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Stellenbosch University (2018)

Exploring the benefits and challenges of indigenous foods in an African context using a case study of community gardens in the Western Cape of South Africa

De Bruin, Francia-Marie

Titre : Exploring the benefits and challenges of indigenous foods in an African context using a case study of community gardens in the Western Cape of South Africa

Auteur : De Bruin, Francia-Marie

Université de soutenance : Stellenbosch University

Grade : Master of Philosophy in Sustainable Development 2018

Résumé
Research suggests that the benefits and value of indigenous foods within the South African context have not been fully utilised. Their potential value to the South African food system and food security which is embedded within it, could be enhanced were their benefits to be explored more comprehensively. Therefore, the aim of this research was to systematically review literature using relevant search criteria and databases relating to underutilised indigenous crop species and foods in Africa as well as abroad (including the Oceania, South America and Asia). The intention was to provide an encompassing overview of both literature and literature gaps regarding nutritional, environmental, economic, and social-cultural benefits and challenges of indigenous food plants. The results show the need to recognise indigenous foods as a key resource in providing food and nutrition security. A major obstacle that emerged is that people are not valuing indigenous foods and thereby neglect the potential benefit of using them. This creates a space where loss of knowledge is significant from one generation to the next. Chapter 3 examines a selection of emerging community gardens in the Western Cape that are examples of gardens where both cultivation and utilisation of a range of indigenous food species is taking place, or is intended to take place. The community gardens were used as a case study to identify and interpret the benefits and challenges related to the production and usage of indigenous foods. This was done by conducting semi-structured interviews with various stakeholders who are interacting within these gardens in different ways. The main benefits that emerged included “reconnecting with one’s roots”, “creating awareness of the significance of indigenous foods”, the perception that “indigenous foods have a higher nutritional value than their exotic counterparts” and that providing access to information and research into on the cultivation and use of indigenous foods could enable them to become more mainstream as resilient and sustainable alternatives or supplementary foods resources. The most frequent challenges identified were “a lack of knowledge in identifying which indigenous foods are edible”, “a lack of knowledge in general about these foods (finding seeds, how to cultivate and use them)”, “inadequate nutrition-based testing of indigenous foods”, “lack of market access” and negative perceptions of their status. Indigenous and Traditional Foods (ITFCs) can have multiple uses and roles within society. Actors are attempting to diversify the food system by embracing more sustainable pathways that could provide food and nutrition security. In assessing the current climate of ITFCs and their emerging role of exploring and realising an alternative or supplementary agriculture as well as food resource, this thesis has highlighted future benefits that could be realised if the research gaps that were identified were responded to. In several instances, the benefits identified were seen, on analysis, to inherently hold solutions to the some of the challenges presented. The community gardens, as spaces of transformation and belonging and supported by research, could be demonstrating improved cultivation practices, supporting nutritional food security, providing incomes, as well as expanding the supply of alternative or supplementary resilient food resources into to the food system.

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