A unique rice species, Oryza glaberrima, has existed in Africa for at least 4,000 years. Originally from the Niger Delta, it is characterized by a reddish bran on the grains. A traditional red rice variety grows in the province of Comoé, in southern Burkina Faso near the border with the Côte d’Ivoire. It is known in the local language, Cerma, as Cira-Mahingou. This region, whose forest is catalogued as a Ramsar site (a wetland of international importance), is crossed by the Comoé River and is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna: antelopes, elephants, migratory birds and many species of trees and wild fruits.
Comoé red rice is a treasures of local biodiversity, and the variety has adapted well to the area’s soil and climate. The medium-small grain is white to red in color and very fragile, making it difficult to process without breaking. It is also easily scattered, resulting in losses during the harvest. It is usually cultivated by women on low-lying, marginal land, and is sown by hand during the rainy season (around June), growing during the floods and remaining underwater for 60 days. The production cycle lasts six months, twice as long as the hybrid varieties now commonly grown and consumed in West Africa.
As a result, the survival of the red rice is threatened by these more productive hybrids. Only a few women in the villages of Siniéna and Ouangolodougou still grow the variety for home consumption. It is an essential ingredient in the ceremonial meals of the Ciramba (Gouin) people. This delicious rice is less sweet than other varieties, and thanks to its great capacity to absorb water it is used in the preparation of soups and tô, a traditional dish prepared during rituals.
A Presidium for Comoé red rice was established in 2016 thanks to a collaboration between the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, the Region of Piedmont, Coldiretti Piemonte, the consortium of Piedmontese NGOs, the Province of Vercelli and the Association Inter Villageoise de Gestion des Ressources Naturelles et de la Faune de la Comoé-Léraba (AGEREF/CL), the inter-village association for the management of natural resources and fauna in Comoé-Léraba. The aim of the Presidium is to preserve this local variety of Oryza glaberrima and to promote the cultural identity of the local area. The initiative works alongside previous programs to promote local products that can generate additional income for local people with activities that respect the local environment, in an attempt to stop the spread of poaching.
The Presidium will be working on cultivation techniques, reducing and eventually eliminating the use of chemical products and paying attention to seed reproduction, as well as improving the quality of processing and encouraging the consumption of the traditional variety by promoting it on the local market.
Ouangolodougou and Siniéna villages, Comoé province
48 producers in the villages of Ouangolodougou and Siniéna, Comoé province, southern Burkina Faso. The producers of Comoé red rice are all women.