Imagine a world where people have easy access to African foods like fonio grain, sorghum flour and moringa. This is the vision of Sipamandla Manqele whose start-up, Local Village Foods, aims to take indigenous foods to the global market.
Manqele, who hails from Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape, is making waves with her trailblazing South African food business. Not only is it her mission to make African wholefoods and ingredients more accessible, she also wishes to enhance economic inclusion and empower agripreneurs across the continent.
She says, “Food is the currency for true connection and helps us to celebrate and appreciate the significance of our diverse traditions. It accompanies all of life’s most significant moments and plays a critical role in the social and traditional life of African cultures and their peoples.
“And yet, at the global banquet table, African foods and ingredients, together with the continent’s diverse food traditions, remain underrepresented.”
Connecting ethical producers with conscious consumers, Local Village Foods has established a network of local, small-scale producers across the continent supplying equitably sourced and sustainably grown indigenous African ingredients.
Regionally sourced and traceable
Among the company’s indigenous food offerings are Bambara groundnuts, fonio grain, tiger nut flour, teff grain, sorghum flour and moringa. The business sources 90% of its ingredients from farmers based across Africa, including Nigeria, Malawi, Benin, Zimbabwe and South Africa and is committed to ethical sourcing and traceability.
“Our customers are able to enjoy sustainably grown, indigenous ingredients while at the same time supporting the livelihoods of small, rural agripreneurs,” says Manqele.
While the company’s products are plant-based and vegan-friendly, they are also ideal for those looking for healthier alternatives to highly processed and unhealthy foods.
“Many people are not aware of the health benefits of traditional African foods. Many of them are considered superfoods due to their nutritional value, or ‘futureproof’ foods owing to the fact that they can be produced sustainably and in areas with low rainfall levels.”
African future foods
A recent report by Knorr and the WWF titled “Future 50 Foods” identified 50 foods that should be eaten more frequently owing to their high level of nutrition, the fact that they have a lower impact on the planet than animal-based foods, are affordable, accessible and taste good.
African Village Foods sources and distributes many of these superfoods.
According to the research, swopping staples such as maize and white rice for fonio or spelt increases the nutrient content of a dish, while contributing to greater agrobiodiversity, making global food supply more resilient and helping safeguard these ancient variants for future generations.
“The search for nutrient-dense plants has taken us toward ancient grains, heirloom plant varieties, and less commonly cultivated crops. There is a good reason for rediscovering some of the forgotten plants,” Dr Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington, states in the report.
In an earlier interview with Food For Mzansi, Manqele acknowledges the role of food to unite people. “Food is a great unifier. It cuts across borders and produces conditions for greater understanding of each other.”
Wholefoods range and Bissap beverages
Local Village Foods offers two primary product lines: its flagship wholefood offering, as well as the Bissap Beverages product line.
Its primary product portfolio includes commodities and value-added products that incorporate African indigenous ingredients, such as indigenous grains, gluten-free flour, canned foods (legumes and grain), pasta and African superfoods.
The company also continues to develop innovative food products, including fusilli pasta made from the moringa plant, organic tiger nut flour, and snack bars made with moringa and amaranth grain.
Its beverage offering, Bissap, is a natural plant-based African drink brewed from roselle, a species of the hibiscus plant extensively consumed in West Africa. Across the continent it is known by many names, including wonjo, dabileni, tsobo, zobo, or sobolo and is frequently the drink of choice for times of gathering and celebration.
The key ingredient of Bissap, roselle, is ethically sourced from small-scale farmers in West and East Africa. Bissap is colourant-free and preservative-free and is available in Hibiscus Classic or Hibiscus Ginger.
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