Speech by Deputy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica, at the launch of Indiza Food and Indigenous Food Fair at Port St. Johns, Eastern Cape

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12 Mar 2004

Manene na manenekazi, Molweni, dumelang, avuxeni, ndaa, thobela, sanibonani, goeie more, good morning; ladies and gentlemen;

I welcome you all to this important occasion on which we, as the Department of Science and Technology officially launch Indiza Foods, an indigenous food production community enterprise. It is one of our Poverty Reduction initiatives. It is a section 21 company that has a board of directors comprising of all major stake-holders and it will be responsible for the management, fund-raising, quality control, marketing and promotion of the products of all indigenous food enterprises.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to recognise the following dignitaries amongst us, before I proceed further:

  • The Premier of the Eastern Cape: The Hon. Rev. Makhenkesi A. Stofile
  • MEC of Economic Affairs and Tourism in the Eastern Cape: Mr. Enoch Godongwana
  • The Mayor of St Johns: Mr. W.M. Mtakti
  • Representatives from the House of Traditional leaders
  • The Group Executive for Technology for Development: Mme Lerato Thahane.

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Colleagues and guests that I did not mention by name; all protocol observed.

I will start by reminding you that South Africa has the twin socio-economic ills, namely; poverty and unemployment. For example, the Eastern Cape has a population of 6.3 million of whom only 12.5% are employed. This is the challenge to which we, as government rededicate ourselves to meet. This we shall accomplish in partnership with communities, such as yourselves and the private sector by assisting communities to use technology in establishing enterprises that yield sustainable jobs in the long-term.

Our approach to rural development is as follows: The Technology for development programme, which resides within the Department of Science and Technology, brings communities together and transfers the technology through institutions such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Agricultural Research Council (ARC). Other institutions train them in business skills required to manage the enterprises once formed. The ultimate objective is to create sustainable employment opportunities while improving the quality of life, in that social cohesion, sense of self-worth, avenues for participation in development would have been created.

Indiza Foods, a section 21 company, is a product of the process I have just outlined and my department and our partners, namely; the CSIR and Indigenous Foods groups across the country, some of whom are represented here this evening, take pride in launching its existence in a special occasion such as this.

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It is fitting to have this occasion in this beautiful part of our country and to this, I would like to personally acknowledge the cooperation that exists across all tiers of government and among all partners involved, that have made this occasion possible. I am grateful to the science councils that often respond positively to our call for transferring appropriate technology to rural communities in order to address poverty.

Development will only happen when we successfully harness the potential that science provides in conquering challenges that we face as a nation and in our daily lives as communities. Food technology has a key role to play in the alleviation of poverty. In order for sustainable development to take place, rural and urban communities should have access to innovations that accelerate development and provide new and more effective solutions than those previously used.

In line with the government’s developmental imperatives, as further underlined by President Mbeki in his State of the Nation Address on 6 February 2004, when he alluded to the fact that despite the liberation almost ten years ago, there is still a lot of work required in order to eradicate poverty and unemployment.

The Department of Science and Technology has created conditions that allow for the transfer of essential technology required for creating employment. This was done by establishing a Poverty Reduction sub-programme whose mandate is to combat poverty and economic marginalisation using technology as a developmental vehicle among rural and urban communities. The Poverty Reduction sub-programme is a component of the Technology for Development Programme. The latter also provides services that assist communities in accessing skills and learnerships and provides legal frameworks within which Indigenous Knowledge maybe exploited to grow enterprises in a sustainable manner.

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In funding the establishment of indigenous foods as an enterprise, within the poverty reduction mandate of the Department of Science and Technology, the value of Indigenous Knowledge in providing a bed-rock for rural development was realised. Local knowledge, in conjunction with modern food processing technologies, are applied in order to create culinary delights which are documented in the form of a recipe book and the production of such foods is standardized and merchandised. So far this process has progressed well, although still at different stages of development across the country. The most advanced stage is the creation of a small factory to supply supermarkets and businesses in the vicinity, which is already happening in Bloemfontein.

The objective to form Indiza foods, a section 21 company owned by communities, is to ensure that production and distribution are country-wide and well coordinated by a single entity in order for these groups to exploit economies of scale. This enterprise offers economically marginalised communities an opportunity to earn a living using Indigenous Foods.

The Department of Science and Technology has to this day invested R12.4 million in the indigenous food enterprises. The investment led to the establishment of indigenous food processing centres, which are in different stages of development, in the in Free State, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Eastern Cape. The money was used to purchase and install the necessary infrastructure and equipment.

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This Indigenous Food Enterprise encompasses the full chain of activities required to bring a new product onto the market, starting with the identification of dishes that have the potential to be produced in modern commercial enterprises that comprise of advanced technical expertise in the packaging and processing of the product to make it suitable for the urban market. We all know that in this fast-paced world we live in, consumers in the urban market not only need but also demand meals that are quick and easy to prepare.

All provincial indigenous centres will concentrate on indigenous foods of local communities and value addition through innovations and food processing technologies with the Free State branch based in Bloemfontein, becoming the biggest indigenous manufacturing centre in the country. Catering groups that market indigenous foods are being established at all centres.

Eventually, Gauteng and Western Cape will serve as a hub to market the products developed from the other six provinces. Their role will be more on marketing and modifying some of the products for urban consumption. The IndiZA foods will work closely with institutions, food and hospitality industries in the promotion of indigenous foods to the consumers.

Developments in the Eastern Cape include the completion of the first phase, which what we are here to celebrate. A group of women from Cwebeni and the great place will be trained at the Tsolo College of Agriculture. One group will focus on catering and the other on production. The CSIR is working together with the local Municipality, Department of Agriculture and the college.

The group in Amatole District is focusing on establishing a processing centre, food production and catering. A business plan is being put together by a group of women and this will form the basis of an integrated enterprise to be established in the Amatole District. The indigenous food enterprise will be concentrated in the districts of Port St. Johns and Amatole .

Two centres will be established with production, processing and catering groups. The municipality and traditional leaders of both districts are supportive of the enterprise and would like to see an expansion of the enterprises to other districts. In the next financial year, the following activities should take place: production of crops, processing and catering.

I am pleased to announce that in the coming financial year, starting this April, my department will commit a further R2 million for the expansion of indigenous food enterprises.

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Ladies and gentlemen, we should take note of the value of our cultural heritage that Indigenous food production promotes. Knowledge that sustained our people’s livelihoods for centuries, passed on from one generation to another. Equally, such cultural practises provide us with avenues for self-expression, self-worth, social cohesion (due to norms that are observed) and a sense of belonging to a given community.

In order to promote our cultural heritage, indigenous food production should be combined with other cultural settings and activities. A cultural village that is being developed in Cwebeni, with the assistance of funding from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, provides an avenue through which some of these delicacies may be merchandised. It is for this reason that my department will, through the expanded public works programme initiatives, develop the cultural village further. This will provide a link between what we do in poverty reduction and tourism. We would like to exploit the complementary nature of these two enterprises. The latter is a growing industry whose momentum will help propel the indigenous food production to greater heights.

Ladies and gentlemen, South African indigenous foods present an opportunity for rural communities to produce novel food products for local and regional markets. In the past two years, we have seen an increased interest in the indigenous foods in a lot of organisations and institutions in the country and regionally. The University of Western Cape had a traditional food enterprise which focused on the Xhosa foods. It is evident that South Africans have long been waiting for this opportunity and are seizing it, the most popular products being dipabi biscuits, xigugu, mogodu, chocolate bites, masonja snacks, amadumbe bites, nyakafatane and mohadikoane.

It is my firm belief that enterprises such as the processing of Indigenous Foods, using the latest technology provides a window of opportunity for us to effectively combat rural unemployment, poverty and economic marginalisation.

I thank you.