This is the eighth case study from SUEUAA (Strengthening Urban Engagement in Universities in Asia and Africa), written by Dr Naudé Malan and Professor Elana Swanepoel, both of the University of Johannesburg. The project is interested in how Universities in the Global South can contribute to solving geographical, economic and social issues in their cities. The project is looking at six cities in six different countries: Harare (Zimbabwe), Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania), Johannesburg (South Africa), Manilla (Philippines), Duhok (Iraq), and Sanandaj (Iran). The SUEUAA project involves academics from each of these cities, who will be carrying out fieldwork, and elite interviews with decision makers in the city and senior academics from local Universities, to better understand the ability of Universities to respond to city issues.
In this eighth case study, we look at how the University of Johannesburg in South Africa has sought to create opportunities for urban agriculture in a sustainable food system in Soweto, a township (suburb) in the City of Johannesburg, South Africa, using a multi-stateholder approach. Dr. Naudé Malan, a Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at the University of Johannesburg, is the convener of the multi-stakeholder engagement project iZindaba Zokudla that aims to create opportunities for urban agriculture in a sustainable food system in Soweto. The project engages with and links urban farmers, entrepreneurs, academics, civil servants and other stakeholders and aims at participatory technology and enterprise development.
The iZindaba Zokudla project (an isiZulu phrase for 'Conversations about food') is a joint initiative by the University’s Department of Anthropology; Department of Development Studies; Department of Industrial Design; Department of Business Management (Soweto programmes); Department of Graphic Design; Department of Multimedia Design; Department of Strategic Communications (Public Relations); the City of Johannesburg: Directorate Food Resilience; Region D Farmers forum; and the Meadowlands Agriculture Forum. The project, a free service offered (with limited space) to all farmers in Soweto, started with urban farmers and gardeners in Soweto and is aimed at resource-poor, emergent, established and commercial urban farmers.
iZindaba Zokudla is a research project that draws on Multi-Stakeholder engagement and Action Research methods to create opportunities for urban agriculture in a sustainable food system. It links the university, researchers, students, communities, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in the development of service-learning and applied research projects and enterprises that can contribute to a socially equitable, economically productive and ecologically sound food system. iZindaba Zokudla has pioneered innovative methods for agricultural development. This has relevance for the development of new institutions for agricultural development, and the development of technology, markets and distribution systems for agricultural produce, amongst others, relevant to the development of emergent small- and other farmers. iZindaba Zokudla has assisted a large number of emerging enterprises, has developed appropriate technology relevant for emergent and small farmers and has integrated farmers, stakeholders and others into social events that show the benefits of systemic change to the food system. iZindaba Zokudla draws on the broad history of participatory agricultural development, social innovation theory, systemic action research, actor-network theory and methodologies for multi-stakeholder engagement to achieve its aims.
iZindaba Zokudla utilises multi-stakeholder engagement methods and events to structure the interaction amongst stakeholders to enable them to independently embark as a group on change projects. iZindaba Zokudla organises a series of public and specialised engagement events amongst stakeholders in order to establish an Action Research cycle wherein research projects and community action-plans can be developed, implemented and reflected upon. It establishes an important democratic base and opportunity for participation by the public and communities who would benefit from a sustainable food system. It does so by creating specialised Action Research methodologies to complete such projects, and these integrate enterprises, civil society organisations, state actors with students, researchers and academics from the University of Johannesburg. It enables the university to directly assist in addressing pressing social problems and enables needy communities to benefit from the knowledge and expertise in the university. This opportunity for multi-disciplinary research and knowledge and technology co-creation is unprecedented. Since 2013, iZindaba Zokudla has mobilised more than 150 stakeholders to each of its events, and has reached out to more than 1000 emergent farmers and food processors to date. This enables the project to innovate significantly in technology development, service creation, applied research and systemic change and evaluation. iZindaba Zokudla has influenced numerous local and international research projects in the Social Sciences, Engineering and Industrial Design, has led to the creation of new service learning courses that focus on community participation, and has led to a significant number of publications. iZindaba Zokudla has been active since 2013 and currently organises the Farmers' School and Innovation Lab (the Farmers' Lab) iZindaba iLanga (technology transfer with PEETS), the Free People's Conference at the Annual Slow Food Soweto Eat-In and the iZindaba Zokudla Stakeholders Forum at the University of Johannesburg wherein coordination of some of these activities take place.
iZindaba Zokudla aims at concrete changes in the food system that are made by emergent entrepreneurs. It is active in a number of projects and activities at the moment and these include the Farmers' Innovation Lab, the Stakeholders Meeting, iZindaba iLanga and Technology Development, and Entrepreneurship. These are detailed below.
The Farmers' Innovation Lab
The Farmers' Innovation Lab grew out of a series of Strategic Planning workshops in 2013 that laid the foundation for iZindaba Zokudla's Farmers' Innovation Lab. The Lab started as a farmer-to-farmer learning event that rapidly attracted the attention of experts. The events are facilitated and organised around a series of themes relevant to urban agricultural enterprise development and other issues important in food system change. These themes have been developed in participatory sessions with urban farmers and entrepreneurs and these themes have directly contributed to the development and emergence of the programmes outlined here. Notable examples include: "Design and manufacture your own irrigation system"; "How to Start a Seed Library"; "How to build your own Bio-Gas digester"; "Complete your own Business Canvas Model". The event enables emergent farmers and entrepreneurs to deliberate on new opportunities in the food system. It enables emergent farmer entrepreneurs to make informed decisions on their enterprises. This event facilitates the announcement of new products, land, community events, business opportunities and policy changes relevant to urban agricultural enterprise development. It has also facilitated the development of immediate and concrete action plans like the creation of seed libraries, business plans, irrigation system design and manufacture, to name a few.
The Lab constitutes the initial context and engagement opportunity wherein Action Research plans can be developed. Here academics, students and stakeholders start to engage in the co-creation of innovation projects in the food system. This public space wherein this is done affords certain advantages and opportunities for sustainability. The Lab in many respects experiments with the institutional design needed for sustainable food system governance and change and sustainable urban agricultural development. The use of Multi-Stakeholder and Action Research methods contribute to the understanding iZindaba Zokudla has generated on how to create and direct change processes in society. These experiences have relevance to the design of institutions, organisations, policy and processes of social innovation in the urban food system. iZindaba Zokudla has enabled researchers to reflect and write about these activities (see the list of publications).
The Farmers Lab is an important event that grounds iZindaba Zokudla in the community it intends to serve. It enables the democratisation of the knowledge and activities that take place between the university and the community. This includes not only farmers but all stakeholders to sustainable food system change. The event itself has enabled the community to influence the project and it has established a clear and active link between numerous departments in the university with communities and community organisations. These encounters take place in a facilitated arena or space where community members learn first-hand from university researchers and academics, and also from experts from business and civil society about a series of themes they themselves developed. These themes, as does the 2013 Strategic Plan, have structured the trajectory of engagement between the university and the community.
The Stakeholders' Meeting
The stakeholders' meeting is a meeting organised to conduct strategic planning for the programmes of iZindaba Zokudla. It includes representation from UJ academic departments, UJ Management Divisions, Non-Governmental and civil society Organisations, Enterprises, Activists and Civil Servants. It plans some of the activities in the Lab, and prepares stakeholders to enter into partnerships with urban farmers and entrepreneurs in the Lab.
The programmes below emerged from the engagement events described above. These programmes fluctuate as new stakeholders emerge and participate. They themselves emerge once a group that could include students, entrepreneurs, farmers, community members, funders, non-governmental organisations, or civil servants decide to embark on an actionable project. These projects find a 'friendly home' in the events described above and benefit from engagement in a public sphere by multiple stakeholders. These projects are also given individual attention as per the makeup of stakeholders represented therein. The inclusion of academics, researchers or students enables the creation of multi-disciplinary and applied co-created knowledge. This also enables a comprehensive response to pressing social needs and enables broad engaged learning and interaction. Here innovative approaches emerge from the interaction of the disciplines with organic intellectuals and social knowledge and creates grounds for the social embeddedness of scientific endeavour.
iZindaba iLanga and Technology Development
iZindaba Zokudla aims to develop intermediate and appropriate technology that contributes to a sustainable food system, and better use of energy and water. In this regard we host iZindaba iLanga with the Process Energy, Environment and Technology Station (PEETS). This is also linked to the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, The Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, and specialist academics and post-graduate students that have been assisted in this programme to develop not only appropriate and intermediate technology, but also bespoke Action Research methodologies for specific technologies, systems, enterprises or services. Examples include: 2013 The Household Farming Kit (Kyle Brand), 2014 Food Cooler (Natalia Tofas); 2014 Seedling Growing System (Jomarie Budrichs), 2017 The Khula! App (available through Google Play Store, Money Tree Group & the Open Food Network), 2016 Human Powered Shredder, 2017 (Peter Harrison), BeeGin Beehives (Ivan Brown 2017) and others. Owing to the wide range of stakeholders that this programme can draw on, we are able to design, develop and manufacture and link this with entrepreneurial development through the PEETS facility.
This includes a few sub-programmes. These are:
- With the dept. of Business Management and the ENACTUS student organisation iZindaba Zokudla has facilitated aspects of their Entrepreneurship programmes in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
- The Young Agriculture Initiative with the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment: This eventually led to the Tshepo 500 000 programme of the Gauteng Province. iZindaba Zokudla could use this opportunity to stimulate the development of the Khula! App by the Money Tree Group which is currently active in creating mainstream distribution opportunities for urban farmers. This has led to new opportunities with the PEETS of the UJ.
- The South African Chef's Association Entrepreneurship programme. iZindaba Zokudla facilitated the training of four emergent catering enterprises as a partnership activity with the SA Chef's Association and Slow Food and Slow Meat.
- Digital storytelling - stories of urban farmers in Soweto in the public sphere. A research project under Dr Mariekie Burger, School of Communicative Studies.
- Graphic design for Social Change. The Department of Graphic Design has assisted Farmer Cooperatives since 2014 with logo, branding, and art and graphics work that has been instrumental in the commercial success of many emergent enterprises. Notable examples include the Region D Farmers Forum, Pheko Moringa Oil, The ChengaKasi Cooperative and others. This programme may expand and include the development of the "African Rainbow Maize Revival Project" in 2018 with the Slow Food Ark of Taste.
- The Soweto Eat-In. The UJ Slow Food Soweto Eat-In is an event that shows it is possible to eat well and sustainably and thereby achieve social, economic and environmental goals. The Eat-In integrates a chef's competition, local and sustainable food, food activism and learning. It is a public event that celebrates food as it educates us. It has become an important event in the social calendar and an opportunity for public education and deliberation about food. In 2017 the event was planned around the "Skaftini" challenge with details to follow in the press.
- Development Facilitation: Development Studies 4th year students (DEV 8X08) complete a course in Multi-Stakeholder Facilitation. This course is open to community members and is integrated with the activities of the Farmers' School and Innovation Lab. This course enables community members and students to engage successfully with multiple stakeholders and integrate this into actionable plans. This course has enabled community members to create their own change processes and is an important part of the succession strategy of iZindaba Zokudla.
- Agroecology training: iZindaba Zokudla facilitates the recruitment of farmers for Agroecology training. Partners include 17 Shaft and Legwetla Farming and Training. Three farmers were recruited through iZindaba Zokudla for training in 2017.
This case study was adapted from two online reports on the University of Johannesburg website. You can find the originals here and here. The originals were authored by Dr Naudé Malan and adapted for the SUEUAA website by Professor Elana Swanepoel.
To find out more about the iZindaba Zokudla project, or to contact Dr Malan, please follow the links below.
- 'Appropriate Technology' (With Nickey Janse van Rensburg & Hannelie Nel); 'An Introduction to Socio-Technical Systems'; 'Engaged Learning' (with Rene Benecke) in Socio-Technical systems: An Engineering Education Perspective (forthcoming 2019) Johan Meyer, Zach Simpson & Suné von Solms (eds.), Abingdon: Tailor and Francis.
- 'iZindaba Zokudla (Conversations About Food): Innovation in the Soweto Food System' (forthcoming 2019) Public Interest Design Education Guidebook: Curricula, Strategies, and SEED Academic Case Studies edited by Lisa M. Abendroth and Bryan Bell, INFORMA UK.
- 'Emerging enterprises and sustainability in the food system: Food entrepreneurs in South Africa' (under Review: Palgrave) and 'Service learning as action research for food security: The iZindaba Zokudla experience' Urban Food Transitions in the Global North & South Alec Thornton (ed.) International Political Economy Series (IPE) Palgrave (Forthcoming 2019)