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Community food systems can help alleviate the scourge of hunger…

Many people in South Africa plant and grow their own fruits and vegetables, either in their backyards or in community vegetable gardens. Maverick Citizen spoke to two food activists to hear their perspective on sustainable food systems.

Land and food activist Nomonde Buthelezi introduces herself Cape Town Food Agency (done)a non-profit organization.

“We are a collective of farmers, activists and consumers whose main goal is to rethink community spaces and try to de-stigmatize the issue of hunger,” Buthelezi said. Her organization also deals with gender-based violence issues, as it is mainly women who buy and prepare food, and lack of food often leads to domestic violence.

Buthelezi said one of Fact’s main focus areas was ensuring that community voices weren’t left out of food discussions, giving the example of stores being opened in a community without consultation to determine community needs, preferences and allergy issues.

“I started out as a hobby gardener, then moved on to street farming and then to urban farming when I managed to get a piece of land just bigger than my front yard,” Buthelezi said.

She then became involved in research on urban agriculture in South Africa and Mozambique, which looked at issues facing urban farmers such as access to land, water and to food. When Covid-19 hit, Buthelezi’s research extended to how farmers were surviving during the pandemic.

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She was “unhappy” with the food parcels the government started providing to communities because they contained high-fat and high-sugar foods, some of which were about to expire.

“It was like they forgot about the health aspect of food and just cared about filling their bellies.”

It was then that she began to think of ways for people to obtain nutritious food through a system of community kitchens that would integrate urban farmers into the value chain.

“To the extent that urban farmers grow food, that food is not really consumed in our communities. People in our communities are only too happy to go and buy vegetable combos from…supermarkets that they don’t know contain chemicals and health implications. They were passing right in front of my farm. There is so much need for education about the organic food we grow that my food ends up being packaged and sold to the elites.

One of Fact’s goals is to transform community kitchens into spaces that are more than just food and can provide people with what they need to eat.

Buthelezi said that instead of giving people a bowl of food, they should be taught how to farm in small spaces.

Community forum

Luke Metelerkamp is a farmer and research associate at Urban Food Futures Program at the TMG Think Tank for Sustainability, and worked with communities in Cape Town to research food security issues and their intersection with Covid-19.

“One of the conclusions of this research is that there was a need for a community forum so that people could come together to discuss the dietary challenges they were facing and also propose solutions.

“People said they could see there was a lot to do but they didn’t have a seat at the table and that’s where our arrangement with Fact was born, with dialogues at the local level around food.”

Urban Food Futures examines how the rapid pace of urban development and globalization affects food production, distribution and consumption. Metelerkamp said food security discussions have always been rural-focused.

Food safety

“One of the things that emerged from the Covid research was that urban farmers and fisherfolk, the people who are actually involved in producing food at the source, were the most food insecure.” Metelerkamp said this problematizes the notion that food production necessarily means food security for the people involved.

“The focus has often been on production as the solution to ‘people are hungry, we have to help them grow food’, that there are no jobs, so growing food is the solution. From a production perspective, there’s a bit of a narrative that also needs to be broken around urban hunger and urban production. »

TMG focused on systemic support interventions for people who have been excluded from the formal economy, spatial development and education system in order to be food secure. Metelerkamp said food insecurity is often accompanied by a sense of shame and stigma and the issue of food needs to be placed higher on the national agenda.

Metelerkamp has worked on writing retreats with women involved in community systems. The women, including Buthelezi, are writing a series of chapters that will be collected in a book titled What’s cooking? Add critical feminism to the pot. SM/MC