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 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