Eat local on World Food Day

The UN’s World Food Day, observed annually on the 16th of October, is a day to think about how we are going to achieve the #ZeroHunger sustainable development goal by 2030.

One of the ways this can be achieved is through encouraging development in rural areas to enable food security. However, food security is also an important issue in densely populated urban areas.

In a city like Johannesburg, food can easily become a scarce and expensive commodity if we rely only on large supermarkets for our only source of fresh produce.

According to the latest Poverty Trends Report from Statistics South Africa, a poor household in 2015 had an average of four mouths to feed with as little as R790 per month. Only 11.8 percent (R93,20) of that was spent on fruit and vegetables.

Thankfully, the presence of rooftop farms and community farm projects is growing in Johannesburg. Although there could be a lot more, these projects help to provide residents with an affordable and healthy, local supply of fresh produce.

If you’re not getting your fresh produce from a local urban farm project, or a large supermarket chain store, then it’s most likely coming from the Johannesburg Market in City Deep.

I visited the market last Friday morning. It’s an impressive place and a hive of activity early in the morning.

Rows of warehouses stand tall with trucks lined up alongside. People throw bags of potatoes and onions to be loaded onto the vehicles, to be sold somewhere else.

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A bakkie is loaded with fresh produce

Many of these trucks make their way to small-medium size independent fresh produce stories.

Then there are the informal traders. Young men load their stock onto trolleys and then push them out of the market. Women stand with piles of produce next to the pavement waiting for transport.

This is what Connie Adonis, age 56, has done for the past 19 years. She is used to rising early and coming to the market from her home in Spruitview. Adonis has sold vegetables on street corners all over the city to survive.

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Connie Adonis, in front of her fruit and vegetable stand

Now the grandmother of three says she is too old to sell ‘out there’ and now rents a small trading area for R500 a month. She wakes up at 3am to buy stock from the market and sells it to customers.

“We used to make a lot of money but now look, we are just sitting here waiting for customers.”

Adonis, who employs two-four casual staff, says any profit she makes goes towards stock buying stock the next day.

Looking around the informal trading section of the market it’s clear that this is a place where those on the fringes of the economy can make a living.

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Informal traders count out coins

Samuel Omeye from Idumesah in the Delta region in Nigeria came to South Africa in 1999. He’s been trading from the Joburg Market since then. These days he sells boxes of avocados from Limpopo for R40 each. Omeye says it’s good business and he is able to support his family and go back home regularly.

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Lucky, the son of Samuel Omeye, sorts avocados from Limpopo to sell to customers

It’s difficult for small-scale farmers to break into this network at the Joburg Market. Just last week the Competition Commission charged 14 market agents for price-fixing and anti-competitive behavior. This Commission says this practice has been ongoing for years and that previously disadvantaged market agents aren’t able to compete effectively.

One of the ways to make sure you are supporting local farmers when buying fresh produce is to buy from the farmers directly. Even in a concrete jungle like Johannesburg, this is possible.

Opposite Ellis Park in Bertrams, in the eastern part of the city, is the Bertrams Inner City Farm. It’s incredible to see the rows of leafy greens growing organically in the shadow of Hillbrow’s Ponte tower.

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Rows of spinach and kale growing in the shadow of Hillbrow

The farm began in 2008 and has won several awards. Urban farmer Refiloe Molefe is there seven days a week and will walk customers through the garden to pick what they want. “I want people to know where their food comes from. Here it’s really fresh.”

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Refiloe Molefe with her grandson, Raphael

Molefe is well known in the city and for her, being a farmer is not just a job, it’s something she is deeply passionate about.

She says supporting local farmers has so many benefits.

“When people start eating local and eating fresh it will help small farmers to grow. They’ll be encouraged to plant more.”

World Food Day also marks the start of Slow Food Eat Local Challenge, a global event aimed at uniting people to eat local, traditional foods in an effort to fight the effects of climate change.

Molefe says “eating local” whether through supporting a local farmer or growing your own food is good for your health.

If you would like to buy fresh produce from the Bertrams Inner City Farm, call first on 071 781 9194. Make sure to take some cash and a bag or box to take your produce home in.

If you want to support the farm further. Molefe says they are in need of funds for more compost and for protective clothing for the farmers.

They also have a youth football club Birmingham Bokamuso Football Club which is aimed at supporting vulnerable youths through sport. They need sponsorship for kits. Contact Molefe to find out more about how you can support these needs.

I have decided to sign up for the Eat Local Slow Food Challenge.

For the next three weeks I will try to mostly buy my fresh produce from urban farmers in the city so that I know exactly where it’s coming from. I will blog about recipes of dishes made with this local fresh produce. I will also try to not to buy any imported food products and make sure the meat I buy is free-range or grass-fed.

It should be an interesting three weeks. Stay tuned to this blog for more!

If you want to join me in this challenge, click here to sign up: Slow Food Eat Local Challenge

FURTHER READING:

Stats SA Poverty Trends Report: http://www.statssa.gov.za/publications/Report-03-10-06/Report-03-10-062015.pdf

Competition Commission charges Market agents: http://www.compcom.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/fruit-and-veg-referral-draft-003.pdf

Read more about World Food Day: http://www.fao.org/world-food-day/2017/home/en/

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