Food and Tourism for Rural Development in Western Visayas, Philippines

The Slow Food Community for the Promotion and Preservation of Traditional Foods in Negros Island, in partnership with Slow Food and the Department of Tourism of the Philippine Region VI, achieved good results in the second year of “Food and Tourism for Rural Development in Western Visayas, Philippines” project.

The project aims to identify, promote and preserve the local gastronomy and cultural heritage of Western Visayas, a diverse local food system that can act as an additional incentive for international and domestic tourists. Both types of tourism are equally important, with domestic tourists facilitating the transfer of money from urban to rural areas and from wealthier to more vulnerable parts of the country. The increased economic benefits associated with tourism are by no means limited to the direct actors in the food system, but are shared among all stakeholders in the area. They also serve as a powerful incentive to preserve rural livelihood patterns and help counter the gradual exodus of people from rural areas to cities.

This project is an important step for Slow Food to identify and protect indigenous biodiversity in Western Visayas and to develop sustainable local value chains as viable alternatives to mass-produced and imported foods that replace small-scale local production.

Blessed with an abundance of unique native biodiversity from both land and sea, the region has much to offer, with 161 products identified in the initial biodiversity mapping. Given that the mapping was done while the Covid-19 restrictions were in place, it is an excellent starting point and each province in Western Visayas continues to identify more locally specific products, thanks to the diversity of cultures, communities and landscapes in the region.

Of the 161 products identified, 10 were already on board the Ark of Taste, Slow Food’s catalog of food products at risk of extinction from around the world, whose inclusion criteria can be found here. Thanks to the work done by the local mapping teams in each province, 10 new products also joined the Ark of Taste during this phase, bringing the total number of Ark products in the Philippines to 75. The full country list can be found here. Additionally, three products from Western Visayas have been identified as potential Slow Food Presidia: Tinigib corn and Ube Kinampay from Negros Island and Tultul salt from Guimaras.

In order to preserve and promote the food diversity highlighted during the mapping phase, these local products should be given sales channels. To help with this, a monthly Slow Food Earth Market will be created in Silay, Negros Occidental, offering consumers a place to buy good, clean and fair produce. Members of the Slow Food community in Capiz have also expressed interest in starting their own Earth Market in the near future. Earth markets not only shorten the distribution value chain from farmer to consumer, creating a fairer and tastier local food system, but also serve as an inclusive and friendly place open to all.

Another way to support unique local products is to collaborate with chefs. Thanks to the strong and active Slow Food community in Negros Island, 12 chefs have already confirmed their commitment to join the Slow Food Chefs Alliance. The next step is the establishment and launch of the Alliance, the first in the Philippines, in Western Visayas. Chefs from Capiz, Iloilo, Aklan and Antique plan to join the project, playing their part in preserving and promoting the region’s unique food biodiversity and culture by showcasing local ingredients and sharing the stories of farmers and food producers with local, indigenous and an international audience

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