Africa

'Earth Defenders' to the rescue

Updated 6:27 AM ET, Wed November 19, 2014
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06. The salt of the presidium. LAVAZZA CALENDAR 2015. Earth Defender - Andrew Wanyoni Sikanga06. The salt of the presidium. LAVAZZA CALENDAR 2015. Earth Defender - Andrew Wanyoni Sikanga
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From Morocco to Ethiopia to Kenya, Africa is awash in small farms, manned by an impassioned group of activists dedicated to preserving local traditions. This year, coffee company Lavazza , in partnership with the Slow Food movement, has created a 2015 calendar to honor the African men and women who work the land and defend both their local industries, and their traditions.

Lavazza tapped U.S. photographer Steve McCurry, who traveled across the continent taking portraits of Africa's most dedicated food activists.

Andrew Wanyonyi Sikanga (pictured) is one such activist. A salt producer from western Kenya, Sikanga is also a member of the Nabuyole self-help group, an association that produces salt from an aquatic plant. Sikanga uses a unique technique that involves extracting salt from the wild reeds found on the banks of the Nzoia River.

By Lauren Said-Moorhouse, for CNN
Steve McCurry for Lavazza
"It was an incredible journey and in Morocco, Senegal, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia I learned many things and met people I now regard as friends," McCurry said in a statement.

"I hope that through the universal language of photography my pictures can help the 'Earth Defenders' project to resonate across the globe."

In this image, McCurry captured a group of women who harvest coffee in Ethiopia's Kafa region.
Steve McCurry for Lavazza
Ethiopia has a deep-rooted, decades-old coffee culture. The country is considered coffee's birthplace, and is the top producer in Africa, and the fifth largest producer in the world. Ethiopia's producers bring in $719 million annually, according to the Ethiopian Coffee Exporters Association. McCurry captured Asnakech Thomas, the country's first female miller and exporter, in a dynamic portrait nestled amidst the coffee plantations. Steve McCurry for Lavazza
Roba Bulga Jilo is an Ethiopian food activist from the Karrayyu tribe. Camels are an integral part of the nomadic clan, so Jilo works with Slow Food to ensure camel milk is promoted to the wider community in a sustainable manner.

"My dream for Africa is that Africans themselves can decide the country's destiny," he says.
Steve McCurry for Lavazza
Along the rolling hills of Morocco's southern coast, Nadia Fatmi, pictured, stands as guardian of her homeland's treasured argan oil. For generations, locals have been harvesting the oil by crushing the seeds of the spiky tree for medicinal and culinary purposes. But in recent years, the oil has become a much sought-after beauty product in many Western countries. As the president of the Tighanimine cooperative, Fatmi works alongside 60 women to generate income for the region. Steve McCurry for Lavazza
In Morrocon village of Taliouine, McCurry met with Mhamd Id Taleb, president of a local saffron agricultural cooperative. McCurry placed Id Taleb amidst baskets full of the delicately harvested saffron flowers.

"We are a small cooperative, but we have a big heart and our work and our lives are one and the same thing," says Id Taleb.
Steve McCurry for Lavazza
27-year-old Kenyan John Kariuki Mwangi assumes a protective pose, like that of a soldier fighting to preserve his environment. Mwangi is the vice president of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. McCurry posed him with the pumpkins of Lare, Kenya, which thrive in the region despite highly irregular rainfall. Steve McCurry for Lavazza
Anna Ndiaye, pictured front right, is the president of the Gie Mbel Saac Federation in Fadiouth, Senegal. Together with the island's other women, she has devoted herself to the arduous process of preparing the island's prized product: Salted millet cous cous. This variant of cous cous is not grown anywhere else in the world. Like many of the "Earth Defenders" captured in this series, these women illustrate clearly the role females can have in harvesting and protecting African products. Steve McCurry for Lavazza
Here, Tanzanian missionary Father Peter Kilasara can be seen sifting through locally-grown coffee beans. He's been instrumental in helping local farmers source better equipment. As the leader of the Kirua Children Association, he also been promotes education for young children in the region. Steve McCurry for Lavazza
This photograph showcases some of the children Kilasara has been able to help provide an education for. He adds: "A seed thrown into the air and allowed to fall to the ground (demonstrates) that the future really does lie in our own hands." Steve McCurry for Lavazza