Market cultivates food heritage

Unathi Dyantyi, one of the organisers of the Erf 81 market in Tamboerskloof, says food is a part of heritage.

Knowing where your food comes from and realising that it is part of our heritage are among the lessons which organisers of the weekly market at Erf 81 in Tamboerskloof want to teach.

They also want the Sunday market to provide a platform for small businesses to showcase their products.

The market, which started in 2014, is part of the Tyisa Nabanye non-profit organisation. It started out as a second-hand clothing market, then as the garden grew, it became a food market.

“It’s important for all of us, rich or poor, to know where our food comes from,” said market organiser, Unathi Dyantyi.

“Our market is different because small businesses can afford it and local businesses have a chance to grow their business.”

One of the small-scale farmers who has been selling vegetables at the market since 2014 is Mosima Pale, who is based in Philippi. He agrees that it is a great platform.

He said it enables him to sell products directly to the community. “When I started it was a small space in between buildings,” he said.

Mr Pale, who has been farming for the past three years, also said that local government should rethink using spaces such as public parks to grow food. He added that having small-scale farmers in the city was vital to keeping it sustainable.

“That’s a typical example,” says Mr Dyantyi of Mr Pale’s story.

“He is a farmer and it is a market which is friendly to the conditions and gives him an opportunity. It is also a platform, where the kinds of people that come, really support it.”

He said that it was all about empowering small businesses. He added that the biggest support, since the market started had been from the women in the nearby community.

He said that one of the most important aspects of the organisation was to teach young people about growing food. “We realised that the youth were not into gardening because gardening has a stigma in our communities. Gardening was considered as unskilled and our youth are not interested.

“I know we can’t all be gardeners but we all have to eat. Everybody knows their doctor, everybody knows their lawyer, how many people know their farmer or where their food comes from? It’s paramount to us that children are taught. It is the right way to create sustainability, that we have small (scale) farmers that teach the children and have small patches at home. It is about teaching people ways of feeding themselves.”

Mr Dyantyi said this was something that young people could take back to their various communities. “In the townships a lot of times you don’t have food. You are desperate, not thinking properly and it is easy to fall for anything.

“It is about showing them that what happens in the garden is intellectual. Every subject at school, you can find in the garden. Everything from early childhood development to university level. Things that kids are learning about but now it is practical.”

The name of the organisation Tyisa Nabanye, says Mr Dyantyi, means to share with others. This is another important aspect of the project. “It’s based on that concept of Ubuntu. Food is the stuff of life. There’s all kinds of ills that come out from not having food. Food is part of any nation’s culture, no matter where you come from. Food is heritage because it comes from the ground. Certain foods grow in certain places.

“We are eating a lot of foreign food and we don’t even know our indigenous food. We’ve lost part of our heritage. If you preserve the food heritage, you will also preserve the environment at the same time. People used to eat what was in season.”

He also said that everything came from the soil.

His girlfriend, Zintle Hashe, who also works at the market as an organiser, said she would like the community to support the project. “It’s for the whole family. It is not just an outing but a learning experience. It’s proper family time and you can learn something at the garden.”

She also said it was important to support the small-scale traders. “It’s not just a place to come and be seen and look cool or trendy. We are not trying to do that. It is about supporting people and everybody can get something out of it.”

She said an important part of the market was to help micro businesses. “Markets really should be about that but you sometimes have to pay such a high price. It’s good for the farm, because employment is created on the farm. It is just proof that this is doable.”

The two, who are originally from East London, said farming was a big part of the culture there and something they want to instil in the urban Cape Town environment. “When I grew up, most households had gardens. Supermarkets was not a thing. Everybody had a patch. Organic now has become a commercial word,” joked Mr Dyantyi.

“When I went back… some people are still maintaining it but the youth are not involved.

“It’s important for kids to learn about food irrespective of what background they come from. Whether they are privileged or whether they are poor, they need to eat,” he added.

“Food is one of the vehicles to equality and eradicating crime.”

Mr Dyantyi also said that the market will be one of the venues in Cape Town hosting the Afrofest event later this month.

For more information on that and their weekly markets visit the Tyisa Nabanye Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/tyisanabanye/.