Food and Tourism for Rural Development in the Western Visayas, Philippines

The Slow Food Community for the Promotion and Preservation of Traditional Foods on Negros Island, in partnership with Slow Food and the Philippine Region VI Department of Tourism, achieved good results in the second year of the “Food and Tourism for Rural Development in the Western Visayas, Philippines” project.

The project aims to identify, promote and preserve the local gastronomy and cultural heritage of the Western Visayas, a local diversity food system that can act as an additional incentive for international and domestic tourists. Both types of tourism are equally important, with domestic tourists facilitating the transfer of money from urban to rural areas and from wealthier regions to more vulnerable parts of the country. The increased economic benefits associated with tourism are by no means limited to the direct actors of the food system, but are shared between all the actors of the territory. They are also a powerful incentive to retain rural livelihood models and help counteract the gradual shift of people from rural areas to cities.

This project has been an important step for Slow Food to identify and safeguard local biodiversity in the Western Visayas and to develop sustainable local value chains as viable alternatives to mass-produced and imported foods that replace local small-scale production.

Boasting an abundance of unique local biodiversity from both land and sea, the region has much to offer, with 161 products identified during the initial biodiversity mapping exercise. Given that the mapping was undertaken while Covid-19 restrictions were in place, this is an excellent starting point, and each province in the Western Visayas continues to identify more locally specific products, thanks to the diversity of cultures, communities and landscapes of the region. .

Of the 161 products identified, 10 were already on board the Ark of Taste, Slow Food’s catalog for endangered food products from around the world whose inclusion criteria can be found here. Thanks to the work done by local mapping teams in each province, 10 new products also joined the Ark of Taste during this phase, bringing the total number of Ark products in the Philippines to 75. The complete list for the country can be found here. In addition, three products from the Western Visayas have been identified as potential Slow Food Presidia: Tinigib maize and Ube Kinampay from Negros Island and Tultul salt from Guimaras.

In order to preserve and enhance the food diversity highlighted during the mapping phase, these local products must be assigned marketing channels. To contribute to this, a monthly Slow Food Earth market will be created in Silay, Negros Occidental, offering consumers a place to buy good, clean and fair trade products. Members of the Slow Food Capiz community have also expressed interest in starting their own land market in the near future. Earth Markets not only shorten the distribution value chain from farmer to consumer, for a fairer and tastier local food system, but also serve as an inclusive and friendly place open to all.

Another way to support unique local products is working with chefs. Thanks to the strong and active Slow Food community on the island of Negros, 12 chefs have already confirmed their commitment to join the Alliance of Slow Food Chefs. The next step is to create and launch the Alliance, the first in the Philippines, in the Western Visayas. Cooks from Capiz, Iloilo, Aklan and Antique plan to join the project, playing their part in preserving and promoting the region’s unique food biodiversity and culture by showcasing local ingredients and sharing the stories of the farmers and food producers with local, national and international audiences.

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