Exploring resilience through the stories of food innovators in the Western Cape, South Africa

Author(s): Lindow, M., Biggs, R., Preiser, R. and Pereira, L.
Link to CST author(s): Dr. Laura Pereira, Prof. Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs, Prof. Rika Preiser
Publication: GRAID Policy Brief
Year: 2020
Full reference: Lindow, M., Biggs, R., Preiser, R & Pereira, L. 2020. Exploring resilience through the stories of food innovation in the Western Cape.


The booklet highlights the stories of five ‘food innovators’ connected to the Seeds of Good Anthropocenes project, who shared stories of their motivations and efforts to inspire and shape new kinds of politics, values and social-ecological relationships in a food system mired in deep local and global social inequalities and environmental problems, among many other challenges.

The stories were analysed, and three key resilience frames were borrowed from Katrina Brown’s book as lenses through which to explore their linkages to resilience ideas: rootendess (the relationships that hold people within a community, culture, identity and place); resourcefulness (how different kinds of ‘capacities, knowledges, innovation and learning’ can be harnessed to deal with change); and resistance (opening up fertile spaces for change).

In this process, the stories helped to shed light on how and why each food innovator has created and navigated their own particular path towards shaping change within a larger food system, engaging with diverse themes of fighting for social justice and equality; mobilising and empowering youth; cultivating fertile networks of people and ideas; recovering lost food heritages; cultivating an ethic of care and responsibility for the land; and using creativity to challenge and explore perceptions of food.

The authors’ findings indicate that the storymaking approach may have rich potential for assessing the less tangible aspects of resilience in particular contexts. Storymaking could also be developed as a tool to help communities more purposefully understand and develop their capacities for resilience by interpreting their own stories through resilience frames.

This short book was developed from a master’s thesis in Sustainable Development completed by Megan Lindow in December 2017. This project contributes to GRAID work on understanding and creating transformative spaces, connecting to the global Seeds of Good Anthropocenes project. Through deep engagements with a few key ‘food innovators,’ new knowledge and methods were developed for gaining insight into some of the underlying values and motivations that may contribute to future positive changes in food systems of the Western Cape, South Africa.