Indigenous foods deserve their place in the sun as food insecurity worries grow

Despite being nutrient-rich and drought-resistant, indigenous foods are often overlooked in food security strategies. North-West University (NWU) student Modjadji Mandy Rasehlomi seeks to change that.

Modjadji, a master’s student in Indigenous Knowledge Systems, has been delving into the untapped potential of indigenous foods to address the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of No Poverty (SDG 1) and Zero Hunger (SDG 2).

Her research has shed light on the underexplored use of indigenous foods, a vital resource often overlooked in strategies primarily influenced by Western paradigms.

Modjadji says the Global Nutrition Report, which is the world’s leading independent assessment of the state of global nutrition, underscores the growing significance of nutrition amid challenges faced by global food systems, including poverty and hunger.

Her own research identifies indigenous foods as nutrient-rich and resilient in challenging environmental conditions, making them valuable for promoting sustainable food systems.

She believes that if properly commercialised, indigenous foods could play a crucial role in reducing food and nutrition insecurity, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, while contributing to more diversified diets.

Despite their potential, Modjadji notes that these foods are insufficiently understood and documented, highlighting the need for comprehensive research and recognition of their benefits. She is advocating for the ethical integration of indigenous foods into sustainable and healthy food systems by emphasising their role in supporting current diets, especially in rural South African populations.

“Indigenous foods, which are often neglected in strategic documents, hold the key to enhancing food security, eradicating poverty and addressing climate change vulnerabilities. We therefore need to include indigenous foods in policy procedures to expand dietary options for marginalised populations,” says Modjadji.

NWU master’s-degree student Modjadji Mandy Rasehlomi.

Submitted on Tue, 02/27/2024 - 15:05