The team will lead a series of ‘Learning Labs’ which reveal local food systems through an experiential process of engaging with stakeholders and exploring the local environment.
The research project aims to show how local food systems intersect with climate change and land use, and the tradeoffs between investing in international value chains and maximising local nutrition. It brings together local and provincial government officials, academics and grassroots organisations working within the food system, including Early Childhood Development centres, advocacy groups and local food gardens.
The first Learning Lab will took place in May 2022 in Worcester, part of the Breede Valley Municipality with a population of around 190 000. This municipality presents both challenges and opportunities that could make it a useful learning model for developmental efforts in similar areas.
The conversation around experiential learning journeys has been ongoing since Professor Scott Drimie from SAFL lead a similar event in Worcester in 2021, and builds on the work of The Nourished Child project as well as the Western Cape Province’s Nourish to Flourish programme.
The Worcester Learning Lab in May focused on two specific areas: Parkersdam, a lively commercial area in the town’s centre and the neighbouring informal settlement of Zwelethemba. In Parkersdam, the lens will be through the area’s rich history and the commercial activity along Parker and Porter streets, while in Zwelethemba, activities will be curated to explore the particular role played by Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres, as well as spaza shops.
The ‘Learning Lab’ journeys aim to reveal Worcester’s local food system by deepening participants’ understandings of two particular corridors in different parts of the town by enabling them to experience the physical space as well as people’s lived experience of that system through conversation.
At a broader level, the journeys also look at service provision and infrastructure. As one local government official said during our visit: “We plan as if we lived in Stuttgart or some other European city, not for the informal. Moreover, there is little infrastructure for subsistence farming, our lands and rivers are designed to support large commercial farming.” This could be changed, he said, by supporting amenities like water collection points and building infrastructure close to taxi ranks, among other things.
However, food is as much about infrastructure as it is about lived culture and values and the Learning Lab journeys aim to uncover these important elements too.
The Western Cape Economic Development Partnership, known as the EDP, is an independent, not-for-profit company that works with a range of partners to improve the performance of the Cape Town and Western Cape socio-economic development system.
We help leaders and institutions from different sectors – public, private, civil society, education and academia – to work together, to grow the local, metropolitan and regional economy, and to address complex system challenges.
The Centre – hosted by the University of the Western Cape and co-hosted by the University of Pretoria – is a virtual organisation that brings together the expertise of numerous South African and international institutions and over 100 researchers across various disciplines. It is the first DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence to be hosted at a historically black university.