Coastal wild foods T-Lab

In early May, chefs, farmers, fisher people, academics and conservationists gathered at Food Jams in Salt River for a T-Lab with the aim of strengthening an emerging coalition of coastal food actors from across the system by stimulating new connections and identifying practical steps to build practice.

T-Labs (or transformation labs) are designed to bring together people from diverse backgrounds to seek practical connections, enable mutual learning, encourage personal reflection, networking and strategic thought, especially about policy. T-Labs encourage mutual dialogue with an emphasis on practical action.

While Wild Local chef Loubie Rusch and her team prepared food alongside, participants explored ideas and discussed challenges through one on one conversations, group discussions and presentations. They also cooked together and enjoyed sampling coastal wild foods including kelp, kei apple achar, snoek, weskus pickle and buchu.



The T-Lab was facilitated by Dr Scott Drimie Director of the Southern Africa Food Lab and Dr Laura Pereira of City University of London.

Participants explored critical questions such as:

  • What needs to be done next and by whom?
  • What do we need that we can’t necessarily supply ourselves in this room?
  • What are opportunities for us as a group?
  • What are the challenges facing the coastal wild foods system? IMG_7755 2


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“I work in food distribution getting foods from small farmers to restaurants and one of the challenges with indigenous foods is that we risk created demand and not being able to supply.”

“As a farmer, I’m trying to figure out how to do so in a way that is financially, environmentally and socially viable. It’s a challenge!”

“Food has lost a bit of its soul. It’s all about the perfect Instagram snap. As a restaurant owner I worry that we’re forgetting the stories and the memories. I’d like to see a reconnection of the various people in the circle.”

IMG_7730Various products featuring indigenous coastal wild foods on display.

“I’m an academic and food is my passion. It’s about emotion, it’s about religion, it brings people together, but it can also exclude and we need to be careful about that.”

“My journey with indigenous foods has been a lonely one. It need not be. We are all allies chipping away at our own little corner of the same goal.”

“Strict legislation was intended for good and for conservation, but in fact it has resulted in the exclusion of many communities from their traditional foods. The food is still there, but they don’t have the legal right to use it.”

“With the increased commercialisation of the fishing industry nationally, I’ve seen my beautiful home village disintegrate into a hotbed of poaching, gangsterism and drugs. It’s heart-breaking.”

Individuals were challenged to consider what they could contribute and commit to improving the system under principles like inclusion, community, biodiversity, human rights, dignity, and diversity.

Freshly harvested ingredients for dinner.

The T-Lab concluded with a Coastal Wild Food Jam during which participants deepened connections by preparing and sharing a meal featuring coastal wild foods.

Read the full T-Lab report here.