Chefs, local farmers partner for plant-based cook-up

On a beautiful Monday morning at the Food Jams in Salt River, the masters of indigenous plants and foods, Abelimi Bezekhaya took part in an exciting cook-off.

Abalimi Bezekhaya is a non-profit organisation that supports people in the townships to grow vegetables organically for home and community gardens. They provide training, access to resources, market access support, infrastructure and organisational development support.

At the event, eight hotel and restaurant chefs teamed up with eight farmers from eight different community gardens to cook up a plant-based and wild food meal 32 hungry guests seated along a harvest table. The team leaders were tasked with illustrating how easy it is to cook delicious meals with garden produce.

Each team had two supporters to assist them as they produced a starter, main meal and dessert.

According to the organisers, the main aim of the event was to draw the attention of the chefs to small scale farmers cultivating naturally produced conventional and local indigenous crops and wild edible weeds around Cape Town. It was also to showcase to growers the creative ideas that chefs come up with using lesser known produce or weeds.

Managing director of Abelimi Bezekhaya, Grace Stead, said the long-term goal was to promote better links between customers, and Abalimi and growers associated with the Philippi Agrihub.

They are also working toward achieving pre-Covid levels of production and partnering with the Philippi Economic Development Initiative (PEDI).

“Abamili Bezekhaya has been supporting small, micro and medium-sized entities and urban community farmers in townships for the past 40 years,” she said.

“Between 2008 and 2019, Abalimi (through Harvest of Hope) paid over R10 million to farmers for their produce. Harvest of Hope unfortunately closed during the pandemic, but Abalimi is now working through the PEDI.

“The community gardens are located in Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and surrounds. Abalimi celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with various events to promote support for micro-farming in the townships, such as this cook-up,” she said.

Babalwa Mpayipheli, field assistant manager at Abalimi said she was happy to have had such a successful partnership with all the stakeholders. “We also wanted them to market their organic vegetables. This will be a long relationship between the chefs and the farmers.”

Veteran farmer Thenjiwe Kaba praised the efforts to link the chefs and the farmers and said she believed the cook-up idea would make a huge contribution to job creation, economic growth and poverty alleviation.

“I am over the moon to see such initiatives taken to uplift and help farmers. As a farmer I have been to Barcelona in Spain, America and other countries. So this will also open opportunities for others too,” she said.

Another farmer, Thozama Sikiti said she had learned a lot at the event. “There are wild plants that I never knew that one can cook. I now know that you can cook them. There is just a lot that I learnt and will pass it on to others and even my children. I am grateful for the day,” she said.

Managing director at Abalimi, Grace Stead, Babalwa Mpayipheli, field assistant manager and MamaThenjiwe Kaba having a conversation.
Chef Luyanda Sogiba teaches Thozama Sikiti some cooking skills.
It was all happiness after the cook-up.