Nestled in the heart of Senegal, Ibrahima Thiam’s vision is as audacious as it is inspiring: to rewrite the narrative of his nation’s dietary habits. The rise of imported staples like rice, bread, and pizza has caused a sombre disconnect from the indigenous grains and foods that once nourished Senegalese villages.
The torchbearer of this culinary revolution, Thiam, is the president and CEO of Allido Food, a Senegalese brand with a mission far beyond profit margins.
Thiam’s commitment extends to a wholesome transformation. He envisions local agricultural production and processing as the bridge between ancestral wisdom and modern health consciousness. His journey is a symphony of collaboration, echoing with the voices of women producers and cooperatives who join him in rewriting Senegal’s culinary story.
“It’s about more than just food,” Thiam says with conviction. “We’re striving for a cultural renaissance, an embrace of our roots, and a brighter future for our nation.”
Allido Food celebrates the land’s bounty, giving new life to age-old crops like millet, maize, and the revered black-eyed peas, known as niebe. Their ingenious alchemy doesn’t stop here – they’ve tapped into the hidden treasures of West African soil, harnessing the potent power of moringa, baobab seeds, fonio, and attiéké. These ingredients, lovingly transformed, become Allido’s arsenal of all-natural, nutrient-rich products, a celebration of Senegal’s superfoods.
In a bid to reclaim the throne for indigenous ingredients, Thiam introduces the youth to their rich heritage. Allido’s line of baby food stands as a testament to his belief in nurturing the future through health and tradition.
“This is more than just baby food; it’s a legacy we’re sowing,” Thiam explains, his eyes gleaming with a mixture of hope and determination.
However, the path towards culinary renaissance is paved with challenges. In a world dominated by imported goods, changing palates and habits requires more than just intention. Thiam knows that to influence change, he must tantalise taste buds.
Potential of indigenous ingredients
Allido Food is setting the stage for a culinary revival through a chain of restaurants, offering a tantalising glimpse into the potential of indigenous ingredients. Thiam’s vision isn’t confined to his brand alone – he seeks to inspire a movement, sparking a sea change in consumption patterns and triggering a surge in demand for local, wholesome products.
Thiam’s partnership with the Netherlands Trust Fund V (NTFV) programme in Senegal’s cashew sector embodies a strategic alliance for sustainable agribusiness and technological innovation. Empowered by the ITC’s Alliances for Action initiative, he envisions exponential growth for his enterprise, bolstered by innovative marketing strategies and unexplored market avenues.
Yet, Thiam’s ambition exceeds mere culinary innovation. Allido Food echoes his commitment to environmental sustainability. The brand’s ‘no-waste’ philosophy harmonises with its ethos, giving a second life to every element discarded during processing. The fruit’s zest, leaves, bark, seeds, and even stones are meticulously repurposed into treasures like mango oil, moringa soup, and the ingenious baobab coffee.
Thiam’s belief in the value of discarded components resonates profoundly: “What you throw away is even more valuable than what you process,” he muses.
The tapestry of Allido’s mission extends beyond cuisine, weaving into the lives of rural women who form its cornerstone.
Thiam’s initiative empowers around 1,200 women groups, offering an avenue to turn agricultural surplus into invaluable processed goods. Through training and professionalisation, Allido not only uplifts these women but also empowers them as stewards of Senegal’s culinary renaissance.
As Thiam contemplates the future, his eyes shine with dreams of decentralisation. Scaling up processing infrastructure, he envisions mobile processing units blooming across Senegal’s rural expanse, breathing life into forgotten villages and contributing to holistic rural development.