Exploring resilience through the stories of food innovators in the Western Cape, South Africa

A new short book explores ‘storymaking’ as a way of unpacking some of the different capacities that social innovators in the food system of the Western Cape, South Africa, are drawing on in their efforts towards resilience. The social innovators highlighted are Chuma Mgcoyi, Kobus van der Merwe, Loubie Rusch, Zayaan Khan, and Nazeer Sonday (pictured above).

The work by centre researcher Oonsie Biggs with Rika Preiser, Laura Pereira and Megan Lindow from the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, Stellenbosch University explores what it means to tell stories, and how the stories people tell can enrich our understanding of resilience, particularly in its more subjective, symbolic and value-laden forms.

The booklet highlights the stories of five ‘food innovators’ connected to the Seeds of Good Anthropocenes project, who shared stories of their motivations and efforts to inspire and shape new kinds of politics, values and social-ecological relationships in a food system mired in deep local and global social inequalities and environmental problems, among many other challenges.

The stories were analysed, and three key resilience frames were borrowed from Katrina Brown’s book as lenses through which to explore their linkages to resilience ideas: rootendess (the relationships that hold people within a community, culture, identity and place); resourcefulness (how different kinds of ‘capacities, knowledges, innovation and learning’ can be harnessed to deal with change); and resistance (opening up fertile spaces for change).

In this process, the stories helped to shed light on how and why each food innovator has created and navigated their own particular path towards shaping change within a larger food system, engaging with diverse themes of fighting for social justice and equality; mobilising and empowering youth; cultivating fertile networks of people and ideas; recovering lost food heritages; cultivating an ethic of care and responsibility for the land; and using creativity to challenge and explore perceptions of food.

The authors’ findings indicate that the storymaking approach may have rich potential for assessing the less tangible aspects of resilience in particular contexts. Storymaking could also be developed as a tool to help communities more purposefully understand and develop their capacities for resilience by interpreting their own stories through resilience frames.

This short book was developed from a master’s thesis in Sustainable Development completed by Megan Lindow in December 2017. This project contributes to GRAID work on understanding and creating transformative spaces, connecting to the global Seeds of Good Anthropocenes project. Through deep engagements with a few key ‘food innovators,’ new knowledge and methods were developed for gaining insight into some of the underlying values and motivations that may contribute to future positive changes in food systems of the Western Cape, South Africa.

Download the book here


Zayaan food lab pic for cover

In Lindow’s book, a number of social innovators from Western Cape, South Africa are highlighted. Here, social innovator Zayaan Khan talks about foods indigenous to Western Cape during a workshop.