Food Learning Journeys
Tackling food insecurity in South Africa requires innovative strategies that fundamentally re-examines its root causes, as these challenges extend across issues and sectors. Proposed solutions often overlook the day-to-day realities of individuals in the food system, as researchers become stuck in formalised processes, missing critical insights.
A learning journey approach has been developed through a collaboration by the EDP, Southern Africa Food Lab at Stellenbosch University and DST – NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security at the University of the Western Cape.
This approach immerses a diverse range of participants within local food systems, taking participants on physical journeys that allow them to understand first-hand the lived experiences of food insecurity and the complex system within which these challenges arise.
The learning journey methodology
Traditional top-down approaches to policymaking and planning have proven largely ineffective when tackling complex urban challenges. The learning journey is a participatory action research technique that brings decision makers and grassroots communities together to collaboratively seek solutions for complex issues like food security.
The approach challenges the conventional belief that universal solutions are always the best, focusing instead on identifying place-based challenges and potential solutions. In this way, this method moves beyond extractive research and towards collaborative learning, which promotes locally appropriate bottom-up system change through shared knowledge and experience and acknowledging that ‘experts’ do not have all the answers.
The EDP has facilitated a series of learning journeys in Worcester, Langa, and Touwsrivier in the Western Cape, which have shown the benefit of collective sense-making and problem solving around key food security issues in a local area.
What do food learning journeys aim to achieve?
The learning journey approach ties dialogue with action and facilitates changes in a food system to bring about improved outcomes for all. For example, dialogue stimulates action by fostering new ideas around which to forge commitments and relationships. The committed actions that follow the learning journey are critical in influencing the food system towards better developmental outcomes.
Food learning journey resources
- SmartAgri Newsletter 2022/23 – Breede River Municipality Hosts Unique Food Security Learning Journey – PDF attached (Full newsletter here)
- Netwerk 24 – Unique food and nutrition journey, 20 June 2022 – PDF also attached
- Business Day – Predicting the impact of climate change on food security in Worcester, 12 July 2022
- The Conversation – Food security ‘experts’ don’t have all the answers: community knowledge is key, 27 July 2022
- Daily Maverick – Localised food systems key to economic inclusion and environmental sustainability, 24 May 2022
- Daily Maverick – South Africa has enough food yet its people go hungry – Langa Learning Journey tackles our tragic paradox, 23 September 2022
- Apolitical – How learning journeys can reveal and help address systemic challenges, 25 November 2022
- Netwerk24 – Honger, werkloosheid knaag Touwsrivier, 1 May 2023.
- Daily Maverick – Drowning in hunger and despair – food insecurity in a small Western Cape railway town, 11 May 2023
- GroundUp – In photos: Hunger and hope in Touwsrivier, 7 June 2023
- Video: Understanding the learning journey | Langa, Cape Town, October 2022
For more information, contact Anna du Plessis on Anna@wcedp.co.za