On the 16thof October 2018, some of the Food for Us and Amanzi for Food team joined the Mxumbu community to celebrate World Food Day with an ‘ilima’ event to celebrate food sovereignty, traditional farming methods amongst many other important food related topics. ‘ilima’ is an important traditional practice which involves the entire community work together to intensively for one day make progress within one of the community lands. The work in the fields is then followed by a large meal prepared by the farmer whose land is being prepared.  The celebration was held in the Mxumbu village, close to Middeldrift, Eastern Cape where close to 100 people joined the discussions and worked together in the field. The World Food Day celebrations was attended by the a diversity of people including local farmers, the Mxumbu community, extension officers, school children, NGOs and a collection of other important stakeholders.

The event was organized in partnership with a number of stakeholders including’ the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), the Mxumbu Youth Agricultural Co-op (members of the Imvotho Bubomi learning network), Zingisa, Ilizwa lamaFama, and the Calabash Trust.

The day started in the true spirit of World Food Day with all participants being offered a freshly fire baked rooster brood on arrival. The morning’s discussions surrounded important topics such as; food sovereignty, seed diversity, the importance of traditional farming practices and non-GMO crops. The Mxumbu Youth Co-operative, lead by Xolisa Dwane, welcomed the community and guests to the World Food Day event, emphasizing the importance of developing a community that uses alternative practices to ensure food sovereignty.  After an emotive piece prepared and presented by the Imvotho Bubomi Learning Network, the audience was shown 3 of the ACB’s animated informative videos about GMOs in South Africa and the challenges that surround their presence. These isiXhosa animations reminded the audience that a vast majority of South Africans experience great levels of hunger and malnutrition which some explain has been heightened by the industrial mainstream food system. South Africa is the only country in the world where our staple food is 90% GM. It is practices such as ‘ilima’, seed saving, seed exchange and agro-ecology that can curb the high dependency on GM crops and improve access to healthy nutritious food.

After the mornings discussions, all the participants, as well as the children from Mxumbu Primary, proudly walked to the field to practice the ‘ilima’ and preparing of the soil for planting. Everyone was invited to get involved in leveling the large area of land and watch the demonstration of how the land was prepared, which seeds were planted, and where. Eddie Parchi, an agro-ecology farmer, demonstrated intercropping methods of planting with a variety of crops being planted together.

After returning from the field, all those in the community and who had been part of the ‘illima’ and World Food Day event were treated with wonderful singing dancing, entertainment and a feast of delicious traditional food (umngqusho, umphoqoko, and many others). The Mxumbu Youth World Food Day celebrations were a day full optimism, enthusiasm and passion and displayed the hopeful nature of this innovative and proud community of farmers. It was a true celebration of Food and the important role that it plays in our life and African culture.

As Tarryn Pereira, researcher at the ELRC explained, “ The day was both a literal ‘ilima’ and a figurative ‘ilima’, preparing fertile soils for future work and learning together”.

Updated by : Sarah Jane Durr