You are currently viewing Auditing our food and food system at the RWA feminist school

Auditing our food and food system at the RWA feminist school

Written by Bridget Masikati (RWA Zimbabwe)

The third day of the feminist school focused on the theme; Understanding Food Systems. One of the sessions was focused on the food audit. The food audit session during the feminist school in Zambia has taught me that, although food audits are widely used in the food industry for various reasons, it is also important rural women farmers. It provides significant advantages in sharing our experiences of food and food systems and building solidarity among each other. The food audit process has also proved that, each country’s unique dish can reflect its unique beliefs, history and even lifestyle.


The food audit highlighted the cultural significance of food. Rituals and celebrations are usually centred around food. We learned that sometimes the type of food served can define the event. These differentiate mourning gatherings from celebrations or hang outs.

One of the Zambian sister was quoted saying, “if there is no roasted chicken at a wedding celebration the whole event is a flop “

This quotation shows that food is a vehicle for expressing friendship, for smoothing social intercourse as well as for showing concern. It also explains the mood of the event. This came out over the discussion where funeral dishes are usually of low class in nature. Interestingly, a unique gesture in South Africa named after tears is associated with more beers to induce tears after the loss of a loved ones. The women laughed at this expression and found it very funny. Hence there is more of an intimate connection between food and culture than one can imagine.

The food audit also highlighted the economic side of food. The women shared their household budgets for food. It was through this discussion that the women realised that farmers usually spent less since they grow most of their vegetables and cereals. There was an interesting debate amongst the women farmers about whether you sell your maize and buy it back from the shop. One women farmer said she would rather take her maize meal to the mill rather than buying it from the supermarkets because it is cheaper.

The food audit also showed although it is the responsibility of the government to establish policies that defines food safety or marketing requirements, this can be achieved through effective food control systems that involve all aspects of food chain from farm to fork. Farmers as producers should be actively involved in the processes for the ownership of food systems as sore producers.

RWA Zambia presentation on the importance of indigenous seeds and traditional foods 

The presentation made by Zambian sisters on traditional foods was fascinating. It provided an insight on the multiple benefits of traditional foods despite the fast growing of industrialisation and fast foods systems. The discussion on traditional foods was by no doubt an encouragement to stick on to our roots by producing organic food, cultivate organic seeds saved from previous year´s crops, fruits are grown wild and animal species live freely in wide spaces. This was emphasised basing on the provision of food with less pesticides and chemicals.

The presentation illustrated many nutritional, economic, and cultural benefits associated with the harvest and consumption of traditional food by indigenous peoples. These include exceptional nutrient composition, taste properties, taste preference, reasonable cost compared to market food, sharing of the harvest within the community, and encouragement for children to discover the natural environment. The importance of traditional food to the health of individuals and communities can be directly related to the nutritional value of the food itself, the physical activity associated with its procurement.

The display of various types of traditional foods during the session created a practical environment of knowledge sharing as well as experience sharing on traditional foods among the women. It was also alluded that traditional knowledge allows for preservation and storage of traditional foods to last longer. The majority in rural areas have no access to modern, refrigerating equipment therefore with traditional knowledge they resort to traditional ways of food preservation e.g drying foods to extend its shelf life. Hence it is not surprising that there are dried vegetables, meat and fruits.


Since women are responsible for putting food on the table, the emphasis was on supporting and promoting traditional foods and indigenous seeds as they tend to be higher in vitamins and minerals, they are also lower in salt, fat and sugar. In general, a traditional diet is higher in protein, low in carbohydrate and contains a moderate amount of fat as been propounded by Zambian sisters during the presentation.

The trip to a village was quite a practical reflection of the traditional food discussion. The participants were treated to a delicious lunch of traditional dishes cooked in imaginative ways. The mains included cereals, buttered sweet potato, roasted indigenous chickens, fish, fresh and dried vegetables, boiled legumes the list is endless. While the drinks that was served included, mahewu (a maize or sorghum-based non-alcoholic brew) which is healthier than refined beers or whiskeys. The participants left feeling energised and refueled, ready to tackle the global promotion of traditional foods.

Leave a Reply