Mnandi was honoured to be invited to participate in the Biowatch SA Siybuyisela ulwazi Food and Seed Festival last week. We sold many recipe books, made great connections, shared stories and seeds, and learnt a lot. Biowatch SA organised the festival to celebrate the diversity of our indigenous and traditional seed and food cultures, exchange knowledge and ideas and explore innovations in support of food sovereignity, social and environmental justice.
Presentations about all the things we are passionate about were by inspiring and knowledgeable people. There were talks of seed and African spirituality, the Food Price barometer, GMOs, Climate Smart Agriculture (not so smart), the benefits of fermentation, Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, beautiful music made from the humble calabash and a myriad of food activists to connect with. Legendary Permaculturalist John Nzira asked “What is the difference between seeds and money?” Amongst all these seed savers and defenders of our food diversity the answer was unanimous – seeds hold our future. The diversity of seeds is the key to life. Phansi GMOs Phansi!
The climate-friendly vegetarian lunches were superb and we also got to taste traditional umqombothi and umqusho, peanut soup, sorghum, celery and apple salad and too many other things to mention. Ntombenhle Mntambo shared her fantastic Rainbow Salad (all ingredients grown in her Mpophomeni garden) and talked about healthy eating.
We were proud to share the kitchen with author and dietician, Mpho Tshukudu. She inspired us with her talk African Food is Healthy, Beautiful and Delicious, singing the praises of our heritage foods (naturally low GI) and sharing new ways of preparing them. Her book with Anna Trapido – Eat Ting is very interesting.
Agro-Ecological Farmer and activist Richard Haigh talked about the way Big Food has hooked us with their laboratory engineered ‘bliss point’ flavours, our addiction to sugar, salt and fat and urged us to de-colonise our palates. Forager and Wild Food Champion Loubie Rusch shared her knowledge of Cape wild food and encouraged us to look around, to eat and the plant indigenous edibles in our gardens. Gogo Qho followed with a passionate presentation about wild plants that are her food and medicine, the importance of traditional and indigenous food culture and the value of leafy greens for good health.
The festival truly celebrated the diversity of our indigenous and traditional seed and food cultures and advocated for a just and healthy food system.
Comments from our group:
Nathi Adam – It was a fruitful day. The pure seeds and food displays, prepared by passionate people were amazing and all the talks were inspiring. I learned and saw the Earth differently after the talks. The food tastings were wow!
Traditional music goes well with traditional food prepared by people who care about what they eat. I was taken aback to see people enjoying themselves in this way. I loved talking to Sazi Dlamini and networking with many others.
It was saddening to realise that industrial agriculture is killing our earth. I learned that we need to put more effort into educating and assisting one another to take serious care of ourselves and our mother Earth, in order to realise better health and wealth in the Permaculutre way. We have plenty of natural resources in Africa, but we should not misuse and abuse them. People Care plus Earth Care equals plenty for us and our children and their children.
Zandile Sikhakane – I learned a lot about seed and food that keeps us healthy. I took note of the importance of preserving our seeds, so we do not have to buy more. Everyone who presented explained very well and answered the questions well. My favourite guest was John Nzira. He inspired me a lot about our food culture and urban farming. I was so happy to see Sazi Dlamini playing music out of the food we eat. I learnt how to plant sweet potatoes.
Njabulo Mokoena – I enjoyed talking to different kinds of people in different languages. I learnt a lot from farmers like John Nzira and that if you respect nature, it will respect you back. I tasted food that was very delicious. There was African traditional food that I have never eaten before – like amabele. I was so inspired by the farmers, that the day afterwards, I started a small garden at home. It was a beautiful event.
Mary Mlambo – I met many wonderful people, especially John Nzira. He spoke about how the love of money overpowers our love for seeds and nature that actually gives us life. “We can throw money on the ground and it won’t grow, but throw seeds on the ground and watch them grow into food.” That gave me a lot of motivation. I was thrilled to taste delicious indigenous foods that were prepared with so much love. I even got iHali, a very rare fruit I have not seen since I was a young girl. I had fun.
Eidin Griffin – I felt deeply honoured to be amongst such incredible earth workers and ethical food producers. Meeting the farmers from Pongola, Matubatuba and Lesotho was a profound privilege and I was able to trade seeds, shake hands and we could communicate in our special language of seeds rather than a common tongue. Grand gesticulation and a great amount of laughter helped too! Tasting foods created with love and looking at ways to nourish ourselves and our food supply really got my brain and heart excited. I truly hope that this is the start of an incredible annual event and I will share the new information that I gleaned (yes, good word indeed) and plant my new-found seed friends in the soil and nurture them as best I can and hope to return, wiser and stronger with more abundance to share next year.
Nhlakanipho Nzimande – My experience was good, I made many connections with conscious farmers. I learnt about healing herbs and plants and I invited a Khoisan man Q, to visit and perhaps we can work together. I learnt how to build and use musical instruments from Sazi Dlamini. I got cuttings of different plants and different types of seeds. I may go into strawberry production with the lady who sells homemade jams.
Ntombenhle Mntambo – Sibuyisela ulwazi was great – food, talks, tastings and meeting people closely. My wish is that we all meet each other as one. Languge issue is always a problem. I wish Richard, Mpho, John, Loubie could speak isiZulu because the translating of their talks was not that good, it only gave half the information and some people when they get home will say there was not enough information because they did not understand English. I wish the translator had finished everything that was said. The questions are important because it helps those that did not hear correctly to understand better. It was too fast, we need more days – how about 5? It was a very good event.
Xola Keswa – It was a festival which I feel should have happened a long time ago, but I am glad it has happened at last. It included people from all walks of life – from Zululand to the green forested South Coast. Food activists to environmental activists and many gardeners and farmers – a mixture of aware people, with everyone knowing something about what was spoken about from traditional food to traditional music, food tasting and activist talks. Richard Haigh from Enaleni shared his extensive knowledge and food. John Nzira, permaculture guru, was one of the main speakers. He has an incredible record for experience with transforming land into fully productive agroforestry. Environmental activist Method Gundidiza represented Sheila Berry’s Earthlore organisation – the man from Swaziland had a lot of strong words to say. Words that I think that have stained themselves on the minds of many who were there.
Pinky Dlamini – I had an amazing day. The surprise of my life was the love, caring and communication. I learn about food that I had never heard of. Like one big nation we all eat together. I find friends from different areas- Venda, Cape Town – all these people talking about different things that can shape our lives and our cultures. I think it is up to us to tell people in Mpophomeni what we are doing and how to improve their lives.
Thabani Mnikathi – I enjoyed being around such loving people and seeing people from different parts of the country coming together to share information and life experiences. I learnt a lot about different cultures, music, food, how to grow food, keep yourself healthy. The food was delicious – colourful and exciting – a whole new experience. What is best is that you never knew what to expect. Sibuyisela ulwazi has inspired me to try to make my own personal garden and try some home grown food for a change.
Nikki Brighton – It was marvellous to meet new people as passionate about food as we are and reconnect with fellow food activists. The variety of presentations was exceptional – something for everyone and all contributing towards the goal of food sovereignty. In particular, I enjoyed the presentation by Richard Haigh who talked about how Big Food has hooked us with their laboratory engineered ‘bliss point’ flavours, our addiction to sugar, salt and fat and urged us to de-colonise our palates. Also enjoyed Loubie Rusch, who shared her knowledge of Cape wild food and encouraged us to look around, to eat and the plant indigenous edibles in our gardens. Gogo Qho’s passionate presentation about the plants that are her food and medicine was enchanting and very informative. I found it interesting to learn that Climate Smart Agriculture is not so smart. Meeting the small rural farmers who had brought seeds to share and sell added a real depth to the festival. I stocked up on all sorts of interesting ideas and ingredients – millet, sorghum, pulses to eat and plant.
Ntombenhle and Nikki agreed that this was more fun than the Slow Food Terra del Madre event they attended in Italy last year! We could make real connections, learn things that were appropriate to our world and contribute in a more meaningful way. Well done Biowatch SA.