important to maintain this bond, in order to guarantee high-quality gastronomy. Today, chefs are highly exposed and followed, players whose voices can be heard beyond their tables, restaurants and books. Of course, it is up to everyone to commit themselves to a specific cause according to their personal convictions. But I think that in our sector, in addition to offering delicious and refined dishes, chefs must consider the effects of their occupation on the planet. Especially since there are many challenges regarding food, particularly in Africa.
New diets impacting the people and the planet
During my travels, I have observed the impact of urbanisation on diets. The African middle class consumes much more protein ready-to-eat , processed and imported food than before. Indeed, the continent is still highly dependent on food imports. As agriculture is mainly family-based, it is unable to keep up with the growth of the urban population1. In the meantime, there are increasingly fewer cash crops. A lot of agriculture is focused on growing for export: many African countries spend agricultural land on coffee, cocoa, tropical fruits, etc. for the Western and Eastern markets not for local consumption the income earned is then used to purchase from those same countries other commodities needed by the population.
All this led to new dietary habits that combined with a more sedentary lifestyle contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes or obesity. Nowadays, nearly 35% of the urban population in West Africa is obese or overweight. A trend seen in many countries on the continent2. In addition to these health and social challenges, there are also negative impacts on the planet: the increase in the carbon footprint of imported food, the development of fodder agriculture at the expense of food/subsistence agriculture, the rise in mono-crop systems that are depleting the soil, loss of biodiversity, increased use of synthetic nitrogen fertilisers are a few specific impacts our dietary changes are having on the planet. However, Africa has many potential assets that can help address these challenges. It is currently the most plant-forward continent with a diet mainly based on a lot of wild/foraged foods. Moreover, African people particularly in rural areas still consume a lot of ancient grains (millet, sorghum, fonio, teff3 ) which is a way to preserve crop diversity. We also have a low/no waste approach to cooking. For example, in my kitchen we use all the baobab fruit, leaves and bark and we do the same for tubers such as cassava, sweet potato and cocoyams, roots and
1 - In 2018, the urban population growth rate in Sub-Saharan Africa was 4.1% compared with a global rate of 1.9%. World Bank, 2018. 2 - This figure reaches 50% of Ghana s urban population. Cornelia van Wesenbeeck, Disentangling Urban and Rural Food Security in West Africa , Amsterdam Centre for World Food Studies, April 2018. 3 - Plant originally from Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Our work as chefs would have no taste without what nature has to offer.