A mostly flat territory, consisting of a huge plateau, except for the south-eastern corner of the country, which includes a northerly part of the Futa Gialon Massif, and for the volcanic peaks towards the islands of Cape Verde… this is Senegal, a country which takes its name from its most important river. This is an example of just how important rivers are in this country, almost all torrential: most of Senegal is arid. Only in the more southern part is there a savanna, which in the furthest south becomes a tropical forest. This means that Senegal contains at least some areas of practically all kinds of vegetation and landscape, from desert to jungle: and this in a relatively small country. Its flora, in other words, passes from thick rainforest in the south, with dense mangrove areas along the coast, to the less dense forest parklands, then north to the savanna and further north to the Sahel semi-desert steppes.
Rice, millet and white fonio: the foundations of Senegal’s diet
The rich variety of Senegal’s food is an expression of the mixture of cultures it has been home to and also the influence of external culinary traditions. A typical meal for the vast majority of its people consists of a plate of rice or millet accompanied by vegetables or a piece of fish, frequently in one large serving dish for the whole family. A complete dish for oneself is therefore a privilege, often a tribute of hospitality offered to a guest.
Its traditional dishes are all based on rice, vegetables, meat or fish. Rice as a foundation for nourishment – often imported – is a relic of the colonial period. Wheat is used for bread or Moroccan-style couscous. Bread was imported directly from the French tradition, and to this day its most common form is that of the baguette. The most common popular dish, however, is millet couscous, with a finer grain and more bitter taste in the north and a coarser but sweeter grain in the south. Use is also made of a cereal typical of Senegal – eaten above all in the south and in the Casamance region – namely fonio, worked into couscous form. The most popular drinks are mint tea and coffee.
Food security beneath a baobab tree
Senegal’s Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 centers on a baobab tree as a symbol, one of the most majestic trees in the world, which provides nutrition and protection to thousands of people.
Senegal is present at the Universal Exposition in the Arid Zones Cluster, and its theme is ‘Production, nutrition and protection: the challenges of food security and sustainable development in Senegal’.
The aim of the country’s participation in the Milan Expo is to show the efforts it is making to develop its agriculture and to guarantee food security despite often unfavorable conditions. The major threats it has to deal with on the road to these goals are soil degradation, climate change, water shortages and population increase.
Senegal intends to adapt to changing climatic conditions by trying to achieve food independence in feeding its population, while respecting the environment. To fulfil this goal, various educational programs have been created to motivate environmentally responsible behavior by both producers and consumers.