In their quest to highlight the impact of urban farming, two University of Johannesburg (UJ) lecturers embarked on a multi-stakeholder engagement project that aims to create opportunities for urban agriculture in a sustainable food system in Soweto.
The Izindaba Zokudla (Conversations about Food) project – part of the University’s Design Society Development (DSD) within the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) – is co-headed by Dr Naudé Malan of the Department of Anthropology and Development Studies and Mr Angus Campbell of the Department of Industrial Design at UJ.
Says Campbell: “The City of Johannesburg is in the process of implementing an urban agriculture policy as part of a larger food security initiative. This policy creates opportunities for multi-stakeholder engagement, and the Izindaba Zokudla project is aimed at creating engagement between urban farmers, stakeholders and the city.”
Campbell highlights that the project is an innovation in the food system of Soweto. “Soweto residents are growing food, including cabbage, kale, spinach, and other vegetables in their yards.The project not only markets urban farmers in Soweto but also increase the urban farmer’s opportunities for retail.”
He maintains that farmers are the most important actors in this policy as well as in urban agriculture in the city. “The Izindaba Zokudla project advocates specific approaches to urban agricultural development in Johannesburg. It draws on participatory research to build the capacity of farmers’ organisations in Johannesburg; to facilitate engagement with food enterprises in the city; and to use design and technology development as a means to improve agricultural practices.”
In 2013, a strategic plan for a farmers’ organisation was developed and the plan are being implemented in 2014. “This plan includes reference to a farmers market, addressing land tenure issues in the city, developing a technology development workshop, and to create opportunities for our students to conduct academic research on aspects of sustainable food system change,” says Campbell.
Says Dr Malan: “We don’t always realise how our food affects our lives. We assume it is always a good thing, but often it is our food, be it the price, the nutrition or how we prepare it that in fact, oppresses us in a sense. Food should sustain not only our bodies, but our economy and our society. The only way we can change this is if we start a conversation about food.”
According to Soweto Region D Farmers’ Forum chairman, Mr Sakhile Skhosana: “Region D Farmers Forum, not only focused on the farmers skill to growing food but also on social rehabilitation of the community. The farmers need to know the value of business and the importance of, and the impact the agriculture industry has on the South African economy.”
Says UJ Industrial Design student, Peter Harrison, who is designing a shredder for the farmers to make mulch. “I see the project as an essential social initiative, not only beneficial for the urban farmer’s involved, but hugely important for aspirant industrial designers concerned with the deeper application of design,” he says. “Industrial design, focused on a human-centred approach, is a powerful tool for social change. The Izindaba Zokudla project is an exciting opportunity amidst a highly tensioned South African society, still struggling in the wake of apartheid to redefine how we as a nation should co-exist. My own study focuses on using a participatory design approach to develop mechanised shredders for improving mulching reduction practices currently being used. It is hoped that this will improve local farming operations in the short term as well as related soil quality. Better soils should logically increase both local productivity and livelihoods long term. The preliminary interviews conducted amongst farmers have already identified some clear needs for this type of equipment. As designers we have an opportunity to use our skills meaningfully by developing appropriate products for the social up-lifting of our local farmers.”
As part of DSD the Izindaba Zokudla project will be on display at the International Union of Architects World Congress in Durban from 03-07 August 2014 (www.uia2014durban.org)
More information on the Izindaba Zokudla project can be found at http://www.designsocietydevelopment.org/project/izindaba-zokudla/