able to continue making a living. The local NGO Mauritanie 2000 is working with groups of women to try to preserve local knowledge, strengthen their technical skills and improve hygiene conditions. The producers buy mullet from fishermen, extract the eggs, rinse them, salt them and let them dry naturally, obtaining a traditional botargo (from the Arab butarikh, salted fish eggs). 

Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo, Slow Food, 2014, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste
Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo, Slow Food, 2014, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste
Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo, Slow Food, 2014, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste
Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo, Slow Food, 2014, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

The women also prepare tishtar (dried and finely chopped mullet fillet) and mullet oil.

Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo, Slow Food, 2014, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

To help protect this type of production Slow Food has started a Presidium with three groups of Imraguen women who work in Nouadhibou and Nouakchott, the country’s main ports.

Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo, Slow Food, 2014, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

Slow Food, in collaboration with the producers from the Orbetello Botargo Presidium, has helped the Imraguen women improve production, directly manage the sale of their products and find alternative markets. Thanks to the projects supported by the Piedmont Regional Authority and the City of Tours, the women have acquired a vacuumpacking machine and a refrigerated room for storing the botargo. A good practice guide for processing mullet has been produced in Arabic and French.    

Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo, Slow Food, 2014, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste
Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo, Slow Food, 2014, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

In 2014 a project to create local quality saltworks has been launched in collaboration with the French association Univers Sel and the NGO Mauritanie 2000, thanks to support from the EU Commission.    

Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo, Slow Food, 2014, From the collection of: Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste

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

Credits: Story

Photos — Alberto Peroli
Photos — Paola Viesi

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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