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Southern Art Hubs Grab Attention for Creative Economy

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Regeneration – of poor neighbourhoods, districts, even whole countries after a conflict – is both a challenge and a key to transforming lives. One approach that has a track record is turning to artists and creative people to re-imagine a neighbourhood or country’s culture, and restore pride and vitality to places beaten down by life’s hardships.

The tool to do this is the creative economy. The “interface between creativity, culture, economics and technology in a contemporary world dominated by images, sounds, texts and symbols” (UNCTAD) is seen as away for emerging economies to leapfrog into high-growth areas in the world economy.

Two approaches offer inspiring examples: a Brazilian art gallery owner is single-handedly remaking the Brazilian market for contemporary art. And in Cambodia, a new wave of young artists are creating a stir in the global art scene.

Galeria Leme (http://www.galerialeme.com/home.php?lang=ing) is located in a graffiti-strewn, down-at-heel neighbourhood in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Brazil has seen impressive economic growth in the past decade. The country is Latin America’s biggest economy and had reached growth of 5.1 percent in 2008 before being hit by the global recession.

The gallery pursues several goals at once: its mission is to draw attention to socially and politically engaging contemporary Brazilian art, but it also aims to increase awareness of the art market in Brazil and help in the revitalization of the gallery’s neighbourhood.

The gallery is a concrete box designed by Paulo Mendes da Rocha (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulo_Mendes_da_Rocha), an award-winning Brazilian architect. Founded in 2004 by former banker Eduardo Leme, the gallery has fashioned itself into being the leading authority on contemporary art in Brazil. Leme used to work in the financial sector before moving into running a gallery, and has applied his understanding of markets and how to create demand.

This in turn has grabbed international attention, and had the global art world beating a path to this neighbourhood. In short, it creates a buzz that soon feeds on itself and draws in more people to the scene.

It’s a formula that has worked well in many other places, where a successful gallery fosters a scene and draws in audiences, buyers and new businesses. Soon, a creative economy comes alive and that means serious money. Both New York and London have shown how this can work. In New York City, the creative economy employs over 278,000 people (2002).

Sao Paulo is the commercial hub of Brazil’s contemporary art market. But previously, buyers had to search all over the city to find the works they wanted to buy.

“I think it is a really good moment for Brazilian art,” Leme said.”Brazilian art is fantastic. Due to our miscellaneous (sic) of culture and people and all these kind of things. Brazil is almost a continent. You have art made of wood, made of metal, made of plastic films, all the materials. More and more, I am seeing Brazilians moving onto the international markets, the prices are moving up. The number of fellows from museums that are coming down here to see what’s going on, it’s fantastic.

“To run this business you not just to have good stuff: you need to understand to whom you should sell also,” Leme told the magazine Monocle. “I mean also not just Sao Paulo is a rich and big city that you have a lot of collectors. There is a lot of social stuff you have to understand to be in this specific business.

“My challenge is to increase the Brazilian market. I have this kind of ambition. More partners, more people talking about art, if more people talking about art I am going to receive more feedback and I am going to grow the terms. Not just as a business but also as a man I will have more things on my mind, more information. And the financial market, the more money you make the richest you are. Here, it is not just that: my point of view is that the more challenge is the thing, the more goals I make I am going to be richer in this business.”

Another scene has taken off in formerly war-ravaged Cambodia in Southeast Asia. The country was notorious for the horrors of the Killing Fields in the 1970s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Killing_Fields), where the extremist Khmer Rouge government executed people and Cambodian artists suffered greatly. As a result, the art community was devastated for many years.

Thirty years on, a new generation of artists has emerged from the recent years of peace. This new wave is getting attention across Asia for its innovation.

Artist Pich Sopheap is one of the pioneers. By founding the Cambodian contemporary art association saklapel.org with Linda Saphan, he has focused the Cambodian art scene through group exhibitions and promotion. Another tool he uses to build the scene up has been the Visual Art Open(VAO), an annual event since 2005 featuring work by Cambodian artists.

This has had the effect of building a strong community of artists within the country who can support each other. It also makes it easier for outside art buyers to discover who is working in the country’s art scene.

Sopheap works in a variety of media including oil painting, photography and sculpture. He manipulates bamboo and rattan to shape his sculptures.

“I think for me sculpture with this material is just because it is cheap. It’s easy to use, it is very relevant. The subject matter is in the work already. For me it is discovering new forms that resonant with the atmosphere, with the conditions of this country,” Sopheap told the BBC.

Sopheap’s family fled from the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. He spent his early life in the United States, where he trained in art. When he returned to Cambodia a few years ago, he found the art scene very small and weak.

“Cambodia is a young country when it comes to modern art. It takes a while for new blood to come back and actually make something that concerns the present time,” believes Sopheap. “And we are very young, in our early 30s. Before that there was almost none that was known. We are making our own way – it is all up to us. We show in different cafes, we show in bars, we show in gift shops. And when we do those kind of exhibitions it is kind of exciting, it is not really a gallery, a cold place, people go by and it exposes to a lot of foreigners.”

A Cambodian-trained artist, Leang Seckon (http://saklapel.org/vao/artists/leang_seckon/), takes these approaches further, using sewing, painting, metalwork and collage in ways that reference Cambodian traditions, from apsara ballet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apsara_Dance) to fortune-telling, while subtly commenting on modern culture, society and politics. Seckon now has shows in Britain, Japan and Norway, and has become one of the country’s most successful artistic exports.

“To begin with I was not a professional artist and I didn’t realize I could jump from low to high level so fast. Things have changed so quickly for me. If I do one style of art it makes me feel so bored. But if I mix it up with other techniques like sewing and collage, it makes it more interesting for me. I don’t know if you can call that real Cambodian art but I didn’t copy or learn it from anyone: I created it myself.”

“This is a very important point for me: I can show all my work to the international community. In the countries I go to, I tell them the same thing. Cambodia has new, young artists – we haven’t disappeared: the young ones have been growing up.”

His approach is to stay away from cliched Cambodian art.

“I just think we work really hard,” says Sopheap on the group’s success to date. “I just think we work really hard and get together and organize exhibitions ourselves for the most part. It is just artists working hard and they are hungry and they are fearless and when that energy is happening, people from the outside start to actually pronounce our name correctly and afterward they come to town and just by accident they find this little scene, and they are very interested in it because it is raw.”

Published: December 2009

Resources

  • Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit 2009: The summit is about the successful and emerging creative technologies and initiatives that are driving economic growth locally, nationally and internationally. Website: http://www.gcecs2009.com/
  • Creative Economy Report 2008. An economic and statistical assessment of creative industries world-wide as well as an overview of how developing countries can benefit from trade in creative products and services produced by UNCTAD and the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation in UNDP. Website: http://www.unctad.org/en/docs/ditc20082cer_en.pdf
  • An article about artists in the Caribbean and how they are using online networks to connect and earn income. Website: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2009/07/23/trinidad-and-tobago-online-art-networks/

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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African Innovators Celebrated in Prize

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Innovation is increasingly being recognized as the key to tackling long-standing development problems in Africa, as well as across the developing and developed world. While it is easy to draw up a list of challenges facing the global South, it takes a special person to see not problems but solutions.

Innovation tends to mean fresh thinking brought to bear to old problems, or completely radical new technologies, insights and ways of doing things that are transformative.

The Oslo Manual for measuring innovation (http://www.oecd.org/innovation/inno/oslomanualguidelinesforcollectingandinterpretinginnovationdata3rdedition.htm) has defined four types of innovation: product innovation, process innovation, marketing innovation and organizational innovation (OECD).

Product innovation is a good or service that is new or significantly improved. This includes significant improvements in technical specifications, components and materials, software in the product, user friendliness or other functional characteristics. Process innovation is a new or significantly improved production or delivery method. This includes significant changes in techniques, equipment and/or software. Marketing innovation is defined as a new marketing method involving significant changes in product design or packaging, product placement, product promotion or pricing. And finally, organizational innovation is a new organizational method in business practices, workplace organization or external relations.

How quickly these can be brought to the marketplace, and the level of innovation in society, will be critical to a country’s success in the coming decade, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Importantly, innovation is being seen as the big driver of economic progress and well-being and the best way to deal with the plethora of challenges facing human health and the environment.

As an example, in the past decade, communications innovation has given more and more of the world’s population access to mobile phones and the Internet. This has led to the success of many new companies, from the search engine giant Google to multiple software innovations such as Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile phone banking application (http://www.safaricom.co.ke/personal/m-pesa/m-pesa-services-tariffs/relax-you-have-got-m-pesa), to small and innovative companies spreading the innovation bug such as Pico Crickets (http://www.picocricket.com/) or the Raspberry Pi (http://www.raspberrypi.org/).

As the OECD has said, “Not only has innovation moved to centre stage in economic policymaking, but there is a realization that a coordinated, coherent, ‘whole of government’ approach is required.

“Even countries that have generally refrained from active industrial policy in recent years now seek new ways to improve the environment for innovation in order to boost productivity and growth. Today, innovation performance is a crucial determinant of competitiveness and national progress.”

In the past, African innovators mostly went unacknowledged, unsupported and unrecognized. But this is changing, as new resources come online to support, finance, encourage and champion African innovators. Until very recently, people outside the continent heard little positive news about what was happening there. But the African innovator story is an inspiration to people around the world.

The Innovation Prize for Africa (http://innovationprizeforafrica.org), begun in 2011, awards US $100,000 for the top innovation that matches its criteria of marketability, originality, scalability, social impact and business potential.

The prize aims to encourage people to come up with practical solutions to the continent’s long-standing problems. This year’s prize received 900 applications from 45 countries.

The 2013 prize went to the South Africa-based AgriProtein (http://www.agriprotein.com) team for an innovation that uses waste and fly larvae to produce animal feed. The solution collects biodegradable waste and then feeds it to flies. The larvae the flies produce are then ground into a protein which is used as a feed for animals. Not only does this approach improve the nutritional quality of the feed, it also lowers the cost for African processors and farmers.

This year’s finalists offer a mixed bag of innovations, including creative ways to find new energy sources, improving access to clean water and preventing diseases.

Joining a clutch of other South African finalists, Dr. Dudley Jackson has created the SavvyLoo, a waterless toilet for use in rural areas and makeshift settlements. It separates the waste into liquids and solids to reduce the risk of disease, odour, and harm to the environment and eases waste removal.

Another South African, Professor Eugene Cloete, is the inventor of the TBag Water Filter that cleverly uses material recovered from tea bags to filter polluted water until it is completely safe to drink.

When it comes to the thorny issue of finding new energy sources for an energy-hungry continent, the prize unearthed some interesting solutions. One is Justus Nwaoga, a Nigerian finalist, who developed a way to turn a common weed into a source of renewable solar energy.

Nwaoga, a researcher from the Department of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (http://unn.edu.ng/), found the common tropical weed Mimosa pudica (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimosa_pudica) surprisingly provides a way to tap into the sun’s energy.

The weed has leaves which fold in on themselves when touched, but spring quickly back into their normal form when exposed to daylight. The plant opens up in the morning and closes in the evening – an indicator of how sensitive it is to sunlight.

Nwaoga began to experiment with the plant, subjecting it to artificial light at night to see if the leaves would open up again. But they didn’t. He came to the conclusion there were properties in the leaves that only responded to natural, solar light. He further concluded it had something to do with electrical transmission in the leaves. He isolated the element that was making the leaves respond to solar light, finding it more sensitive than the silicon solar cell used in solar panels.

Other innovators recognized by the prize include a Tunisian research and development startup called Saphon Energy (http://www.saphonenergy.com/), which makes bladeless wind turbines, and Muna Majoud Mahoamed Ahmed from Sudan, who has created the Agroforestry Model Farm in Khartoum.

“We see a strong trend emerging of innovations that have significant social impact for Africa,” Dr.Francois Bonnici, director of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, told Ventures Africa.

The call for applications for the 2014 Prize will be announced in July 2013.

Published: June 2013

Resources

1) Innovation Prize for Africa: Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) is a joint initiative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) started in 2011. Website: http://innovationprizeforafrica.org

2) Appfrica: Accelerating the Growth of Africa’s Tech Sector: Appfrica has launched “The Cheetah Code”, an ongoing web series documenting the African tech and creative space. The series is a collection of mini-documentaries chronicling Africa’s young entrepreneurs, creative class, and emerging technology sector. The goal is to record high-quality video content that is entertaining, educational, and inspirational all at once. You can find all of this content and more at tv.cheetahcode.com. Website: http://blog.appfrica.com/2013/05/12/a-web-series-about-africas-entrepreneurs-creatives-and-technologists/?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

3) Innovation and Growth: Rationale for an Innovation Strategy: Publisher: OECD. Website: http://www.oecd.org/science/inno/39374789.pdf

4) Reverse Innovation: Ideas from the Global South. Website: http://urbantimes.co/2012/09/reverse-innovation-ideas-from-the-global-south/

5) African Innovator Magazine: Technology insights for Africa’s decision makers. Website: http://www.africaninnovatormagazine.com/

Southern Innovator logo

London Edit

31 July 2013

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Building an Interactive Radio Network for Farmers in Nigeria

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

As solar power technology has improved, new pioneers have emerged to exploit this innovation. Several decades ago, solar power was seen as too expensive for wide-scale roll out in poor countries and communities. But today, an army of solar technology pioneers has fanned out across the world to show the new wave of innovations and how they make solar power affordable.

More than 1.7 billion people around the world have no domestic electricity supply, of whom more than 500 million live in sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank). Without access to domestic electricity, these people need to fall back on expensive, battery-powered devices or use gas generators and lamps: a cost that eats into their income.  

More than 90 percent of Nigeria’s estimated 155 million people (US Census Bureau) live on just US $2 a day. Many of them are small farmers in remote areas. Access to information is very poor, especially critical information that can improve farming methods and boost incomes.

One of the most effective ways to communicate to a large number of people over a large territory is through radio.

A clever use of solar-powered battery radios has enabled the building of a low-cost, two-way communications network for rural farmers. The Smallholders Farmers Rural Radio (http://smallholdersfoundation.org) network broadcasts to 250,000 listeners with 10 hours of daily programming. The communications network reaches 3.5 million farmers in around 5,000 villages in Imo State (www.imostate.gov.ng), southeast Nigeria. The programming tackles issues from sustainable farming practices to HIV/AIDS and how to open a bank account . The clever part is the two-way dialogue between the listeners and the radio station. This is done through mobile radios known as AIR devices. They are small, solar-powered radios that let listeners send voice messages to the radio station. The message is stored on the radio station’s computers and later broadcast during a programme, allowing farmers to share their experiences, ask questions and receive answers in their own language.

The slim, hand-held silver-coloured radios have a small antenna and dials.

The network was created by Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, who won a 2010 Rolex Laureate award (http://young.rolexawards.com/laureates/nnaemeka_ikegwuonu). The awards seek to foster innovation in the next generation. Launched in 2009, it looks for “visionary young men and women at a critical juncture in their careers, enabling them to implement inventive ideas that tackle the world’s most pressing issues in five areas: science and health, applied technology, exploration, the environment and cultural preservation.”  

Ikegwuonu hopes to bring the service to other parts of Nigeria.

His radio studio is the height of simplicity and sophistication: a laptop computer, a microphone, a headset and a small control board to manage the sound levels. The radio signal is broadcast through a 30-metre-high antenna.

Solar power is being creatively used in many countries to tackle energy poverty. This ranges from lamps and lights to cookers to small power packs for electronic devices, all the way to large hardware to power homes and communities.

In India, whole villages are already using solar energy and improving their standard of living. Various companies and projects are selling inexpensive solar appliances – from cooking stoves to lanterns and power generators – across the country.

A report by the International Finance Corporation called the sub-Saharan solar market the largest in the world – a market of 65 million potential customers, who could access off-grid lighting over the next five years (IFC). The report anticipated high growth rates of 40 to 50 percent for anyone entering the market, with less than one percent of the market currently being served.

With a billion Africans using just four percent of the world’s electricity (The Economist), energy poverty is already harming further economic growth and development gains. As Africa’s population is expected to double to 2 billion by 2050, the gap between people’s needs and the power available will be stark: in Nigeria, out of 79 power stations, only 17 are working (The Economist). It will take innovators like Ikegwuonu to bring hope to this situation and transform lives despite the obstacles.

Published: December 2011

Resources

1) ToughStuff has developed a modular range of affordable solar powered energy solutions to the three main power needs of poor consumers in the developing world – lighting, mobile phones and radios. Website:www.toughstuffonline.com

2) Solar Power Answers is a one-stop-shop for everything to do with solar power. It has a design manual and guides to the complex world of solar power equipment. Website:www.solar-power-answers.co.uk/index.php

3) How We Made It Africa: A website detailing success stories on businesses investing in Africa and how people are making the most of opportunities on the continent. Website:www.howwemadeitinafrica.com

4) Solar Sister: A clever way to sell solar lamps and torches using a network of women. Website: www.solarsister.org

5) D.light Design: Their lights use LEDs (light emitting diodes) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LED_lamp) and are four times brighter than a kerosene lantern according to D.Light Design. Website: www.dlightdesign.com

6) Lighting Africa: Lighting Africa, a joint IFC and World Bank program, is helping develop commercial off-grid lighting markets in Sub-Saharan Africa as part of the World Bank Group’s wider efforts to improve access to energy. Lighting Africa is mobilizing the private sector to build sustainable markets to provide safe, affordable, and modern off-grid lighting to 2.5 million people in Africaby 2012 and to 250 million people by 2030. Website: www.lightingafrica.org

7) A list of Nigerian companies selling solar-powered equipment and devices. Website: http://posharp.com/solar-energy-service-companies-in-nigeria-in-alphabetic-order_renewable.aspx?ptype=solar&btype=service&gtype=country_NG&xtype=ntype

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

Brazilian Restaurant Serves Amazonian Treats

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The vast Amazon rainforest has inspired a cuisine pioneer in Brazil. Combining the sensual pleasures of fine dining and the joy of tasting new flavours with a pursuit of sustainable and profitable local farming, a chef is inventing a new Brazilian cuisine and showing the way to create sustainable incomes.

The kitchens of chef Alex Atala are as much a laboratory of food experimentation as a place to cook meals. He applies French and Italian cooking styles to traditional Brazilian dishes and ingredients. Since opening his restaurant D.O.M in 1999 in Sao Paulo, Atala has relentlessly pursued – through adventurous journeys around Brazil and into the Amazon rainforest – new flavours, foods and cuisines native to the country. When he started out, he was surprised to discover the lack of knowledge about native Brazilian ingredients, both within the country and outside. He has turned himself into a champion for local communities, helping them turn local foods into sources of income.

Brazil, home to the largest portion of the Amazon rainforest, is hoping to become the world’s biggest food producer – it is currently second after the United States – addressing a major global problem and providing income for Brazil’s farmers.

The challenge is to increase food production – providing income for Brazil’s farmers and helping address a major global problem – without destroying the Amazon’s complex ecosystem.

Amazonia, the region that takes in the mighty Amazon River and the vast Amazon rainforest, is home to the most diverse range of plant and animal species in the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Rainforest).
Brazil is currently debating legislation to ease restrictions on how small farmers can use land in the Amazon rainforest. It would loosen regulations on farming near river banks and hilltops. Many working in Brazil’s agricultural industry believe the country is not living up to its potential. They say Brazil could surpass the United States as an agricultural producer if allowed to use all its arable land.

This is a crucial debate not only for the future of the environment, but also for humanity. World demand for food keeps rising as populations increase and living standards rise in many countries, such as China. Another trend at work is increasing global urbanization, where more people are leaving agriculture as a business to live in cities and peri-urban areas to pursue a better quality of life. These growing megacities will need vast amounts of food to feed their populations.

Brazil has, in recent years, increased the amount of territory designated as a protected area in the Amazon forest.

The National Institute for Space Research in Brazil (http://www.inpe.br/ingles/index.php) has satellite photographs showing deforestation in the Amazon at its slowest pace for two decades. But more recent reports show deforestation accelerating again in 2011.

Sao Paulo’s D.O.M. Restaurante (http://www.domrestaurante.com.br) – the name is an acronym for the Latin phrase “God, the best and greatest” – has used the rainforest’s rich harvest of foods to create an award-winning destination restaurant that prioritises sustainable sources. It was ranked seventh in this year’s S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

Atala says on his website he “is bringing a new sustainable Brazilian cuisine to the world’s attention.” His motto is “It is necessary to cook and eat as a citizen.”

The restaurant celebrates small-scale producers when sourcing food products (http://www.domrestaurante.com.br/#/en-us/menu/ingredientes).  One pioneering food producer Atala works with is DRO Ervas e Flores (herbs and flowers) (http://www.droervaseflores.com). Located in the city of Cequilho, it grows edible herbs and flowers for restaurants. The flowers cultivated by DRO serve mainly to decorate plates, but can also be eaten. At the company farm, the flowers produced include violas, begonias, borago, monks cress, chrysanthemums, pumpkin flowers, coriander flowers, sweet alyssum, mini roses, basil flowers, roses, rockets and violets.

One notable success has been the Amazonian root priprioca. Once it was used only for cosmetics, but Atala has turned it into an essence for cooking. He has conducted original research into uses for the root, which is produced by small communities in the Amazon.

Other Brazilian foods he champions include black rice, an unusual variety sought after for its health benefits. It has 30 percent more fibre and 20 percent more protein than white rice, and less fat and calories than brown rice. The black rice used at D.O.M is produced in the Paraiba Valley in Sao Paulo state by Chicao Ruzene (http://www.arrozpreto.com.br), who researches new varieties on the rice farm.

Jambu, a herb from the Amazon, gives an electrical sensation when it is chewed. Tucupi, a yellowish liquid from pressed wild manioc tuber, is used to season typical Amazonian dishes made with fish, fowl and ducks.

Already well known in his native Brazil, Atala has become the country’s first internationally known celebrity chef and standard-bearer for the “New Brazilian Gastronomy.”

His origins are inspiring: a former DJ and punk, he sold his records and went on a trip backpacking in Europe when he was 18. He made a living as a painter and dishwasher until a friend convinced him to go to catering school. Upon graduation, he worked in some of the top restaurants in Italy and France. This apprenticeship left Atala skilled in the techniques of French cuisine – considered one of the most disciplined and methodical in the world – and he returned in 1994 to Brazil.

The restaurant has ultra-modern design and the sleek kitchen is home to a collection of Amazonian art. Atala acts as an ambassador for the country’s cuisine and flavours to the world. He opened a second restaurant in 2009, Dalva e Dito (http://www.dalvaedito.com.br), which celebrates home cooking by mothers and grandmothers and features only local produce.

Atala’s inclusion of ‘wild’ ingredients has inspired other chefs. His expeditions into the Amazon continue to discover and study the biodiversity of the rainforest and the culinary culture of its inhabitants.

His long-term agenda is to boost local farmers and food production and to increase the availability of ‘wild’ foods in the nation’s supermarkets. If he gets his way, people around the world will be eating the Brazilian way.

“French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese chefs, for example, have their own cuisine and give value to their terroir (local) produce,” Atala explained his passion to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. “We have to do the same in Brazil! Our ingredients are exotic now, but can become popular in the near future.”

Published: June 2011

Resources

1) Brazilian Exporters and Importers website. Website:http://www.brazilianexportersandimporters.com/index.aspx

2) Por uma Gastronomia Brasileira by Alex Atala – ISBN 8586518352 Website:http://www.submarino.com.br/produto/1/220365/por+uma+gastronomia+brasileira

3) Winner of a UN Habitat award, the Brazilian farmer’s cooperative Cooperhaf: Cooperativa de Habitacao dos Agricultores Familiares has put together what it calls a “social technology” combining housing and farm diversification to support family farmers. Website:http://www.cooperhaf.org.br

4) Eat Smart in Brazil: How to Decipher the Menu, Know the Market Foods and Embark on a Tasting Adventure by Joan Peterson, Publisher: Ginko Press. Website:http://www.ginkgopress.com/

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

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