In the past couple of years Gaborone has played host to various food festivals aimed at celebrating traditional cuisine and Setswana culture in general. Not to be left behind, the village of Maun will later this month get in on the act as they host their very own food and wine festival. As much as the festival provides a perfect platform to meet up with friends, family and colleagues for a drink and some nibbles, it also seeks to empower food producers with the necessary skills to help maximise profits.
One of the core aims of the festival, dubbed Ngamiland Indigenous Food and Wine Festival, is to promote food processing among local producers.
“It will also serve as a commercial and food processing exhibition,” says festival coordinator, Boyce Sekgoma. “Through this platform we hope to promote the food processing industry as a way of diversifying the economy, promoting of indigenous products, food science research, packaging, marketing and distribution.”
Sekgoma says they also intend to promote food hygiene, health standards, food processing equipment and culinary tourism in Botswana.
“The plan is to put together all stakeholders in the food industry under one roof. Institutions, technical experts, chefs, and other related entities and producers to share expertise on their respective fields,” he says.
Sekgoma says having institutions like the Food Technology Department (FTD), under the National Food technology Research Centre (NFTRC), to share knowledge and expertise on food processing can go a long way in ensuring Batswana retain maximum revenue accrued from the sale of their own produce.
He says the mandate of the FTD speaks directly to the core aim of the Ngamiland Indigenous Food and Wine Festival. The aim of FTD is to promote food-processing activities from product formulation to finished products. The process involves identification of available raw materials, recipe development, and pilot plant process optimisation for selected product formulations, sensory evaluation and consumer acceptance surveys.
Their goal is to promote the development of the food industry in Botswana, hence contributing to diversification in the local economy. “It is about time we stopped depending on South Africa even for stuff we can do ourselves,”Sekgoma says.
He says processing also extends to veldt products, the value of which he says has been incredibly underestimated. Fruits like morula, he says, have been under-exploited. His observation is also shared by the NFTRC which views veldt products as having the potential to create jobs and generate income especially in marginalised areas that depend primarily on these products.
“In plant products, potential exists for exploitation of indigenous plant resources (especially fruits and vegetables), which are adapted to the local climatic conditions. With Government support in irrigated crop production, there is a need to develop plant products as a means of value-addition, and to accommodate surplus produce, while reducing reliance on imported processed food products,” the NFTRC says. Sekgoma says the food and wine festival, to be held at Matshwane Show-grounds on November 28 and 29, is a food festival with a difference. “It is not just about indulging in food and drink. It’s about sharing skills and empowering farmers and others in the food production industry.”
Traditional food festivals like the Orange Letlhafula, Son of the Soil, Domboshaba and Dithubaruba have proven to be popular with both locals and foreigners. They have all had impressive turnover of people and create an ideal social platform for interaction between generations. They also serve to promote cultural exchange not just between locals but also foreigners, some of whom come into the country particularly for the events. Sekgoma says they hope to turn the Ngamiland Indigenous Food and Wine Festival into an annual event.