Supporting the gastronomic use of underutilised species to promote social and ecological resilience: motivations and challenges in the Cape Town area
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It is well established that the modern global food system is highly unsustainable, distorted by industrialisation and corporate consolidation, with negative repercussions on the environment and biodiversity as well as human health. Innovative approaches are necessary to push food systems to be more sustainable, equitable, and healthy for all people regardless of income and wealth. In the Cape Town area, the food system is failing to adequately nourish the poor, while climate change poses increasing challenges to the region’s agricultural system. Conceptualising food systems as complex adaptive social ecological systems and utilising the Multilevel Perspective (MLP) framework, this thesis looks at the burgeoning economy in neglected and underutilised species (NUS) in the Cape Town area as a potential innovation that could make the local food system more socially and ecologically resilient. Though at present NUS are only marginally included in the local food system and policy debates, they are increasingly appearing in the food service industry, driven by international gastronomic trends. They hold potential as climate resilient, nutritionally dense, and socially and culturally significant foods in the region, but also carry ecological and social risks. This thesis critically examines the fledgling NUS economy in the Cape Town area, using participant observation and semistructured interviews to unpack its primary motivations and challenges, and ultimately contributes towards a better understanding of the NUS economy as it develops locally. This research shows that the main risks associated with NUS are negative ecological repercussions, privatisation of the NUS economy, and the reproduction and further entrenchment of unequal power dynamics in the region. In order to mitigate these risks and actualise the related benefits associated with NUS, engagement with the ecological, social, and political context of NUS needs to be significantly deepened. This is particularly true for those working in food service, who appear to be driving the NUS economy, and will require education around sustainability and TEK as well as a foregrounding of power-awareness.