Traditional Food Tourism: A Sustainable Alternative for Territorial Markets

February 24, 2024

By Misheck Nyirongo

TRADITIONALFOOD TOURISM is a rapidly growing trend around the world, offering travelers a unique opportunity to explore the cultural heritage and culinary traditions of different regions. With a rich tapestry of diverse cultures, Africa is a treasure trove of traditional gastronomy, waiting to be discovered by adventurous food enthusiasts.

The food tourism may be defined as visitation to primary and secondary food producers, food festivals, restaurants and specific locations for which food tasting and/or experiencing the attributes of specialist food production region are the primary motivating factors for travel.

Food tourism includes activities such as taking cooking classes; going on food or drink tours; attending seed and food festivals; participating in specialty dining experiences; shopping at specialty retail spaces; and visiting farms, markets, and producers.

This issue is also noted by institutions concerned with world cultural heritage and tourism, including the UNWTO - World Forum on Food Tourism, World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism, and the UNESCO UNITWIN International Conference - Tourism and Gastronomy Heritage. Gastronomy has a strong territorial market component, but the link between territorial market products, their perception and evaluation by residents and visitors are not frequently scrutinized.  

Travellers these days not only look for places to stay and eat, such as food festivals. They seek to explore more and be a part of the local culture wherever they go. So, as the purpose of travel has evolved beyond reaching places, the impact of food tourism has become a significant factor in shaping how hotels cater to their guests. 

The Zambian Traditional Seed and Food Festivals organized by the consortium of CSOs held at Munda-Wanga Botanical Garden in Chilanga of Lusaka Province, are emerging to be the platforms were people can go to just have a taste of the Zambian traditional food. It is also interesting to note that these food festivals are now spreading like the bushfire to rural districts.

Another, example, in Lundazi district, with the support from Global Green Grants Fund through Agroecology Fund, KHUMBILO Agroecology Media Services, besides, in Chipata KACHELE Development Foundation with support from Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) - Zambia, organised the first-ever traditional seed and food festivals, at district level.

Like many other agroecology movements, Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT) is also busy like a bee organising some food fairs at community level, as they go beyond a mere food consumption; it is an opportunity to engage with local farming communities and support their sustainable agricultural practices.

The integration of ‘My Food Is African’ by the local hospitality sectors into their food menus cards such as at Country 24 Lodges Zambia; and GOMATEMWA Lodges in Lundazi district; and another prominent ‘Silvia Food Solution’ in Lusaka, are few examples of the hospitality industries that are promoting the traditional food tourism.

The consumption of traditional foods, as part of the tourist experiences, and providing a break from everyday routines of eating ‘fast foods’ and offering a chance to try new culinary experiences, especially during weekends, it’s an excellent family voyage. From eating fresh fish from Luapula to the bowl of Chama rice, the spice-infused beef stews of Southern region to the fragrant of traditional foods at the most popular ‘Matebeto’ restaurants.”

Linkages between food and tourism through territorial markets, serve as the basis for learning more about the destination of choice, its local economic development, sustainable practices, and experience in the realm of food. These help shape our local brand and trigger demand in addition to helping support indigenous traditions and diversity.

“Agriculture, food and tourism are combined into offering tourist products in rural areas, where the development of local activities combining traditional food and tourism becomes an investment for the future with both the concept of sustainable gastronomy and agriculture sustainability, and helps in the development of local entrepreneurship in rural areas”, Omali Phiri, Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity (ZAAB) Programmes Officer explains.

The indigenous food tourism through transition to agroecology in Africa is closely related to the development and promotion of territorial markets. The territorial markets play a role in food tourism, as visitors explore the indigenous food products and experience the authenticity of the destination through its culinary offerings.

According to African Agroecological Entrepreneurship (AAE) Project Officer, Ruth Nabaggala at Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) said, “Territorial markets can promote access to markets for farmers, which help to increase awareness of local cultural and economic issues, enabling social actors to better understand their local context and the political, economic, and social forces operating in their communities.”

The territorial markets also address food sovereignty through food tourism by the provision of healthy and culturally appropriate foods. The territorial markets in Africa contribute to increased access to healthy, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food by providing local access to a variety of food products, including locally sourced fruits, vegetables, and other staples.

“African governments should take steps to promote the development of territorial markets to ensure food security and nutrition, strengthen local economies, and promote sustainable agricultural practices. These steps should include providing access to finance, investing in infrastructure, and creating incentives for smallholder farmers,” AAE Project Officer, Ruth Nabaggala at AFSA urged.

In conclusion, by embracing the culinary heritage of the continent, travelers can forge connections with local cultures, support sustainable practices, and contribute to the preservation of traditional food ways. So why not embark on a gastronomic adventure and let the flavours of Africa transport you to a world of vibrant traditions and unforgettable culinary experiences?

Misheck Nyirongo

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