“Wagashi” cheese in northern Benin

Cheese production is an integral facet of Fulani culture in Benin.

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First introduced by Dendi merchants over a hundred years ago, the Fulani rapidly adopted this unique method of processing their milk, and wagashi production now holds a central role in the Fulani livelihood. Unlike the cheeses known in most of the world, wagashi does not melt at high temperatures.

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Several years ago, Corfilac (http://www.corfilac.it/en), an Italian organization dedicated to the study of traditional cheese methods, took notice of Fulani cheese production. Impressed with the unique attributes of this all-natural cheese, they invested in a project to commercialize wagasi in Benin. Corfilac built a Fulani cultural center in the town of Pehunko. Not only does the center serve as a processing factory for wagasi, but it has also become a gathering point for local Fulani, where women come to fetch water and children come to study and play.

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We were lucky to be welcomed at the center by Toko, an enthusiastic agricultural engineer who oversees the project’s operation. While wagashi is traditionally sold in local markets, the center purchases the cheese directly from the women who produce it in their camps, sterilizes it, and packages it for sale in restaurants and stores in Cotonou. We visited nearby camps where the cheese was being made, and Toko showed us around the factory to see how the cheese is tested and processed.

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This family came from Gogonou, a village on the other side of Benin. During the dry season, they travel to the greener pastures near Pehunko where they set up a temporary camp.
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Delicious millet porridge before going to pasture with the cattle.
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Traveling light, they set up temporary shelters at their camp site.
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In Fulani culture, the cows belong to the men but the milk belongs to the women.
As such, the women are in charge of cheese production and managing the income from milk and cheese.
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Aluminum bracelets are popular jewelry for Fulani women.
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And buttons make great jewelry too!
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The cheesemaking process begins with pounding the bark of the Sodom’s Apple plant, which serves as a coagulent.
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The pulp is mixed with the milk.
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Then the pulp is strained out and the mixture is placed on the fire.
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The resulting mixture is drained in a colander and the dense cheese forms as the water drips out.
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Half an hour later, the cheese is ready and an employee of the center comes to purchase the fresh cheese by weight.
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Back at the factory, Toko sterilizes the cheese by boiling them. Then, they are sealed in plastic, refrigerated, and packaged for sale.
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6 Responses to ““Wagashi” cheese in northern Benin”

  1. Ramata BARRY TRAORE says:

    Bonjour,

    Félicitations pour ce travail de professionnels : les images sont très belles ! Je félicite également le centre pour ce travail génial. Cette expérience mérite d’être étendue à toutes les localités où il y a des peuls pour la vulgarisation d’un fromage de qualité supérieure et pour permettre aux femmes peules de subvenir à leurs besoins. Bon vent à vous.

  2. SEHO says:

    VERY NICE IDEA! L’AFRIQUE A DU POTENTIEL, FELICITATION

  3. ARRIBAT says:

    Bonjour,

    où peut-on trouver ce magnifique fromage en France?Est-il exporté?

    Bravo pour le travail déjà accompli!Merci pour votre réponse.

    B.Arribat

  4. Sonia says:

    Good job guys
    where can i find it in Washington DC
    Thank you

  5. G aabeni says:

    Nice projet je voudrais avoir un peu plus d’information on ce qui concerne l’emballage du wagashi

  6. Body says:

    Bonjour,
    félicitation au centre et à ses animateurs sur toute la ligne. Nous voulons pareil centre à Ouagadougou. Je suis un producteur laitier qui a en moyenne 100 litres de lait par jour. Mes semblables sont très nombreux dans les périphériques de la villes de Ouagadougou. Actuellement, nous sommes en pénurie de courant qui met en péril la production et la commercialisation du frais.
    ce magnifique projet pourrait nous tirer d’affaire.