Two dozen Beninese women making a unique type of garri flour sign up to a new code of practice to better market their product and boost incomes
Garri, a type of flour made from cassava root, may be a staple in West Africa, but Gari Sohoui is special. That's because it can only be made from cassava grown in the central Collines département of Benin, and using only the artisanal methods unique to the area.
Marketing the crisp, slightly acidic flour as a premium brand depends on protecting its unique geography and production techniques. And in November, two dozen women Gari Sohouiproducers met at a workshop in the regional capital Savalou to agree on a way of doing just that.
The key is to assert the same kind of intellectual property right that means Scotch whisky can only be made in Scotland or champagne from the Champagne region of France. It's called a geographical indication, and a GI certification anchors a special product to a specific location and adds value by attesting its authenticity.
During the two-day workshop, the women carefully reviewed a draft code of practice to ensure that the document precisely reflected traditional knowledge of how the final product, Gari Sohoui from Savalou, is made.
The code of practice was validated at the end of the workshop, and all 24 women signed an agreement to distribute it and make sure it is followed.
The workshop, which was organized by UNCTAD, was a milestone on a path to bringing Gari Sohoui from Savalou to bigger markets and boosting the income of the specialists who make it. It is an example of how often unique foodstuffs and handicrafts in some of the world's poorest countries lie undiscovered and ripe for better distribution.