J’ai rejoint le mouvement et vous? I’ve joined the movement, and you?
Aissatou M’Baye, the Paris-based Senegalese culinary blogger, who takes to social media to promote Smart Food, became a Smart Food ambassador in 2017. Using millets, sorghum, and groundnut, M’Baye created five Smart Food recipes under the label, “Aistou Cuisine,” and shared them through her social media channels. M’Baye’s aim with the social media campaign was to reach women and men living in West Africa, but quickly her recipes became popular in Europe, as well—especially in France.
Once M’Baye decided to join hands with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) to help bring back millets into the mainstream, she started publishing her recipes and their nutritional benefits on the blog, Aistou Cuisine. Soon after, the first Smart Food social media campaign was launched between October 12th and December 27th of 2017. The campaign gained 473,222 views and attracted more than 800,000 comments. “The response was overwhelming. Many viewers wanted to know how they could obtain millets and sorghum in Europe. In West Africa, especially in Senegal and Mali, viewers were quite happy to learn new ways of cooking millets,” adds Agathe Diama, Smart Food Coordinator of West and Central Africa. By December 2017, the video recipes registered 219,000 views with an estimated viewing time of 1,438 hours. The simple Sorgho Soufflé was a big hit, attracting 70,000 views. “Although the official social media campaign has ended, the interactions continue around the videos and articles published on the blog,” says M’Baye.
“Millets and sorghum are rich in micronutrients and yet have been neglected from our diets for a long time, so it was necessary to think of new recipes to transform these Smart Foods into a savory menu. We managed to create some cool recipes, and at the same time communicate the benefits of Smart Food,” adds M’Baye. Often referred to as traditional and sometimes ‘old-fashioned’ cereals, millets and sorghum have long suffered from unpopularity in the mainstream food culture. Yet these grains are endowed with immense potential to manage some of the planet’s major challenges, such as poverty, malnutrition, diabetes, climate change, and environmental degradation.
In 2017, ICRISAT partnered with the culinary blogger to help spread the benefits of the forgotten coarse grains, now officially termed by the Government of India as “Nutri-Cereals.” Building on this success, several Smart Food initiatives are being planned to strengthen culinary research by working with research institutes including food and nutrition laboratories and Universities in Africa, Europe, and the U.S. Schools are promoting Smart Foods, for example, through school feeding programs and through health experts to enhance the awareness of mother and infant nutrition.
At the grassroots level, it is important to sensitize communities on the importance of dietary diversity, nutritionally balanced diets, and the health benefits of Smart Food. One way to achieve this effectively is by using innovative behavior change communication. “We will be using social media campaigns, Smart Food reality TV cooking shows, and fostering champions like M’Baye on Smart Food recipes,” says Diama, as she calls for strong partnerships to improve nutrition in rural and urban areas of the Sahel.
To read more about Aistou Cuisine, click here.