Women as role players & guardians of food knowledge
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The Mandela Peace Park Pensioners Garden is adjacent to the Centre and is an initiative that provides income opportunities to the local community and is used as a training resource for school greening initiatives.

Olipa Phiri Ntawanga is a post graduate student in Development Studies at the University of Pretoria since 2015. In addition to her academic research, she works at African Union- NEPAD Agency where she provides technical support on gender mainstreaming and women empowerment in Africa. Olipa currently has a two-year grant from the National Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Social life of Waste Art Network based which is supporting her ethnographic research on the interface between ecology, urban agriculture and gender at the senior citizens’ community garden, Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre.

Her research is titled; “The rhythms of the Garden: Contested development and Permaculture as an urban food production strategy in Pretoria/Tshwane”.  Taking a cue from feminist scholars, Olipa explores the changing meanings and effects of the role women play as providers of food in the household and as guardians of food knowledge. During the study she discovered that life histories of the senior citizens suggests several important aspects of the longer histories of urban agriculture in our townships, the personal, social and symbolic meanings attached to everyday gardening, as well as the social relations that are created, maintained and revealed by the production, distribution and exchange of fresh food.

More broadly she concluded that the senior citizens’ life histories suggest two key motifs; firstly, that gender issues are vital to the meaning of food, not only in relation to the gendered division of labour issues in food production processes but also in how women use the language of kinship and care to talk about agricultural production and knowledge. Secondly, she explored whether women’s practices and knowledge of urban agriculture can be read as a form of defiance against local knowledge-stripping which may provide opportunities towards a radicalisation of female bodies and the transformation of the economic system within which food is produced.


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