Petrini urges residents to support local businesses

Carlo Petrini addressing the community in Khayelitsha.

The visit by Italian food revolutionary, Carlo Petrini, to Khayelitsha, on Tuesday August 16, raised a number of concerns about where our food comes from, but also inspired a sense of hope to those in attendance.

The Slow Food movement promotes eating locally produced food and supporting your area’s farmers.

Mr Petrini, who is also the president and founder of Slow Food, told food activists at The Barn at the Look Out Hill that, “a man who does not take care of the environment is a stupid man, be proud of your culture, eat South African foods”.

He advised aspirant and community farmers to live a healthy life style and to ignore those who criticised them.

The outspoken farmer said he was annoyed by what he called the “criminal food system”, which paid farmers little and distributors of food a lot of money. “It is unfair,” he said. Mr Petrini urged the continent to promote community farmers and encouraged the farmers and food activists to open up school gardens. He said that would help generate interest among young people.

“Africa has to decide how it feeds itself. We have to respect food culture of all the countries. In every country there is a culture. Diversity is strength,” he said.

With complaints about land shortages, Mr Petrini said it was a problem everywhere.

He said land grabbing was also a problem in his country. But he encouraged people to value land which they could use for farming.

“It is a long road for change, but keep your feet on the ground. Land grabbing is a disaster. But food is around you,” he said.

Mr Petrini called on everyone, including governments, to respect farmers.

His work was appreciated by organisations at the event who promised to create 10 000 gardens on the continent.

Khayelitsha’s own food activist and a member of Slow Food Youth Network, Xolisa Bangani was equally impressed. He praised Mr Petrini for his courage to take on the governments. He said since the establishment of slow food gardens, there has been a change in young people’s mindsets about farming. “There have been opportunities in farming. Young people in particular are starting to realise the importance of gardens and a healthy lifestyle. We are grateful to this man,” he said.

Co-ordinator of Mr Petrini’s visit, Loubie Rusch, from Making Kos, who is on a mission to explore indigenous foods, said she was amazed by the man’s ability to address all sorts of people.

Ms Rusch said she was excited that Mr Petrini was able to bring people from different backgrounds and cultures under one roof.

“There was a mix bag of people, but he managed to address them and reached out to all of them. There were farmers, academics, youth networks and ordinary people but he touched them all. He was amazing,” she said.

Ms Rusch said the different networks that attended the event were working in the right direction of trying to change our food system.

She said many food activists were doing their own things in their own little space, but it was about time they come together.

Like Mr Petrini, she encouraged people to eat their own local and cultural foods, but in a modern way. “So many of us are disconnected with our culture. He encouraged us not to leave our Gogo’s recipes. I concur with that but we need to do them in a modern way,” she said.