“As a chef, writer, and activist I have been bringing West Africa’s culinary traditions to the developed world for over twenty years. First by cooking in restaurants and then through cookbooks, my business has been about spreading the word.” — Pierre Thiam
We believe we all need to pay it back – to our ancestors, to our roots, to all of those who produced us.
Yolélé is changing conditions for rural West African smallholder farmers. This population is among the world’s most vulnerable. Young people hoping to better their lives simply leave – to overcrowded cities with few opportunities, or the dangerous path towards Europe on small fishing boats.
Simply buying more of West Africa’s oldest cereal grain helps to alleviate extreme poverty, but we’re going a step further to truly unlock opportunity and transform life in the West African Sahel.
Our primary purpose is to unlock opportunity for rural West Africans. The people who live here deserve a chance in life as much as anyone, but circumstances in that region provide almost no one with a route out of extreme poverty.
Yolélé is changing those circumstances. We are creating an export market for ingredients grown by rural West Africans and removing the obstacles that stand between those smallholder farmers and an American market that’s hungry for new and exciting sources of nutrition.
Our solution is to maximize the dollars coming into farmers’ hands by removing limitations to their capacity to farm more abundantly and productively. Our vision is a network of smallholders stretching across West Africa. We also hope to grow the market for fonio in West Africa. We think it’s a shame that some West African countries rely on imported white rice as a staple food when this tremendously nutritious native grain is grown right at home.
Fonio addresses the impact of climate change by its very nature. Fonio’s deep roots allow it to grow with little water in dry soil. But we aim to be more purposeful, growing fonio as part of a resilient, organic agricultural system that combats desertification. We hope to transform ecologic as well as economic reality so that rural West Africa doesn’t need to send its young people away for the chance to thrive.