On the 25th of July 2018, the Food for Us team hosted a Food for Us Consolidation and Dissemination workshop for the first phase of the Food for Us project. This workshop not only provided an opportunity for the field researchers to report back on the important findings that had emerged from the project but also provided an opportunity for discussion around food waste and corrupted food systems and provided space to discuss ways of addressing these challenges. As Dr Scott Drimie, the Southern Africa Sustainable Food Lab chair and chair of this said dissemination workshop, so eloquently explained, “At its core, Food for Us is about learning, about the processes that took place. While something emerged from it, the app, the focus should not be on the launching of that app or positioning it in a competitive environment as ‘the solution’, but about starting a conversation and the learning that takes place from those conversations”.
The conversation and dialogue that Dr Scott Drimie refers to was guided through a panel and open discussion in response to presentations and discussions that were held throughout the day on how South Africa should approach the food surplus challenge, focusing on early childhood nutrition, and the use of technology to aid surplus food distribution through communities of practice and social enterprise business models.
Solly Molepo , Deputy Director, Agri-processing, Department of Trade and Industry, and Niki Charalampopoulou, co- founder of Feedback, opened the workshop with informative presentations on the context of the global challenge of food waste (Niki Charalampopoulou’s presentation of Feedback’s global work) and how it is impacting on our more local communities (Solly Molepo’s presentation on food waste and its existence in our local supply chains).
After the context was outlined, a brief introduction to the project was presented by Nicola Jenkins (Food for Us project Manager) after which, the field researchers reported on the emergent key findings and lessons. Sarah Jane Durr, a masters student at Rhodes University, and Passmore Dongi, the logistics manager of the Raymond Mhlaba development Agency, presented the work and findings that had emerged out of the work that had been done in Raymond Mhlaba municipality in the Eastern Cape. Stefanie Swanepole, of the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch, reported on the work that she has been doing alongside the Worcester farming and early childhood community that she was working with in Worcester. The key learning’s that emerged from the field included; 1) the ability of the app to aid access to market for produce; 2) the opportunity the app provides for connecting people within a community; 3) the significant role intermediaries in the community play in catalyzing the uptake and use of the application.
Nici Palmer of Carbon Calculated, presented a predicted potential carbon impact that the application could have if used efficiently by communities. This was followed by a presentation by Grant Trebble and Wayne Stead of LEAD Associates which explained the development process of the application, the challenges experienced and the potential for further app development. Lastly Mike Ward of CSV and Thato Tantsi a MBA student at Rhodes University presented a business model for the future of the application within the Food for Us project.
After a wonderful set of presentations which outlined the development and progression of the Food for Us project, the workshop participants were treated to a wonderful meal prepared by Chef Daniel Jardim, with a twist. All the food served to the workshop guest was surplus food, which had been donated by local retailers to Chef Jardim and was transformed into a magnificent feast.
The workshop was finished off with an open panel discussion, chaired by Dr Scott Drimie, which responded to the morning’s discussion and presentation. On the panel was Distinguished Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka (Environmental Learning Research Centre, Rhodes University), Niki Charalampopulou (Feedback), Passmore Dongi (Raymond Mhlaba Development Agency), Tristan Gorgen ( Dept. of Premier, Western Cape Government), Solly Molepo (Department of Trade and Industry), Pam Picken (Do More) and Tatjana von Bormann (WWF-South Africa). Multiple themes were discussed including the opportunities for South Africans to divert food surplus to animal consumption and other value streams, rather than allowing it to end up in landfills. The panel also discussed the importance of creating spaces of trust within communities where technological innovation can be introduced and their affordances harnessed to reduce food surplus and improve market access for small-scale farmers. The importance of understanding the multi-faceted and multilevel system in which food waste, food security and malnutrition exists in South Africa is needed to develop solutions that take a more innovative, holistic and interconnected approach.
The panel discussion was concluded with final remarks from Distinguished Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka who wrapped up the workshop proceedings and touched on the next steps for the Food for Us project, phase 2. Going into the next phase of the project, the intention of the project partners is to improve the application, grow the project by scaling the project to include larger buying entities as well as introducing the project in other geographical areas. The project team also aims to explore using a similar application model to work in other waste streams such as glass, clothes or car oil. Finally the direction of the project continues to keep the component of social learning and social knowledge creation at the center of its development, working to continue the community based learning that has been so successful in the first phase of the project.
For more information about the Final Phase One Consolidation and Dissemination Food for Us Workshops proceedings, please find the workshop synthesis below.
Updated by: Sarah Jane Durr