2011-present – Izindaba Zokudla (Conversations About Food)

industrial design / technology / urban ag / food / systems

Izindaba Zokudla (Conversations about Food) – Innovation in the Soweto Food System is a multi-stakeholder engagement project that aims to create a more sustainable food system in Johannesburg through urban agriculture.

Promoters: Dr. Naudé Malan, Senior Lecturer, Department of Anthropology and Development Studies, UJ; and Angus Donald Campbell, Head of Department: Industrial Design, UJ

Funders: SA National Research Foundation (NRF); UJ University Research Committee; and UJ Teaching Innovation Fund

Dr Malan has been involved in the MetroAg programme after attending the firsts global MetroAg summit in 2010. Dr Malan and Mr Campbell attended a subsequent conference in Detroit in 2013 and have since then built a strong relationship with the Global Innoversity members in Detroit. Dr Malan conducted a research methodology programme in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture starting in 2011 this is where the original impetus to develop this the local project came from. From 2011-2013 BTech/Honours and Masters research was undertaken by students in the both the Departments of Anthropology & Development Studies and Industrial Design at UJ that set in motion the project:
An Exploratory Ethnography of Urban Farming Practices in Noordgesig, Johannesburg: The Interplay between Food Security and Commercial Cultivation, Wendell Moore, BA Hons Development Studies (2012).
Sustainable Access to Food for the Urban Poor in Pretoria: A Study of Household Food Consumption in Mamelodi, Charl van der Merwe, MA Development Studies (2012-).
The Design and Development of a Single Household Farming Kit, Kyle Brand, MTech Industrial Design (2011-2014).
Biocharger: The Design of a Safe and Efficient Biochar Production Unit for a Small Business Initiative in Johannesburg, Gauteng, Myles Day, BTech Industrial Design (2013).
The Research and Design of the Seboko Low-cost Tunnel System for Small-scale Farmers, Kyle Brand, BTech Industrial Design (2010).

Project Overview:
The City of Johannesburg (CoJ) is implementing an urban agriculture policy as part of a larger food security initiative (CoJ, 2014). This policy creates opportunities for multi-stakeholder engagement, and Izindaba Zokudla is aimed at creating space for such engagement between urban farmers, stakeholders and the city. Farmers are arguably the most important actor in this policy and in urban agriculture in the city. Izindaba Zokudla advocates and argues for specific approaches to urban agricultural development in Johannesburg. It draws on participatory research to build the capacity of farmers’ organisations in Johannesburg, to facilitate engagement with food enterprises in the city, and to use design and technology development as means to improve agricultural practices. During 2013 a strategic plan for a farmers’ organisation was developed and during 2014 this plan is being implemented. This plan includes reference to a farmers market, addressing land tenure issues in the city, developing a technology development workshop, and to create opportunities for students to conduct academic research on aspects of sustainable food system change.

Urban agriculture can tackle issues from food security to social inclusion (Dubbeling et al., 2010). It is an important policy instrument to not only increase the availability of food, but to create jobs and overcome poverty. It is important to be clear that a number of real problems surround this practice. Besides the conceptual problem of defining “urban” agriculture (e.g. the mere classification of an area as “urban” does not necessarily shape agriculture differently than in a rural area), there is limited evidence that it has any effect on nutrition (Franye et al., 2014; Stewart et al., 2013; Girard, 2012). This could be explained by the wide variation in ability amongst urban farmers (see van Averbeke & Mohammed, 2009) and the fact that smallholders in general are not as productive as large commercial farmers (Baipethi & Jacobs, 2009). To achieve food systems change, smallholders need to be able to compete with lareg farmers, and this calls for both institutional change (for example the institutionalisation of a suitable urban land tenure system for urban agriculture) and technological change (conceptualised as including artefacts and systems of production) and this project engages with both issues. This allows us to both focus on increasing productivity, as well as incorporate a poverty focus. Many, particularly those in the field advocate for it as a poverty relief and food security strategy (Thornton, 2000) provided if urban farmers become more productive.

Another set of debates that influenced the creation of this project concern the place of cities in the world food system (Steele, 2009). The ecological footprint (Elliot, 2013: 286) of the city and migration and urbanisation intensifies the need to raise agricultural productivity, both urban and rural, and protect ecological integrity whilst attaining social goals like poverty relief and food security (Dubbeling et al., 2010). The Dutch RUAF Foundation show that urban agriculture has the potential to realise incomes comparable to that of “mid-level civil servants” (De Zeeuw et al., 2007:11). It increases the supply of fresh food to cities, is able to create decent livelihoods, reduces waste, and creates employment. This has further benefits of building social cohesion and inclusion, and adapting to climate change (Dubbeling et al., 2010:6-17). It is the attainment of these goals that currently drive the urban agricultural discourse.

Urban agriculture receives significance by virtue of its effects on food systems and sustainability and represents a peculiar but important approach to agricultural reform. The Dutch TransForum experience (van Latesteijn & Andeweg 2010:xi), a direct precursor to the globalinnoversity focussed on an “interdisciplinary approach including substantial interaction with stakeholders and policy-makers” to create novel enterprises that benefit the economy, society and ecology. The Detroit experience focussed not only on such novel enterprises, but also included due reference to policy issues (particularly food security assistance programmes) and cultural change (Hesterman, 2011). Joubert (2012) vividly describes these challenges for South Africa. This project has direct links with the Dutch and Detroit examples and aims to build on and innovate on these approaches in both a new context in Johannesburg but also to create institutional change and develop technology. This project is able to rapidly develop technology due to the proximity of the UJ to underserved areas. It is also able to integrate social science and Development Studies with the design profession and disciplines, which brings a strong normative dimension to the project. Technology and design needs to have a poverty and emancipatory focus. This interdisciplinary confluence has never been attempted before and in this project is certainly breaking new ground.

This project aims to build the capacity of a local farmers’ organisation in order to enable them to participate effectively in engagement with stakeholders. This would have institutional effects and place a disadvantaged group in an empowered position. A key constituency in the city’s food resilience strategy (CoJ 2014) will benefit. Furthermore, this project aims to utilise the expertise of global partners from the Global Innoversity to complement the local level capacity building work being done to build a conversation at a policy making and enterprise level in the city. The project aims to lastly use technology, design and design methodologies in building enterprises with disadvantaged groups in Johannesburg to achieve sustainable food systems.

The key references for the above:

Baiphethi M N & Jacobs P T (2009). The contribution of subsistence farming to food security in South Africa, Agrekon 48(4): 459-482.

CoJ City of Johannesburg, (2014). A City Where None go Hungry: Operational Strategy Document. Johannesburg: Johannesburg Metropolitan Council.

De Zeeuw H Dubbeling M van Veenhuizen R & Wilbers J (2007). Key Issues and Courses of Action for Municipal Policy Making in Urban Agriculture. RUAF Working Paper no. 2 Leusden: RUAF.

Dubbeling M de Zeeuw H & R van Veenhuizen (2010). Cities Poverty and Food: Multi-Stakeholder Policy and Planning in Urban Agriculture. Rugby: Practical Action Publishing.

Elliot JA (2013). An introduction to Sustainable Development (4th ed.) London: Routledge.

Frayne B McCordie C & Shilomboleni H (2014). Growing out of poverty: Does urban agriculture contribute to household food security in Southern African cities? Urban Forum. Available:http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12132-014-9219-3 (Accessed 20April 2014).

Girard AW Self JL McAuliffe C & Olude O (2012). The effects of household food production strategies on the health and nutrition outcomes of women and young children: a systematic review. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology 26(1): 205-222.

Joubert L (2012). The Hungry Season: Feeding Southern Africa’s Cities. Johannesburg: Picador Africa.

Steele C (2009). Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives. London: Vintage.

Stewart R Korth M Langer L Rafferty S Rebelo Da Silva N & van Rooyen C (2013). What are the impacts of urban agriculture on food security in low and middle-income countries? Environmental Evidence 2(7):http://www.environmentalevidencejournal.org/content/2/1/7.

Thornton A (2008). Beyond the metropolis: Small town case studies of urban and peri-urban agriculture in South Africa. Urban Forum 19:243-262.

Van Averbeke W & Mohammed SS (2006). Smallholder farming styles and development policy in South Africa: The case of Dzindi Irrigation Scheme. Agrekon 45(2): 136-157.

Van Latesteijn H & Andeweg K (eds.) (2011). The TransForum model: Transforming agro innovation towards sustainable development. Dordrecht: Springer.

The Project Partners:
• The University of Johannesburg Departments of Anthropology & Development Studies and Industrial Design (joint project leaders), Graphic Design, Multimedia, Business Management (Soweto Programmes) and Strategic Communication (Public Relations), and Enactus UJ.
The Region D Farmers’ Forum, Soweto (representing approximately 32 farming sites and 300 dependents)
• The Meadowlands Agricultural Forum
The City of Johannesburg’s Department of Social Development through their Food Resilience Unit (2012) and Policy (2014).
Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
The Wits Siyakhana Initiative for Ecological Health and and Food Security
The Global Innoversity for MetroFood/Ag based at Michigan State University
• Various NGO’s: Food and Trees for Africa & The Food Gardens Foundation

Focus Areas based on Multi-stakeholder Input:
Izindaba Zokudla embarked on a series of multi-stakeholder workshops in 2013 that have led to the creation of specific areas of focus:
1. The creation of a farmers’ market: The Soweto Imvelo Market (SIM) was launched for local farmers to sell their produce to local consumers at the end of 2014 by an local community organization, the Region D Farmers’ Forum. It will be assisted and progress monitored into 2015/16.
2. Participatory Technology Development: Through a design research process of initial needs assessment and Human-Centred Design in participation with local urban farmers, a range of appropriate technologies have been developed to increase the potential of urban farming in Soweto and Johannesburg. Prototypes include, in 2013, a Single Household Farming Kit (greenhouse, rain capture, irrigation, seeds and a multi-hoe tool); and a portable biochar kiln. Thus far three products have provisionally been patented and are currently being commercialized (a seedling growing system, an off-grid food storage system and a wind powered water pump). And in 2015 we are developing a human-powered shredder for mulching and composting, and a user-friendly beehive to promote urban apiary. This component of the project will also lead into the Farmers’ School where we will demonstrate and disseminate various DIY Open Source and easily producible technologies to aid urban farmers (a DIY water pump, a DIY tunnel and DIY drip irrigation)
3. School Gardens and security of tenure: A series of facilitated workshops were held at the end of 2014 between the Department of Education, school garden farmers’ and school principals to develop a manual to guide the process of school gardening, and ultimately to improve the security of tenure of school gardeners.
4. The creation of a Farmers’ School: IZ assisted in the organisation, facilitation and evaluation of a Farmers’ School and the creation of training opportunities for urban farmers in Soweto. The school was launched on the 16 May 2015 with over 200 local urban farmers in attendance and will continue monthly at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus until the end of 2016.

Izindaba Zokudla: Farmers’ School and Innovation Lab Schedule: Please check the Izindaba Zokudla Facebook Page for the latest updates



Current Funding:
• South African National Research Foundation (NRF) Thuthuka funding starting in 2014:
Post-doctoral stream: Dr. Naudé Malan, Project title: Innovation in the Johannesburg Food System: Engaging with Soweto Agriculture, includes 12 Hons, 2 MA and 2 PhD bursaries over 3 years.
Doctoral stream: Angus Donald Campbell, PhD Project title: Designing Development: An Exploration of Technology Innovation by Small-scale Urban Farmers in Johannesburg, includes 6 BTech and 1 MTech bursary over 3 years.
• UJ Teaching Innovation Fund 2014, for a collaborative service learning course (Participation and Institutional Development) with the Departments of Development Studies (± 12 Hons students) and Industrial Design (± 3 BTech students).

Service Learning: Participation and Institutional Development Module:
The module Participation and Institutional Development is aimed at enabling students to organise farmers, social scientists and design experts to collaboratively create and innovate in technology for urban agriculture. This postgraduate course in participatory action-research and human-centred design for technology development will bring together students from diverse fields, Soweto farmers and relevant stakeholders and lead to the creation of artefacts, systems and institutional change for a sustainable food system in Soweto. This is done to develop and implement, and subsequently reflect upon technology and methodologies for participatory technology development for urban agriculture and food system change.

Opportunities for Research:
• Design Labs focused on participatory technology development resulting in prototype outcomes that can undergo longitudinal monitoring & evaluation together with iterative improvement;
• An ethnographic and social science investigation of urban agriculture;
• The development, implementation and reflection on multi-stakeholder participatory approaches in the context of urban food system change;
• Understanding technology, development and innovation in urban agriculture;
• The implementation of urban agriculture programmes; and,
• Thinking about food system change.


Provisional Patents:
• 2014/08658: A Seedling Growing System Budricks, J., Campbell, A.D. and Malan, N
2014/08761: Food Storage System Tofus, N., Campbell, A.D. and Malan, N.
2014/08762: Irrigation Pump Jacobsz, W.C., Campbell, A.D. and Malan, N.
• 2 x Biocharger Biochar Production Units (one small and one large). Day, M., Campbell, A.D., Siyakhana and GDARD.
• 1 x Single Household Farming Kit and 2 x development prototypes. Brand, K.G., Campbell, A.D., Malan, N., Balimi Food Security Company, FAO.
Journal Articles:
• Malan, N. (Forthcoming). Urban farmers and urban agriculture in Johannesburg: Responding to the Food Resilience strategy. AKREKON. Article accepted to be published in 2015.
• Campbell, A.D. & Harrison, P.H. (Forthcoming) Socio-technical Innovation: The Case of a Human-powered Shredder. Full paper accepted for Cumulus Milan, 3-7 June 2015: Virtuous Circle.
• Malan, N. (Forthcoming) Design and Social Innovation for Systemic Change: Creating Social Capital for a Farmers’ Market. Full paper accepted for Cumulus Milan, 3-7 June 2015: Virtuous Circle.
• Malan, N. & Campbell, A.D. 2014. Design, Social Change and Development: A Social Methodology. Design with the other 90%: Cumulus Johannesburg Conference Proceedings. Johannesburg: Cumulus Johannesburg. pp. 94-101. ISBN: 978-0-620-60373-7 (Peer Reviewed).
• Brand, K.G. & Campbell, A.D. 2014. In-context and Ecology Immersion for Resilience: An Exploration of the Design of a Household Farming Kit. Proceedings of the International Union of Architects World Congress: UIA 2014 Durban: Architecture Otherwhere: Resilience, Ecology, Values. Durban: UIA 2014. pp. 1332-1343. ISBN: 978-0-86970-783-8 (Peer Reviewed).
Campbell, A.D. 2013. Designing for Development in Africa: A Critical Exploration of Literature and Case Studies from the Disciplines of Industrial Design and Development Studies. Proceedings of the Gaborone International Design Conference (GIDEC) 2013: Design Future: Creativity, Innovation and Development. Gaborone, Botswana: University of Botswana. ISBN: 978-99968-0-019-1 (Peer Reviewed)
Campbell, A.D. 2013, November. Participatory Technology Design for Urban Agriculture in South Africa. In Lyle, P., Choi, J. HJ., Lawson, S., Lueg, C., Chamberlain, A., Foth, M., Meroni, A., & Brereton, M (Eds). Proceedings og the Urban Agriculture: A Growing Field of Research: Workshop at INTERACT 2013 – 14th IFIP TC13 Conference on Human Computer Interaction. pp. 8-16. Cape Town, South Africa: INTERACT 2013. ISBN: 978-0-620-58534-7 (Peer Reviewed)
Campbell, A.D. & Brand, K.G. 2012. Design of Resilient Products for Small-scale Farming in South Africa. Proceedings of the Agrindustrial Design: 2nd International Product and Service Design Congress and Exhibition on Agricultural Industries – Mediterranean/Food/Design Proceedings. pp.278-286. Izmir, Turkey: Izmir University of Economics Press. ISBN: 978-975-8789-49-8 (Peer Reviewed)
• Malan, N. & Campbell, A.D. 2013. Participatory Technology Design for Urban Agriculture in South Africa. Paper presented at the Development Studies Postgraduate Seminar Series, University of Johannesburg. Johannesburg, South Africa, 3 October.
Malan, N. & Campbell, A.D. 2013. Finding a Focus for MetroAg/MetroFood: An Analysis of the Johannesburg Food System. Spring 2013 MetroAg Webcasts, Michigan State University: Online, 8 April.
Campbell, A.D., Oosthuizen, T., Ntombela, B., Tuttle, R. & Malan, N. 2012. The Role of Education, Government and Commerce in Design for Social Development. Public Seminar, University of Johannesburg: Johannesburg, South Africa, 17 July.
• Campbell, A.D. & Brand, K.G. 2012. Design of Resilient Products for Small-scale Farming in South Africa. Paper presented at FADA Research Seminar Series, University of Johannesburg. Johannesburg, South Africa, 30 July.
• Malan, N., Campbell, A.D., Fenn, T. & Brand, K.G. 2012. Design for Social Development. Paper presented at FADA Research Seminar Series, University of Johannesburg. Johannesburg, South Africa, 21 May.
• Malan, N. & Campbell, A.D. 2014. Site Visit 2: Food, Soweto. Reimagining Relationships: How citizens collaborate to change the systems in which they live. Johannesburg: Hivos & SIX, 2014-11-26 – 27.
• Malan, N. & Campbell, A.D. 2015. Launch of Izindaba Zokudla Farmers’ School. University of Johannesburg, Soweto Campus, 2015-05-16:

Please also see the following news & views postings about this project for additional info: Noordgesig Farmers (2013-02-23); Rainbow Nation Farmers(2013-02-14)

For more information please contact either Angus or Naudé in the members section of this website or visit our facebook page.