Since it’s inception in 2012, Mpophomeni Conservation Group has supported the ideals of the international Slow Food movement.
We have celebrated Terra Madre Days, swopped seeds, hosted gardening workshops, visited permaculture gardens, held harvest produce competitions, participated in Siyabuyisela ulwazi hosted by Biowatch and helped people in the community to start gardens of their own. Many of these events are recorded in our blog. You may particularly enjoy reading Terra Madre Day 2013 , Terra Madre Day 2015 , Pickle Pot Pea Pyramids , Pumpkin Time in Pops, Enaleni Open Day
In 2016, Ntombenhle Mtambo attended the Slow Food Terra Madre Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy. A foodie adventure!
In November of 2018, we hosted a Seed Sharing Day
We were delighted to have Delwyn Pillay of Slow Food Durban and Thokozani Kubeka all the way from Van Reenen, join our community.
It was a great morning of sharing seeds, meeting fellow gardeners and farmers, swapping food knowledge and general merriment. Passionate people all keen to support food security, seed resilience and climate-friendly agricultural practices gathered in Ntombenhle’s Permaculture Garden.
There were dozens of types of bean seeds, plenty of pumpkins, lots of heritage maize, sorghum, millet, cucumbers, zinnias, nasturtium, marigold, African daisy, chillies, fennel, sunflower, carrots., parsnips and more. Thousands of seeds spreading across the province to grow delicious resilience.
Everyone got to taste Pha Mabaso’s delicious iced tea made with Athrixia phylicoides and Ntombenhle Mtambo’s famous vetkoek with fresh garden salad while they explored the garden and made new friends. Bridget Rindgdahl commented “Splendid day with splendid peeps sharing and saving seeds in splendid Mpophomeni!” Veteran seed saver Eidin Griffin added “What a marvellous morning meeting of Seed Warriors! Thank you to everyone who came, brought seed, shared information, cooked and turned up from as far afield as Durban and Van Reenen’s Pass. You are all lovely. Happy growing to the hundreds if not thousands of heirloom and open pollinated seeds shared today. Viva Seed Freedom Viva!”
This year, in May, Ntombenhle Mtambo, Spa Mabaso, Penz Malinga, Lindiwe Phikwane, Nhlaka Nzimande gathered in Ntombenhle’s garden to officially create Mpophomeni Slow Food.
Over a picnic of local food we discussed what Slow Food meant. Ntombenhle “it is about community, love and sharing, seeing the value in other people’s food cultures and sharing stories about food and culture. Food is the source of everything.”
Spha Mabaso agreed, adding “Conversations about food and community can create a healthy social structure through nutrition. The one thing people are willing to do together – that is to eat, drink and laugh.”
Passionate farmer Nhlakanipho Nzimande expressed his disappointment that those with more money think it is better to shop at the supermarket than support local food “They want to be seen pushing the trolley. These people may be rich, but they are not wealthy. Wealth comes from land, food security and community. We can learn a lot from elders who are growing. What we call butternut, they have many different names for – they don’t even know ‘butternut’.”
Lindiwe Phikwane related her own experience of suddenly finding herself unemployed, starting a garden in her small yard. “Eating well does not have to be expensive. With a garden you can be healthy and rich. There is much unemployment – we will not be getting jobs, we need to look after ourselves.”
Local activist Penz Malinga was adamant “Freely available, flavourful food should be for everyone without causing harm to birds, bees or trees. SF allows us to participate in ensuring that food diversity and all cultures and regions are sustained for generations to come.”
Together, we decided on our objective:
To support small scale organic farming in the greater Mpophomeni area, to improve food security, to prevent the loss of traditional food culture and to inspire residents to live healthier lives.
- Promote organic, regenerative cultivation
- Work together in the African tradition of ilima
- Organise one seed sharing event each year
- Celebrate Terra Madre Day in our community
- Develop unique products using indigenous or invasive plants
- Support small producers to access local markets
We also decided to work towards having one or more products in the Ark of Taste. Starting with the development of Spha Mabaso’s indigenous tea. We will promote traditional foods, by teaching others how to prepare these foods and promote the use of wild greens as a nutrient-dense, free food source and assist others to identify these plants.
The local Reko Ring in Howick was a good place to start selling the produce of small scale farmers in the Mpophomeni and Mashingeni area. Reko is a Finnish term meaning fair consumption – which fits perfectly with Mpophomeni SF objectives. The main aims of REKO are:
- Local, ethical and organic production
- Direct relationship between producer and consumer
- Transparent prices, orders and comments
- You may ONLY sell what you yourself have produced or direct by-products of your raw materials – no reselling.
- The producer must make production methods transparent and ingredients clear to the customer.
- Collection is at a set time and place, for a set duration.
- Reduced packaging, and as far as possible no plastic.
Spha sold out of his new-season organic sugar beans on his first visit! Lindiwe Phikwane has become a regular trader selling the oyster mushrooms and cabbages produced by her church and spring onions and lettuce from her own garden. “Reko is great. It helps us small producers to earn some money. The best part is we only harvest what has been ordered, so there is no wastage.”
As bread is such a staple of most township diets, we decided to learn how to make our own healthier version.
We spent a day with Carol Addis in Lion’s River learning all about artisan bread. Carol was a patient teacher, who explained everything carefully. More than anything, learning how to feel the dough to ensure the correct level of moisture was emphasised. Everyone loved getting their hands into the soft mixture – stretching and folding gently – definitely, no strenuous kneading required. Spha particularly enjoyed the technical aspects, learning practically hands-on rather than from a recipe. Sphindile had never done anything like this before. “This was so interesting, I will definitely be baking my own bread now,” she said.
Carol talked about why commercial bread is bad for us and shared her passion for healthy, local, seasonal food. For lunch, we enjoyed a veggie curry with some of our freshly baked loaves. Penz said she was always a bit afraid of bread before, but after learning about the processes that make bread digestible and nutritious she would be enjoying real bread more often. Lindiwe was delighted with all the info she received today and was already making plans to get her hands on some good local flour and start baking. She was surprised to work out that this good bread doesn’t even cost more to than cheap bread is to buy. Ntombenhle agreed with Carol that food made with love tasted the best.
In July, Mpophomeni Slow Food spokesperson, Spha Mabaso headed to Johannesburg to connect with Slow Foodies there and learn more about the movement. This is his account of the adventure.
With Caroline McCann (the Slow Food International Councillor for South Africa) and Dr Naude Malan of iZindaba Zigudla, I visited Cheese Gourmet in Linden run by Brian Dick. Brian Dick has for many years been the leader of Slow Food in Gauteng. I was amazed by the great variety of cheese produced in South Africa.
Next, we went to Orange Farm to meet Slow Food member Tim Abaa who is running a great organic farming community project. We explored his place and I learnt a lot about making the best use of small township spaces.
For lunch we headed to Eziko Resturant in Mid-Rand. Eziko means ‘hearth’ or ‘fireplace where one cooks’. Here we ate sheep’s head with vegetables and steamed bread. I learnt that traditional food can be served to tourists if it is well presented. As I am keen to open a restaurant in Mpophomeni I was pleased to chat with chef Andile Somdaka – he invited me to visit again for some training.
On Sunday morning we visited Victoria Yards – a complex of small art, food and design businesses created in a reclaimed industrial space. It was a great place to visit. At the regular Inner City Farmers Market, I met a lady that was processing her vegetables and fruits to make smoothies to sell. This was great to see because I have a similar idea for Mpophomeni.
What a wonderful trip – I got to meet a lot of people who believe in Slow Food and expanded my network within the food and gardening sector. Caroline McCann was thrilled to meet Spha. “It was wonderful to have spent time with you. I am incredibly moved by your passion and knowledge. Thank you for sharing with us and know we are your ‘home away from home’ fans. I reiterate that not only because I am the International Councillor but because I believe in you, I want to hear about the stuff you do.”
Brian Dick, and his wife Jo, were down in KZN this past week so popped in to visit the Mpophomeni Slow Food Community on Sunday 20 July and share some of his knowledge on the organisation.
We began by showing our guests around Emphare Organics small scale farm in the heart of the township on Mtholampilo Street. Spha introduced his cows who provide the manure to make the garden flourish. Jo was very interested to taste mustard greens for the first time.
After the tour we shared lunch prepared by the Slow Food community of Mpophomeni – rainbow salad, ijece, artisan bread, pumpkin soup. A few local artists and community members joined us for lunch and we had a great discussion about what slow food is and what it is trying to archive for communities.
After lunch we visited Ntombenhle’s garden as Brian and Jo had heard so much about it. “What a lovely day,” said Brianafterwards, “I was so impressed by the energy and enthusiasm. I am certain that Slow Food will grow in the area.”
What’s next? During August, we will be attending the Biowatch Agro-Ecology course in Durban. In early September we will be learning to make cheese on Wana Farm. Watch the Slow Foodies of Mpophomeni be the change they want to see in the world!
Are you interested in joining our Slow Food Community? email Spha Mabaso: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 071 454 0323. Slow Food activities are funded by sales of Mnandi – a taste of Mpophomeni.