The picturesque West Coast region of the Western Cape recently played host to an event at !Khwa ttu Nature Reserve near Yzerfontein, where the spotlight was on the significance of indigenous crops and sustainable agriculture.
With a wide array of stakeholders, the panel delved into multifaceted aspects spanning agriculture, health, nutrition, and the economic and environmental dimensions.
Cultivating health with indigenous crops
The agricultural minister, Thoko Didiza, who made and online address, illuminated the vast potential of indigenous crops such as sorghum, kasawa, amadumbe, and kalabash within the realms of food and tourism.
In the first panel discussion, chief corporate affairs and sustainability officer at Tiger Brands Mary-Jane Morifi, focused on sorghum where she emphasised its deep-rooted cultural heritage, underscoring its intrinsic role in South African celebrations.
This crop is not only a sustainable solution to address the pressing issues of food security and environmental challenges but sorghum is also known for its status as a superfood. It offers nutritional riches, sustainability, and a precious resource in the battle against hunger. Its abundance of antioxidants and vital nutrients renders it a formidable contender.
Red sorghum, despite its slightly bitter taste, boasts an even higher nutritional value.
Nurturing accessibility and partnerships
The need to make indigenous crops accessible to a broader market remains a challenge. Small-scale farmers need to be provided with access to high-quality seeds, as well as help with launching marketing campaigns that champion their utility and nutritional value. Investing in the agricultural value chain and establishing aggregation centres for small farmers could catalyse significant market growth, the experts agreed.
In a world where innovation and collaboration reign supreme, the event placed paramount importance on partnerships and forward-thinking. Dr. Menghestab Haile, Regional Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) for Southern Africa, voiced an interest in collaborating with local farmers and integrating sorghum products into the school feeding curriculum. Conversations orbited around empowering urban farmers and weaving robust supply chains that uplift farmers throughout the production process.
The role of government took centre stage as participants articulated their concerns. Access to seeds, the promotion of indigenous crops, and the facilitation of small-scale farming profitability were the core areas of discussion. A passionate plea was made for policies that not only supported superfood crops but also empowered small farmers to thrive.
Practical solutions for a sustainable future
Practical solutions are needed to usher in a new era of progress. Innovations such as drone technology to control birds, the development of new cultivars, and addressing VAT challenges related to indigenous crops are just some of the solutions that can go a long way in alleviating food security.
This event, a symphony of diverse voices and shared dreams, served as a poignant reminder of the untapped potential residing within indigenous crops. It brought hope for a future with healthy and available food, not just for South Africa but the entire region. The seeds of change have been planted, promising food security and sustainability.
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