“Sharing culture through food has always been my driving passion, and YolÉlÉ was created in that spirit.”— Pierre Thiam
Yolélé is changing conditions for rural West African smallholder farmers. This population is among the world’s most vulnerable. Many young people seeking job opportunities simply leave – often to overcrowded cities where jobs are hard to find or risk their lives on the dangerous path towards Europe.
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 communities in the West African Sahel.
Most people in West Africa rely on farming to survive, but they don’t have access to markets. In West African villages, you often see women by the side of the road hoping to sell their day’s harvest, but not enough customers to make a living. These farming communities face extreme poverty and a challenging path towards economic security.
At Yolélé, we’re connecting smallholder farmers—mainly women—with local and global markets so they can support themselves from agriculture while increasing food sovereignty in the region.
Resilient Food Systems
Smallholder farmers in West Africa (like everywhere else in the world) have always relied on biodiverse crop systems that are well-suited to the region’s hot arid climate and poor soil. They employ regenerative techniques like intercropping, cover-cropping, and crop rotation. Unfortunately, most development funding in West Africa goes towards chemical-intensive, monocropped farm systems that focus on crops from the Global North.
At Yolélé, we are creating a market for traditional crops grown under these resilient farming systems in order to foster a more biodiverse, drought-tolerant landscape across West Africa. Devoting more land to this kind of farming has the potential to regenerate and regreen the Sahel.
African Food Around the World
“As in many cultures, food in Senegal is never only to nourish the body: it’s an act of sharing, of showing your love toward others, and bringing people together.” – Pierre Thiam.
The ingredients and cuisine of Africa are nourishing, deep, and bright… and at turns funky-fermented, spicy, and vegetable-forward. One taste of egusi, jollof fonio, or efo riro and you’ll get what we mean.
Africa’s vibrant flavors, ingredients, and food ways deserve a spotlight and a place on tables around the world. That’s where Yolélé comes in.
Even when West African farmers can get fonio to market, they face two key problems that prevent them from making money. One is a lack of processing capacity, and the other is low agricultural productivity.
At Yolélé, we’re building processing facilities in West Africa that can turn plants into food to be sold locally and globally. We’re also collaborating with governments, intergovernmental agencies, and NGO’s to train and equip smallholders for increased productivity through conservation farming.
What does Yolélé mean?
Yolélé is a Fulani term of exuberance used throughout West and Central Africa.
It roughly translates to “Let the Good Times Roll” (or, like in New Orleans, “Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!”). People shout out “Yolélé!” to get parties started and people dancing.
At Yolélé, we celebrate the ingredients and food traditions of Africa:
the continent central to humanity’s origins– and its future.
The Fulani people are the world’s largest nomadic group, living across government-drawn country lines. Like the Fulani, Yolélé aspires to transcend borders, bringing African culture to all.