UJ boosts sustainable urban farming at Soweto slow food festival

Food enthusiasts explored a variety of culinary options at the slow food festival on Saturday, 3 September at the Soweto Theatre in Jabulani, while urban farmers hosted by UJ researcher discussed ways of making the food system more sustainable.

The Izindaba Zokudla (Conversations about Food) – a multi-stakeholder engagement research project, led by Dr Naudé Malan of Department of Anthropology and Development Studies from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), hosted this public conference which shared insights on the food system and how it can be sustained.

“The purpose of the conference is to use action research methodology to get real food and farming projects going on the ground in Soweto; to change the ‘normal’ food system to a sustainable food system; and to deliver fresh and healthy food to people,” said Dr Malan.

Topics such as: Growing and producing food in Soweto and Johannesburg; nutrition and food security in South African townships; buying food in the city – how to get a healthy and fair deal; sustainable food production in the city and beyond were explored. The conversation also featured the University of Johannesburg service-learning for food system changes.

“We have a Farmers’ School and Innovation lab which occurs every two weeks at the Soweto campus. The project aims at food system change. The focus is on systemic change that includes urban farmers, urban food processors and retailers. The city, NGOs, private companies and service learning programmes at the UJ are involved in the project,” said Dr Malan.

The Slow Food festival featured ten top chef schools who were challenged to cook meals from an indigenous Nguni grassfed free-range cow from nose to tail. The meals were sold to foodies attending the festival. The winning chef team was offered a trip to Italy. HTA School of Culinary Art took first place and SA Chef’s Academy Izindaba Zokudla took both second and third place in the competition.

Soweto farmers sold their locally-grown produce at the festival. The Seven Colours Market had a variety of goods on sale, from craft beer to wine, additional food stalls, fabulous arts and crafts and performances from local musicians.

What Sowetan Urban Farmers said at the festival:

Reitumetsi Matla, 29, Director at the Green Things Project said: “The public conference achieved its purpose. It really provided resources and networking opportunities for us farmers to connect with information, potential partners, and prospective customers.”

Phila Cele, 31, Founder of Siyanzenzela Plant Biotech and Agricultural Consultants said: “This was a successful event. These proceedings are crucial as they inform and inspire farmers as well as the public, unifying and driving the agricultural economy in Soweto.”

The Izindaba Zokudla project is a joint initiative by the University’s Department of Anthropology and Development Studies; Department of Industrial Design; Department of Business Management (Soweto programmes); Department of Graphic Design; Department of Multimedia Design; Department of Strategic Communications (Public Relations); the City of Johannesburg: Directorate Food Resilience; Region D Farmers forum; and the Meadowlands Agriculture Forum.

The conference saw more than 500 people in attendance.

Soweto Large
IZindaba Zokudla and Slow Food collaborated for the Slow Food Festival in Soweto on 3 September. From Left to Right: Dr Naudé Malan of Department of Anthropology and Development Studies from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Ms Caroline McCann, Slow Food International organiser for Southern Africa.
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