The Farmer Support Group (FSG), a community development, outreach and research unit based in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) at UKZN, recently hosted its eighth annual Food and Nutrition Fair, celebrated in conjunction with World Food Day at KwaNocomboshe, Msinga Top in KwaZulu-Natal.
The FSG works with target rural communities in Okhahlamba, uMshwathi and Msinga local municipalities to identify development challenges and implement initiatives to improve livelihoods. The theme of the day was: Azibuyele Emasisweni, meaning “let’s bring it back to our roots”.
The theme explored indigenous practices for building sustainable food systems toward food and nutrition security. Organisers wanted the event to address and discuss indigenous practices that were or are used in terms of production of food for consumption, medicinal purposes, as well as pest and disease management. Furthermore, discussions centred on practices and foods that have been lost over time, and participants engaged on alternatives to accommodate these losses.
This event has been hosted annually since 2011 within the farmer groups in Msinga that the FSG engages with, namely Nhlesi, Gudwini, Fabeni, Machunwini, Tugela Ferry, Nkandla and Nocomboshe. It presents a platform for rural communities to reflect on their activities and celebrate their achievements, also bringing farmers together to share and exchange ideas, showcase and market their produce, and to link with relevant stakeholders.
The fair was attended by approximately 200 guests including farmer representatives from Msinga, Okhahlamba and uMshwathi. Additionally, representatives from UKZN, SaveAct, the Siyazisiza Trust, PACSA, Mdukatshani, the Msinga Local Municipality and local leadership were present. Students from Cedara College of Agriculture also had the opportunity to attend and engage with farmers. Staff from Nocombosche local clinic were also on hand to provide wellness screening and medical and nutrition advice.
The event began with a visit to the Nocomboshe Sizakahle group vegetable garden. The group of 15 women farmers grow vegetables and seedlings using sustainable agricultural practices, including water harvesting that ensures availability all year round. The programme included a welcome from the local councilor who encouraged youth to participate in agricultural activities rather than being unemployed. Additionally, guests were able to discuss techniques and challenges in line with the theme of the day, which created space for good dialogue for all present.
Words: Christine Cuénod
Photographs: Mrs Gail du Toit