New partnership puts greater Cape indigenous foods in the spotlight

Pickled ‘veldkool’. Picture: Loubie Rusch

Pickled ‘veldkool’. Picture: Loubie Rusch

Published Aug 23, 2022


Cape Town – A new partnership is laying the foundation for a radical embrace of forgotten and neglected local indigenous foods from the Greater Cape Floristic Region (GCFR).

The partnership between the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security (CoE-FS), Local WILD, and the Sustainability Institute (SI) is said to have the potential to transform ‘foodways’ in the Western Cape.

“We have been looking at indigenous legumes and grains for several years, which are plants well suited to drought, heat, and salinity — conditions that are becoming more frequent due to climate change,” says Professor Julian May, director of the CoE-FS.

“There are opportunities to both develop these underutilised plants as food crops in their own right, and to learn from them to better adapt our more conventional food crops such as maize, wheat and sugar beans (red speckled beans).”

In 2021, the CoE-FS reached out to Loubie Rusch (founder, Local WILD) and Vanessa von der Heyde (executive co-director, SI) to explore how best to engage with these food system opportunities, mindful of the risk of over-exploitation and environmental destruction that can result.

“Many of the plants are already in very vulnerable ecological zones, and many are protected to ensure their survival. In addition, many plants are linked to indigenous knowledge systems and respecting indigenous intellectual property rights is critical.

Sea Pumpkin

“Our hope is that this collaboration will enable us to develop a research agenda that is responsible, respectful, and which can benefit both local communities and the country as a whole,” said Professor May.

Von der Heyde added that, “our work with Loubie and the CoE-FS is an important field of exploration”.

“As a learning institute that has already been collaborating with Loubie on exploring practical ways of integrating indigenous GCFR edibles into our hyper-local ‘foodways’ here in our own community, the SI is excited to be expanding on this by being the hosting partner for this community of practice which will combine research, learning, and practice.”

Cape Times

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