Woolworths has joined hands with its supplier, Spier wine farm; the Sustainability Institute and its AgroEcology Academy to launch the Living Soils Community Learning Farm, in the Lynedoch valley of the Stellenbosch Winelands. The partners have agreed to a three-year pilot project that aims to establish a learning farm that demonstrates ecologically-restorative methods to grow nutrient-rich foods to improve community food security. A critical aspect of the project is that through the AgroEcology Academy, it will involve the training and development of young farmers to address local youth unemployment and land reform issues.
Woolworths, which has long had a focus both on improving food security and sustainable farming, has come on board with funding of R4.4million over the three year period. “We’re very excited to play a key role in this partnership,” says Zinzi Mgolodela, Woolworths Director of Corporate Affairs. “The partners share the vision of the Living Soils Community Learning Farm becoming a viable model of community-based food security and the sustainable development of local livelihoods that can be replicated all over South Africa. The project is aligned to our successful Farming for the Future initiative therefore an extension of partnerships with our suppliers, and apart from the funding we will be providing, the project will benefit from access to sustainable farming expertise in our supply chain.”
Stellenbosch wine farm, Spier, has contributed three hectares of land and farming equipment to the Living Soils Community Learning Farm. Heidi Newton-King, Spier’s HR and Sustainability Director says: “Through our Growing for Good initiatives, Spier supports communities through learning. By contributing land and resources, we look forward to exploring the development of a long term impact model.”
The Sustainability Institute and its AgroEcology Academy will host and drive the project with a dedicated Project Manager. The priorities of the Learning Farm will be the production of nutritious food that will help to transform at risk households into food secure families, and the provision of training and learning that empowers emerging, young farmers with the skills to tackle food insecurity, youth unemployment and land reform. Jess Schulschenk, Director of the Sustainability Institute says: “Research will form an important part of this programme, so we can document and share best practice in ecologically-restorative approaches to nutritious food production and understand how social justice and innovation can be driven through sustainable food systems and models. We look forward to the learning, advocacy and thought leadership that will emerge from this very rooted and necessary work to realise food security, youth skills development and land reform in practice.”
Like unemployment, food insecurity remains persistent and widespread in South Africa where contrasting forms of malnutrition, from wasting and stunting to overweight and obesity, co-exist with significant impacts on health and well-being. Through demonstrating the growing of nutritious food sustainably, the Living Soils Community Learning Farm aims to offer the country an innovative, collaborative model to improve food security while also boosting livelihoods and access to land.