Founded in 2017 by Harlem-based chef and restaurateur Pierre Thiam, Yolélé’s mission is to be a stabilizing force for West African smallholder farmers. By direct-sourcing Fonio, West Africa’s oldest cereal grain, Thiam and his team are creating a market for traditional crops grown under 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, and provides economic stability for the mostly-female workforce of independent farmers.
Think of Fonio as a cousin to couscous, albeit with a finer, sandier texture. It’s got a neutral flavor profile, cooks quickly, and is very forgiving in the pot (in the Sahel, they say “Fonio never embarrasses the cook!”).