THEMBA CHAUKE

Food & Home - - Profile Feature - PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY RODNEY MABUNDA

Land and agrar­ian reform ac­tivist, jour­nal­ist and com­mu­nity ra­dio pre­sen­ter Themba Chauke is draw­ing from his post-grad­u­ate food stud­ies to mo­bilise com­mu­ni­ties in Lim­popo to be­come more self-suf­fi­cient GET­TING IN­VOLVED WITH

SLOW FOOD SOUTH AFRICA

I was in­tro­duced to the land and agrar­ian reform strug­gle in 2011 by the chair­per­son of the Land­less Peo­ple’s Move­ment of South Africa (LPM), Africa Mthombeni. I was study­ing jour­nal­ism at the time and he was my men­tor. I be­came fa­mil­iar with the Slow Food move­ment through La Via Cam­pesina – a global or­gan­i­sa­tion mo­bil­is­ing peo­ple dis­ad­van­taged in their lo­cal agri­cul­ture in­dus­try – which LPM is af­fil­i­ated with. Through them, I ap­plied for a schol­ar­ship to com­plete my mas­ter’s de­gree in food cul­ture and com­mu­ni­ca­tion at the Univer­sity of Gas­tro­nomic Sciences of Pol­lenzo in north­ern Italy. Upon my re­turn, I started work­ing on projects for

Slow Food South Africa in Lim­popo. UP­LIFT­ING A LO­CAL SO­CI­ETY

As I set about find­ing a lo­cal group to work with, I set­tled for Giyani, a north­east­ern town in Lim­popo, but I couldn’t

get food pro­duc­tion off the ground. Wa­ter is a big is­sue in the area as not ev­ery­one has ac­cess to taps, so the agri­cul­ture is heav­ily de­pen­dent on nat­u­ral rain­fall. In my at­tempts to solve this is­sue, I part­nered with about 2 500 lo­cal waste col­lec­tors – I call them “en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists” – and got them to fetch wa­ter from nearby rivers, which we used to wa­ter the crops we planted. This strat­egy worked well; the waste col­lec­tors have since then be­come gar­den­ers who are sup­ported by the Univer­sity of Venda through spon­sored gar­dens that they run in their re­spec­tive set­tle­ments. They also re­ceived gen­er­a­tors to help pump wa­ter from the rivers into tanks they can con­nect hosepipes to, which has re­ally made life eas­ier. We now want to change the play­ing field by ad­vo­cat­ing for sus­tain­able lo­cal food pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion. Our aim is to cre­ate a strong, last­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween pro­ducer and con­sumer. US­ING RA­DIO AS A PLAT­FORM TO DRIVE SO­CIAL IS­SUES

As a ra­dio pre­sen­ter for Giyani Com­mu­nity Ra­dio, I dis­cuss var­i­ous so­cial is­sues that af­fect the peo­ple around me. The con­tent I cre­ate is di­rected by the events tak­ing place in the area – for ex­am­ple, new govern­ment poli­cies or protests. I love what I do; I see it as my call­ing. As a child, I wanted to in­ves­ti­gate and learn the truth, and now the ra­dio show gives me the op­por­tu­nity to do just that.

THE POLITICISM OF FOOD

I be­lieve food is po­lit­i­cal, just like all so­cial is­sues are. Con­sumers don’t nec­es­sar­ily re­alise this, but buy­ing food from the su­per­mar­ket and not from your neigh­bour means that you are not sup­port­ing the lo­cal small-scale farm­ing com­mu­nity. This is a po­lit­i­cal act, even if it is done un­con­sciously and with­out in­tent.

AS A CHILD, I WANTED TO IN­VES­TI­GATE AND LEARN THE TRUTH.

THEMBA CHAUKE

THEMBA CHAUKE PROUDLY HOLDS SOME FRESH PRO­DUCE FROM MUSWANI VIL­LAGE GAR­DEN (ABOVE), WHERE COM­MU­NITY MEM­BERS WORK TO­GETHER TO MAIN­TAIN THE LAND

IN THE MHINGA VIL­LAGE, LADIES FROM THE COM­MU­NITY HELP TO KEEP THEIR VEG­ETABLE GAR­DEN PRO­DUC­TIVE

MEM­BERS OF THE MAGOMANI VIL­LAGE HAVE SUC­CESS­FULLY CUL­TI­VATED A VEG­ETABLE GAR­DEN WITH THEMBA’S HELP

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