Nyéléni : the 2007 World Summit on Food Sovereignty

Yes, I’ve just come back from one international conference, having cast a few (and soon many more) aspersions on it. But not all such gigs are lamentable. Via Campesina’s African organisations are mounting a major colloquium on food sovereignty in Mali later this month. The forum, oddly enough, is called “Nyéléni 2007”. Here’s a short gloss explaining why.

“Nyéléni was an only child, which in Africa was considered a curse. Nyéléni, as a girl and only child of her parents, suffered in her youth from all the mocking her parents were subjected to. She secretly resolved to remove this slur that men had cast on her by defeating them on their own ground, that is to say agriculture and working of the land.

To every suitor she repeated endlessly that marriage could wait, that first she had a mission to accomplish as a homage to her family, to women, to all women. This was her priority. Nyéléni took part in farming competitions and defeated all the champions with the best reputation in her village and in the surrounding region. Her reputation grew. The more arrogant men would challenge her, day after day, and to their disgrace they were all defeated.

Nyéléni’s reputation grew beyond the limits of her region, she became a living legend. This is the time when her renown was established and she earned respect. And so the legend says that it was at the beginning of winter, which is the rainy season here, that she domesticated fonio/angry rice, that cereal you ate today. It’s also thanks to Nyéléni that we have a variety of millet called samio, that is ’small millet’. Nyéléni’s father was called Nianso, her mother was called Saucra, she came from Siracoro. Unfortunately history does not tell us whether one of her suitors ever married her, and therefore whether she ever had children. This is the story of Nyéléni.”

If this piques your curiousity, and especially if you’re a member of press in Africa, you can find out more here.

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