Encounters With Food and Place

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

By Shawn Alimohammadi

Advaya (www.advaya.co) is an international activist social-environmental movement that bridges the connections between inner and outer change. "A journey home" is their 9 month systemic, transformational journey that seeks to explore retreat, relationships, food systems, regenerative economies, consciousness and community. Different ways of seeing and being. To have positive impact. To regenerate. To reconnect and fall in love with the world, over and over and over, and again and again and again.

With the rise of each full moon during A Journey Home, we take a deep dive into a new theme. So far, we have been together for three full moons. During the Harvest Moon, we dwelled on mystical mycelial networks and life of lichen to better understand symbiotic relationships. During the Blue Moon, we explored food and agriculture. Here we explored how food underpins all societal interactions. And how it is the oldest relationship humans have shared with their natural land. Most recently with the Beaver moon also known as Child moon, we explored regenerative and decolonized economies. During the month of food, I was extremely humbled to have been asked by Advaya to briefly talk about my research and community activism in the Cape Town food system (see link below for full video). Let's be honest, more often than not it's difficult to understand what’s really going on. So I took this opportunity to reflect on the whirlwind of a year that it's been and what has been going on in the food system. By doing so, I hoped I could help clarify some things for myself and for others.

Today, our relationship with food is largely disconnected, distant and deluded. Inequality is also most clearly manifested through hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity, with women and children suffering the most from diet related non-communicable diseases. Study after study, it has been found that children who suffer from hunger, never really properly recover, neurologically nor physiologically. This is a type of ‘slow violence’ where millions are unjustly robbed of their livelihoods and potential. This is a challenge that affects everyone. Despite its apparent omnipresence, this year, the insidious and wicked problem of hunger, has appeared to have become a greater part of public discourse than “normal”. With the pandemics' influence on unemployment and job loss, we saw communities mobilize around food.

Out of necessity, Our most basic need.

A source of enjoyment for some and a source of suffering for others.

Runaway, rapid and informal urbanization.

Municipalities can’t keep pace and

monopolies profiteer from exploitation.

Corrupt literally steal from the mouths of hungry children.

Degraded soils, droughts, floods, and rising temperatures.

Unemployment, job loss, hunger and starvation.

Addiction, violence and crime.

The most unequal country in the world;

where 20 million go to bed hungry everyday (NIDS-CRAM, 2020).

Tough pills to swallow. But this is the reality we’re dealing with. And nothing is going to change if we don’t change. This is not a story of passive victimization. Rather, it's a story about humans making things happen, no matter what. Finding a way. Embracing agility, ingenuity and adaptiveness. The things that complacency just does not understand. This proactive synergy, determination and creativity is perhaps best seen through the social and environmental activist movement called, "The Cape Town Together Food Growers Initiative" (CTTFGI). A wonderfully diverse swarm of humans that seeks to promote nutrition and food sovereignty through urban agriculture. Over 15 May - 1 August, I recorded over 100 food gardens being created. Most of which are small food gardens that are farmed in line with nature and pro-nutrition for the people, as they often supported community feeding schemes. Another characteristic of the CTTFGI is the community seed bank that was recently started. This was based on a generous donation of seeds from a permaculture 'wizardess'. These seeds are organic, heirloom, indigenous and not genetically modified. As a result, small-scale farmers can grow nutrient dense food and save their seeds for future seasons. Sharing and exchanging seeds along the way with others. I am honored to have been the designated seed courier, making deliveries to food growers around the city, who then save and collect the abundant seeds from their harvests. It was absolutely incredible connecting with different small-scale farmers across the city. For an ongoing story of the CTTFGI please visit: https://web.facebook.com/groups/670655126826113

School garden created by CTTFGI participant for wholistic education and feeding.

Market garden created by a CTTFGI micro- urban farmer.

It is in human nature to give back. Not to extract until there's nothing left. Not to do less harm. Not to have net zero impact but rather to give back. To have positive impact. To regenerate. Just like how we give and nourish our bodies with food daily. You see, eating is a political act on a personal and collective level. Each day, we give our bodies nourishment by eating. Preferably by eating organic, nutritious and wholesome food. If we choose to do this then each day, we can also help support local, small-scale and regenerative farmers, who pour their love and energy into growing nutritious food. Nourishing our bodies, souls, soils, and society. This supports healthier environments compared to the traditional monoculture, high external input, highly processed and refined (addictive) foods that are increasingly popular in globalized diets and supermarkets.

Food and farming is arguably causing the most social and ecological damage today - yet eating healthy can also be a key link to nourishing our own bodies, while supporting our collective communities and ecosystems. This is what excites me and gives me hope.

Through food we can give back:

To our bodies, communities and lands.

Through food we can learn:

About our bodies and one another.

Through food we can connect, protect and regenerate.

By doing this presentation, A Journey Home took me home. Back to my heart and away from my head. That’s what I experienced. How strange. Just by speaking with curious strangers. Tears were felt. Reality can be magnificently beautiful and terrifying sometimes. I guess that’s what we have to deal with. If not us, then who? We all have a place on the sacred hoop of life, so let's love one another how each wants to be loved, as Patt McCabe so wonderfully says. Let's do that and see where things takes us.

A heartfelt shout out to the group that listened so closely. It was much appreciated and an evening that will stay with me. Sometimes listening is the greatest gift of all.

May we be well. May our ancestors hold us. May the world find peace. May the world heal. May we have trust.

Encounters with Place video presentation: (discussion starts around 7 mins): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6ZmjwJN6xw&feature=youtu.be h

Advaya Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCd1RO9oVj0HiaEOSZhUjUtA


NIDS-CRAM. 2020. Overview and Findings. (July). http://www.nids.uct.ac.za/about/nids-cram/nids-cram