In May 2017, the Southern Africa Food Lab convened a workshop with a diversity of people active in the South African smallholder space. The purpose was threefold; 1) for the Food Lab to share lessons learnt during their tenure thus far, 2) for the Food Lab to learn from the many knowledgeable people present, and 3) for the information shared to channel into a process which would inform the Food Lab’s strategy going forward.
The workshop, hosted at the 17 Shaft Conference Centre in Soweto, endorsed the role of the Food Lab as a convening and connecting voice within this sector, both at the grassroots level and through endorsing broader dialogue.
A powerful message that emerged was the current disconnect between people and nature. A disconnect that underpins the crisis in the South African food system. At the core of this is how people related to nature and to other food system actors, including the actions and habits conducive to a good life, both meaningful and satisfying. Agroecology is an example of how these connections can be repaired and that, for instance, by growing soil, people will also grow in themselves.
Speaking in conclusion, Dr Scott Drimie, Director of the Southern Africa Food Lab said:
“It is clear that the Food Lab needs to redouble efforts to support the emergence and construction of alternative structures and networks in the smallholder space, particularly through strengthening the collaboration of people at the grassroots. In this way real, tangible changes can be demonstrated for farmers to support new ideas, relationships and commitment to change. It’s important to link these processes with national level government officials to provide broader perspectives and in turn to be inspired and to learn.”