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Delivering the Vision: Resilient Food System Governance in Cape Town

Imagine a Cape Town where good governance processes support FOOD as a central development priority with wide social & environmental benefits

Photo of Paul Currie
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

ICLEI Africa

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

CIty of Cape Town (Government) Department of the Premier, Western Cape (Government) African Centre for Cities (Academic) Pinpoint Sustainability (Consultancy) South African Urban Food and Farming Trust (Civil Society) Images courtesy Consuming Urban Poverty Project, Sam Reinders and Paul Currie

Website of Legally Registered Entity

http://africa.iclei.org

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Cape Town

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

South Africa

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Cape Town

What country is your selected Place located in?

South Africa

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

The team is from and works in Cape Town, a globally iconic city that has led resilience planning in many ways, particularly around water. We are passionate about our hometown and are committed urban and food system actors who wish to improve peoples’ lives. 

Globally engaged and locally active, we advocate for social equity, environmental justice and sustainability transitions. Central to this passion and advocacy is the belief that food plays a core role in many of society's challenges. Ensuring that all citizens are well nourished is a therefore a first step towards addressing a multitude of other social ills. 

This first step resonates with the recently approved municipal Resilience Strategy (2019 - http://resource.capetown.gov.za/documentcentre/Documents/City%20strategies%2C%20plans%20and%20frameworks/Resilience_Strategy.pdf) that foregrounds food security, thereby catalysing action towards implementation. Realising this Strategy in our hometown supports our aspirations for a resilient and well-governed food system that will enable transformative change. A Food Vision and Programme is therefore a logical next step towards enabling these aspirations and the implementation of the Resilience Strategy.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Cape Town’s diversity is expressed through its foodscape. 

Cape Town is where ocean meets mountain. It is where informal settlements meet mansions. It is where priorities for housing, water, biodiversity, agriculture and leisure compete for land and resources. English, Xhosa and Afrikaans fill the soundscape, amid the deep noise of traffic and construction, and the light sound of waves and wind. It is a city of rich history and culture, where first bushmen gathered, pastoralists grazed, and colonists established gardens to supply ships with fresh fruit and veg. The very structure of the historic garden permeates today’s city’s layout as irrigation furrows flow into the street grid. 

It saw disenfranchisement through formalised spatial and cultural apartheid, mended somewhat with the arrival of Freedom. But still, it is where informal settlements meet mansions. Where fine dining meet street shisa nyama (barbequed meat). It is a city that lives with contradictions and developmental challenges. It is a divided city, and its citizens’ stories, hopes and endeavors can be told through multiple lenses, of wealth and exclusion, toil and disenfranchisement, adaptability and perseverance, and experimentation and boundary-pushing. 

Abundant agriculture is located in and around the city, giving the foodscape a distinctly local flavour. The city also has a strong agri-processing role within the region and much of the food entering or leaving South Africa comes through its port. Despite the availability of nutritious food, a staggering seventy-two percent (AFSUN, 2013) of households in the city’s low-income areas are food insecure. Among the consequences of this food insecurity are chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies with associated impacts of domestic violence, limited economic participation or productivity and loss of agency. While much of our population is food insecure, there is also a significant rise in obesity and diabetes, particularly amongst our youth, with about fifty-five percent of the population overweight.  This trend is expected to increase with a rise in easy-to-access fast foods and ready meals. This all within a context were we waste a third of the food we produce.  

When combined, these can be described as a 'slow violence,' a form of violence that is incipient, that is intergenerational, where children are disenfranchised, even before being born, as a result of dietary deficiencies in the first 1000 days since conception. Violence is often seen in instant and sensationalized ways. 'Slow violence' is experienced in private, incremental and accretive ways – in ways that are often invisible. Food system change offers ways to undo these injustices. This need to engage both the immediacy of the issue, while at the same time making visible the associated injustices so as to affect appropriate change is central to the food vision. This is central to the resilience strategy.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

2471

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

4332656

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

In 2020, 

“Despite a growing body of food systems knowledge being produced by regional universities, the City of Cape Town does not have a governance approach to managing food systems. The various parts of the food value chain that the City does contribute to, including safety, disposal and urban agriculture, are not brought together under a consolidated vision, and there is little appreciation for systemic risks, including the possible disruptions to food supply that could be caused by a range of shock events, such as flooding, infrastructure failure, drought or civil unrest.” 

--Cape Town Resilience Strategy

In 2050, without intervention and development of a robust food governance approach, Cape Town’s food system challenges  include a lack of available space for agriculture due to encroachment by built developments, as well as poor productivity of existing agriculture due to limited investment in climate-appropriate crops and irrigation systems. Competing pressures of water, good soils, land and carbon reductions  have crippled a thriving fruit, fresh produce and wine export economy, adding to the unemployed and undernourished. In addition, due to forward thinking ban on sending organic waste to landfill by 2027, we need a solution to treating our organic wastes.

There has been a failure to explicitly include food in transport, distribution, retail, housing and neighbourhood planning, which has led to increased vulnerability of the urban food system to climate related shocks.  It has also reduced the capacity of urban residents to access and utilise affordable, nutritious, safe and culturally appropriate foods. This contributes to continuous social disquiet.

Chronic malnutrition experienced in and since 2020 will have unjustly robbed a generation of their ability to fully participate in the City, the nation and their lives. The disenfranchised will be caught in a reinforcing cycle of domestic abuse, gender-based violence, and vandalization of infrastructures, that will retain Cape Town as the crime capital of South Africa. Levels of food access, insecurity and the divide between our citizens have widened. 

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Addressing food security in Cape Town is not a question of hunger or food availability, but of people’s economic, physical and social means to access the right kinds of nutritious food. This is about direct income, but also indirect and structural issues related to food supply chain power dynamics, pricing, consumer demand and the proportional availability of healthy to unhealthy food options. Due to the traditional focus on rural production as the silver bullet for food security, a limiting association of food insecurity with ‘hunger’, and a lack of local government mandate to regulate or invest in food systems, urban food insecurity has remained "politically invisible." However, the identification of Target 1.4.1 to ‘Establish a food systems programme to improve access to affordable and nutritious food’ as a flagship action in Cape Town's Resilience Strategy represents a bold political statement, and offers strong leadership in finding a home for 'food' in within the City, whilst also leading the way for other local governments in South Africa. This action sees “food” within a system of dynamic interactions located in the context of structural issues.

Addressing these structural issues including, amongst others, land and resilience, requires a concerted multi-stakeholder effort. Cape Town’s Resilience Strategy offers the following actions:

●     “Research the feasibility, gaps and resourcing requirements of an integrated food systems programme within the City, including proposals for where a food programme should be located within the City government;

●     Work with societal partners and other spheres of government to agree on a vision and strategy for food in Cape Town;

●     Consolidate previous research to identify relevant practical interventions that the City should be taking to improve the food system; and

●      Improve disaster responses relating to food system disruption for a number of shock scenarios.”

The intended outcome of these actions is primarily about transforming the way we view food, value it and address the burdens of obesity and child stunting.

Our vision will offer an inspiring basis to bring together food system role players, many of whom are already promoting food systems dialogues, to develop a governance system to enable Cape Town to be nutritionally secure. Using social network analysis, we will identify and map the key roles players (government, business, academia and civil society) and their responsibilities, while drawing attention to those who should be more explicitly included in the conversation and vision. 

The power of stories and creativity, supported by strong locally-generated evidence, will ensure that the governance system pays deference to Cape Town’s rich agricultural history and food cultures, acknowledges multiple cultural and lived experiences of food, and is future-oriented. With a strong food governance system, we know food can be the driver of real transformation in Cape Town.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Our vision celebrates the centrality of food in Cape Town’s Resilience Strategy – the first whole system approach of its kind in Africa – and imagines a city 30 years after this Strategy has been effected.

We envision in 2050 a Cape Town that is an international beacon of social cohesion, economic freedom, circular metabolism, regenerative environments, vibrant streets, distinctive food cultures and happy citizens. These are the first thoughts when someone says CAPE TOWN. These are the lived experiences of all in the city - all because of the unique, diverse, shared food cultures, supported by a holistic governance system facilitated by local government. 

With an entry point in food systems, slow violence is a thing of the past, malnutrition no longer robs people of their right to live, and citizens are aware of the wonder and impact of our global food system. 

Imagine a Cape Town that:

  • Is locally reliant for fresh produce and food

  • Is resilient to shocks and stresses to the food system

  • Cognizant of its location within the broad food system;

  • Boasts the healthiest happiest people, with no person or family ever going hungry, and food is safe 

  • Disowns the concept of waste, using everything

  • Leads the world with novel bio-based and biodegradable food packaging

  • Is awarded for its circular economy dining experiences

  • Enjoys a vibrant economy based on local food cultures

  • Is socially cohesive through shared food experiences

  • Is climate neutral 

  • Promotes agency, opportunity and inclusivity for all its citizens 

  • Welcomes international scholars to learn and exchange knowledge 

  • Is open and transparent with its data, creativity and innovation

  • Is governed with foresight, trust and participation, in a pluralistic manner

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Proactive engagement in the food system has been identified as having the potential to help local governments achieve a number of their core functions, as forcefully articulated by New York’s Speaker at the launch of the FoodWorks Initiative in 2009:

“Suppose I told you that New York City had the opportunity to create thousands of new jobs – but we just weren’t doing it. You’d probably be pretty upset. Now suppose I went on to say that we’ve actually had that opportunity for years, we just weren’t paying close enough attention. I bet you’d all have some choice words for me – the kind that shouldn’t be repeated in polite company.

Alright, now suppose I told you that by taking steps to create those jobs, we could also improve public health and reduce our energy consumption. We could fight childhood obesity and asthma. We could keep millions of dollars in the local economy, instead of sending those dollars across the country or around the world. But we still weren’t doing it.

Well the fact is, we have been ignoring those exact opportunities. For years, we’ve been missing a chance to create a greener, healthier, and more economically vibrant city. How? By ignoring the enormous potential of our city’s food system.” (Quinn 2009)

Doesn't this quote make you feel angry? Upset? On the verge of possibility? Ready for action? Well then imagine Cape Town. Imagine Cape Town in 2050. Imagine…


Imagine a city where residents no longer worry about where their next meal will come from, where the food system responds to their needs. This is a just food system.

Imagine a city with a flourishing and vibrant food retail economy that is responsive to the needs, infrastructure, culture and nutritional needs of society - a continuum of mutually supportive formal and informal food retail outlets. This economy is based on local and seasonal production, innovation and piloting of new technologies, processing and value addition. Food producers and conveyors are highly valued in our society.

Imagine a city where 60% of it's fresh produce comes from within municipal boundaries. Here, smallholder farms pilot new technologies in concert with traditional knowledge for great productivity and flavour; market gardens flourish in each of our 116 Wards, providing upskilling and employment opportunities that produce cheap, organic produce for the local community, energising local economies.

Imagine a city where the health is a central consideration in planning. Here, high rise buildings have roof-top farms and vertical food-scapes covering their walls. Our roads are transformed into recreational mixed-crop foodways that provide shade, cooling, tourism opportunities, psychological respite from the office, and free food.

Imagine a city in which all schools have a food garden, providing access to healthy, cheap, sustainable and seasonal meals, and connecting our learners to the food they eat.  National school curricula are aligned and the gardens are central for studies of life sciences, biochemistry, mathematics, project management and economics.

Imagine a city with its own wellbeing crypto-currency that rewards healthy food choices.

Imagine a city in which all the informal vendors have state-supported infrastructure at taxi ranks, train stations and bus stops to support the sale of healthy meals to commuters. Here we see vendors walking the trains selling fruit and ready made traditional meals in-lieu of chips and sweets. We see street vendors making better business in the evenings due to reclaiming of the streets from cars and crime.

Imagine a city with full participation in food cultures that reinforce cohesion and sharing throughout. It is a culture based on slow-food, privileging taste over expediency. Here we see African takes on plant-based diets and animal welfare.

Imagine a city boasting the healthiest people who achieve their highest potential, contributing to society and their own happiness.  


Imagine the end of the cycle of ‘slow violence’.


Imagine a city whose restaurants receive global awards - only now, these accolades are granted to a number of burgeoning restaurants that remake their menu daily based on foods have passed their retail sell-by dates.

Imagine a city with a proud melting-pot of cuisines, in which traditional foods and knowledge inspire contemporary food choices and eating experiences that are borne away to inspire Cape-style restaurants around the world. 

Imagine a city with a no-waste food supply chain, outstripping the Western Cape Government’s organics to landfill ban before 2027 and meeting the UNs SDG 12.3 target to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030.  All surplus, edible and nutritious food is no longer tossed, but instead distributed by Government, businesses, and NGOs to feed those in need - from hospitals to schools to orphanages. For every tonne of surplus food saved, 4,000 meals are made.

Imagine a city at the forefront of overcoming the challenges of food and packaging. Here, all inedible food is given a higher value as a packaging material or input for bio-based products. Some of the packaging that protects our food is also edible and nutritious - the perfect close to the meal. 

Imagine a climate neutral city that captures biogas energy from food waste and waste-water sludge, avoiding methane release, and helping to take the city off the coal-dominated national grid. Fruit trees and widespread green growth act as carbon sinks and pollution extractors, reducing heat island effect, and reducing reliance on energy-based thermal regulation.

Imagine a city whose universities and technical institutes welcome thousands of local and international scholars to learn how Cape Town became the first food waste-free, climate-neutral city in the world, with a thriving secure food system.

Imagine a city in which we know all aspects of our food system due to consistent data collection and reporting. 

Imagine a city where supermarkets, academics and local government collaborate and share data to track and monitor the flows of food along the whole value chain and synthesised data that arrives monthly in every local government department to inform adaptive planning systems. 



Imagine that this is all facilitated by a local government task team made up of members across the City's departments, who adaptively ensure regulations, incentives and information are widely adopted. They have taken forward work which began in 2005, with the development of Cape Town's urban agriculture policy, cemented with the adoption of Cape Town's Resilience Strategy in 2019, and that became a widespread urban movement. They have everyone in their contact list, and frequently convene food actors to refresh their vision and commit to a safe, nutritious, waste free and climate neutral, economically vibrant, and environmentally restorative food system. Because of this we have a city with a revitalised system of democracy which promotes agency and opportunity for all its citizens, centred around food. 




This vision will be fleshed out further in February and March when we will be embarking on a number of stakeholder engagements. The intention is to start a process that draws together a movement that seeks to illustrate the current and future food system through narrative and photography. This process will manifest as a novel public participation process which results in a clear set of actions for the City of Cape Town to take forward as part of its approved Resilience Strategy. These actions will be aligned with a number of convening processes which are already underway. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email
  • Twitter

Describe how your Vision developed over the course of the Refinement Phase.

Our visioning process was reshaped by the arrival of COVID-19 in South Africa, the declaration of a National Disaster and implementation of a nationwide lockdown. While these actions delayed the virus spread in South Africa, they have drawn out the systemic issues which underlie our society and our food system. These are the very issues articulated in our vision, so typically hidden, and now made so visible. So visible too are the movements of solidarity that emerged to feed those who’ve lost livelihoods, house those without, and mitigate against the virus.

Our vision has developed further in articulating these challenges, and has been emboldened by the solidarity we have seen. We linked, through online meetings, with other groups who have contemplated the future of our food systems and collaborated on refining this vision. 

We hope that through and after COVID, the national disasters of food security, inadequate water and sanitation, gender-based violence, are proactively challenged. 

Please provide the names of all organizations you meaningfully partnered with to develop this latest version of your Vision (they contributed at least 10 hours of time to the Vision development during the Refinement Phase).

ICLEI Africa

City of Cape Town

African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town

Pinpoint Sustainability

Department of the Premier, Western Cape Province

South African Urban Food and Farming Trust

Centre of Excellence in Food Security

Food Governance Community of Practice, convened and facilitated by members of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence on Food Security, University of the Western Cape

Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, Stellenbosch University

Describe the specific steps you took during the Refinement phase to include different stakeholders to develop your Vision, including a description (age, profile, and total number) of the stakeholders engaged, and how you engaged with each.

Being on lockdown posed several challenges to ensuring open engagement and contribution to the vision. 

The ethos of our vision process has always been to complement and join processes which are already ongoing. Having a strong team working on food governance, we broadened our team by connecting with the Food Governance Community of Practice (COP), who include a wide range of food system actors working across sectors in Cape Town, the Western Cape and South Africa. 

To co-create this vision:

  • We shared a survey with over 200 COP members, requesting their thoughts on the future of Cape Town’s Food system, pertaining to Environment, Diets, Economy, Technology, Culture and Policy. Notably we asked what people were most concerned about, and most hopeful for. 

  • We organised a meeting of the COP and invited wider participation through each of our networks. This meeting explored three visions of food systems: our Cape Town Food System Vision, the COP’s own Food Charter; and The Food Sovereignty Act. The meeting was attended by 71 people from 22 organisations and 17 independent participants. 

  • At this meeting, the survey inputs were complemented by break-out discussions on each of the themes

  • Finally, all attendees and members of the COP were invited to add their comments and to write aspects of the vision to which they were most committed on an open working document. 

Additional organisations who contributed during and/or after the meeting include:

C40 Cities

City University

Food Tank SA

Green Cape

Green Shift Africa

Green Spaces

Grow Great/ DG Muller Trust

Medical Research Council

People's Health Movement

Stellenbosch University

SynNovation Solutions

Urban Fireworks, Equity Strategist

Western Cape Economic Development Partnership

WWF

This process engaged a wide age range (21-70) and varied perspectives, shared actively on the open document.

What was vital about this co-creation process is that it aimed to rekindle conversations about visioning, which will continue.

What signals and trends did you draw from to inform your Vision? Please provide data or examples that back up each signal or trend.

The key premise of our vision was to situate food as central to achieving a number of social, economic and environmental goals. Within South Africa, several scenarios processes and horizons scans have highlighted important trends (South African Food Lab transformative food scenarios; Urban Food Scenario 2015;  WWF 2014 paper). Negative trends of concern to the Cape Town food system include: rapid urbanisation and the spread of informal settlements, concentration of power in the hands of a few corporates, an ongoing nutrition transition with increasing levels of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases, the long-term impacts of nutritional deficiencies on children, food waste, a lack of coherent food policy implemented at the national level, urban planning that is disconnected from food needs, the depletion of fishery stocks, and climate related shocks such as the recent drought. 


Ongoing positive trends and innovations have been articulated by alternative food system actors in a series of events (Food dialogues, SAFL T-lab reports 1,2,3;  Drimie and Pereira 2016). These include identifying and cultivating local, indigenous edibles that are adapted to the harsh growing environment and that could be a basis from which to build a much stronger cultural connection to food practices in the Cape. Another is the role of technology, particularly in providing open and transparent food system information, and in linking small-scale producers and fishers to markets for their produce. These have helped foster more equitable networks. Finally, it is important to consider the role of the informal sector in providing, not only jobs in the food sector, but access to diverse food sources for communities. Inclusion of informal actors has not as yet been fully explored in food planning strategies.


In addition to these trends, there are two governance opportunities with which our vision engages. The first is articulated by our vision’s primary aim to champion Cape Town’s Resilience Strategy and draw its goals to the fore. Food sits at the intersection of a variety of different social, economic and environmental concerns in Cape Town. The Resilience Strategy represents a willingness and an appetite by the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Government to explore new governance modalities and truly explore their potential role in food system and societal change. The second is the current COVID moment which is bringing diverse actors to the table in the form of Community Action Networks (CANs). These CANs are experiencing growing pains as they realise the weight of the systemic burden they are aiming to support. This is a potentially good problem to have as it provides the opportunity to set a process in motion, under the auspices of an engaged government, to develop a flexible, responsive form of food system governance. 

Describe a “Day in the Life” of a key food system actor within your food system in 2050 (e.g., farmer, chef, supply chain actor, food policy actor, etc.).

Vignettes of 2050: please see the full vision for a collection of further vignettes


Babalwa has had a long day and is finally on the taxi ride home. She is thinking about what will be for supper. Just a few years ago she'd have struggled with finding healthy prepared food at the taxi rank and she'd not had the resources to store or money for cooking anything healthy at home. Now the efforts by the City to enable healthier cooked foods to be sold at transport interchanges and the retrofitting of her home with low tech passive cooling and access to renewable energy sources meant that she could buy or cook healthier meals. She could buy more fresh produce locally and could share food with neighbours. Not only did she feel better, but the clinic was saying that rates of diabetes and hypertension were the lowest they'd been. 


Environment | How will your food system of 2050 adapt to climate change and remain resilient?

In 2020, we need to acknowledge that the current food system reflects and has generated systemic inequality. These inequalities manifest economically, socially and environmentally. There have been concerns that some food system interventions have focussed on environmental sustainability without considering the social and economic sustainability dimensions. We need to ensure that all pillars of sustainability are addressed equally with an explicit focus on issues of equity. 

In 2050, food has been a central enabler in promoting and cherishing nature, as well as reinvigorating the city’s public space, supporting social integration and transformation. The environmental injustices reinforced by pre-apartheid, apartheid and post-apartheid planning, which forced marginalised people onto marginal land, are slowly being redressed. A commitment to ensure universal access to natural public space has given directive to spatial planning, to ensure that new developments cater for open green space. Efforts to regenerate and improve soil quality are bearing fruit, though much of the marginal land where the city has grown are still not suitable for urban agriculture. The City’s Food Working Group has been exploring means to further connect people to nature.

In 2050, Cape Town’s food supply continues to be a hybrid derived from local, regional, national and global supply, but now it includes a greater portion of locally grown foods. This retains diversity, but manages the system’s exposure to global climate uncertainty, external transport infrastructure, other countries’ farming and processing practices, economic and political volatility, to name only a few. Building local food growing capacity has reduced supply chain length and associated carbon emissions, but also mitigated against potential global price fluctuations to keep food affordable, particularly for poorer Capetonians. The food growing capacity has been supported by a thriving mix of economic activity that promotes the local food economy - informal/township - weaving the economic and nutritious benefits back into the community fabric. This has built a more balanced food system comprising many small food companies working across the value chain, and mobilising larger food actors where necessary.

The Cape Town food system of 2050 has responded to climate change shifts and remains resilient because the City sees the food system as an important spatial informant to development and environmental decision-making. The City incorporates the extensive climate vulnerability analyses that have been undertaken and is watchful and responsive to changes.The areas identified in the analysis as being less exposed and therefore viable for agriculture have been treated as critical infrastructures and protected in the spatial development frameworks and planning legislation.

Cape Town leads Africa in circular economy approaches that value resources, that design for quality, that limit waste and direct unavoidable organic wastes away from landfill towards composting and biogas generation. Conservation farming and the use of organic compost has largely replaced chemical fertilisers across a network of small scale farms, household and community gardens connected by a system of biodiversity corridors and foodways within a matrix of inter-connected green infrastructure. Not only has this green infrastructure created a strong, green backbone for the City, but it has also offered opportunities for communities to gather socially, whilst also building nutritional resilience through homegrown fresh produce. In valuing resources and acknowledging the interconnectedness of the blue and green systems, the City has determined an envelope of farming potential and committed to a water budget that will not compromise the environmental reserve within the City’s water resources. Key to this approach is groundwater recharge and monitoring across the City’s aquifers to ensure that agriculture practice does not compromise water quality or quantity available for other urban uses.

Cape Town’s 2050 food system has remained resilient because its management has been based upon responsive and proactive planning established through an in-depth understanding of the food system’s dynamic complexity, its roleplayers/mandates and users and how it will perform given a number of scenarios. This understanding has empowered us with information so that we are prepared for most eventualities. It includes “system buffers” and doesn’t rely too heavily on detailed planning, in order to cushion and mitigate the impact of disasters.This management approach was developed through acknowledgement of the enormity of the challenge of food and climate change and through collaborative partnerships. 

Diets | How will your food system of 2050 address malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, metabolic disease) for the people living there?

In 2050, deliberate and democratic design of healthy food environments has drastically reduced both scarcity and over-consumption throughout the life-cycles of Cape Town residents. This has all-but eliminated stunting and obesity. The incidence of non-communicable diseases has dramatically reduced, and peoples’ resilience to infectious illnesses has increased due to the consumption of varied, balanced diets rich in micronutrients. 

The Cape Town food system is designed and managed with the vulnerable, especially children and elderly, in mind and invests in the future of its children through nutrition. Many people have enough leisure-time and access to amenities and resources to support increased production, preservation and preparation of fresh, minimally-processed food at home. Third spaces (besides home and school) provide youth with healthy, nutritious food and offer places to develop practical skillsets that translate this knowledge into personal practice. This includes access to healthy, planet-friendly food choices, encouraging children and their caregivers to learn about and help shape the food system. Children develop a taste for minimally-processed, plant-based fresh food, and the sale of ultra-processed food is discouraged at schools, early childhood development centers and public places. As a long-term consequence, the rate of obesity and non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular illness and cancer among senior citizens has reduced, limiting co-morbidity with COVID-19 and other novel infectious illnesses. Consequently, people are living longer and retaining a high quality of life. 

This has been achieved through the following processes:

Cross-sectoral partnerships ensure vulnerable groups’ access to affordable fresh foods by working with community-based organisations to identify opportunities and needs, taking into account social ills and challenges. In particular, local government has built strong relationships with NGOs and community-based organisations. Food security strategies consider the lived experience of intended beneficiaries (i.e. how these actions will ‘land’ or be experienced). As a result of these strong community-based networks, state and civil society support, all are able to access adequate, safe, nutritious and culturally acceptable food.

Multi-stakeholder platforms provide spaces for ongoing sharing of information and deliberation between stakeholders. Dialogues highlight opportunities for complementary initiatives and identify risks by actions taken by other ‘systems’ (e.g. urban infrastructure, health care, education, social safety net initiatives / government grants, etc.), informing policy decisions involving apparent trade-offs and contestations. As a result of transversal dialogues and learning in these spaces, a more adaptive, networked and democratic food governance framework emerges, increasing institutional and policy coherence supporting better nutritional outcomes.

Regulating and Incentivising Big Food: Large corporate processors, suppliers and retailers of food have been more appropriately regulated, including front-of-pack labelling of risky foods, discouraging advertising of ultra-processed food in public places, and rigorous revision and policing of quality standards to mitigate the harm of processed food. State procurement programmes have implemented progressive standards which have eliminated the advertising, sale and purchase of ultra-processed foods. Big Food has re-formulated products and supplier contracts to incorporate more locally-produced, nutrient-rich ingredients. Large, centralised distribution hubs, fresh produce markets, mills, bakeries, factories and other food processing facilities are closely monitored to mitigate the risk of communicable disease outbreaks as happened with Listeriosis and COVID-19 in the early 21st century. A set of incentives support companies that wholeheartedly pursue positive food system outcomes, providing tax relief, and higher ratings for procurement based on a set of standards.

Inclusive infrastructure and policy: The links between land, infrastructure and diet are understood and leveraged through a coherent revision of town planning, zoning schemes, regulations and by-laws to promote the emergence of healthy food environments. There is state and public support of food hubs, markets and other intermediate structures to facilitate links between households and systemic interventions. Zoning, urban planning, by-laws and law enforcement in partnership with local food traders’ organisations create a supportive environment for small traders selling fresh food. State and civil society procurement standards promote sourcing of locally-produced, minimally-processed foods. These inclusive policy and infrastructure interventions ensure that affordable, nutritious fresh produce is available in close proximity to all communities. 

Economics | Where and what will the jobs be that support living wages in your future food system of 2050, and how will these jobs impact gender equality?

In 2050, Cape Town’s sustainable and resilient food system supports jobs that are just and decent. They encourage youth into the sector, and realise significant contributions from women. The jobs focus on food hubs which provide a nodal link to a wider food system network of small and large players. Through this linking of hubs and the creation of a resilient food network, the following jobs (to name a few) have been required to support the system: 

  • Food programmes, food hubs, gardens, nursery and farm managers and coordinators

  • Entrepreneurs and tradespeople who identify opportunities by linking people in the network to create just economic opportunities through food

  • Small, medium and large-scale growers and producers of nutritious and sustainably-produced food for local community markets, wholesalers, informal traders and the formal retail trade - this includes jobs linked to planting, care, maintenance and harvesting. Food gardeners are recognised as holding legitimate and respected occupations

  • Ethically and environmentally sound suppliers of e.g nutrients, seed and packaging required for the growing, production and sale of food.

  • Cooks, chefs and nutritionists who are knowledgeable about and promote nutritious, culturally diverse and sustainably-produced foods through their menus and procurement practices

  • Hawkers, wholesalers and retailers who have equitable access to nutritious, locally produced decently-priced food. By having access to locally produced food, informal traders have better control of where they access food and consistency of access - thereby creating a basis for supporting a more stable living wage. 

  • Regulatory jobs - such as environmental officers, refuse providers and food safety scientists who are well-informed and can promote the reduction of food waste, reduce food contamination etc

  • Marketeers who responsibly promote food that is grown and, if processed, is done so in such a way that is ethical, sustainable and nutritious.  

  • Transport providers, such as lorry and scooter drivers, and cyclists who connect supply with demand to ensure consistent access to food throughout the city. They have been innovative in adopting sustainable cool-chain practices to extend shelf-life or to deliver surplus food to those in need. 

  • Policy developers and implementers within the City, provincial government, academia and civil society are open to ideas and critique, thus ensuring that the resilient food system strategy remains well informed, inclusive and flexible to the changing needs of the City’s food system stakeholders.

These jobs have been made attractive to youth, who now see the food sector as a viable place to generate a decent and aspirant living. Youth have been enticed back into the sector due to the varied job opportunities available to them. Jobs are supportive in ensuring safe workplaces, communities of kindness and respect, and places to generate an equitable income from which their local community, families and businesses will benefit.  

Necessary to the endeavor has been adequate education and training to attract and retain our youth and women in the food sector, with a focus on how to grow, process, produce, sell, deliver and manage food for a resilient food system. This has include a diversity of sustainable agricultural and processing practices, a good grasp of how to operate, contribute and survive financially within a vibrant, changing food system. This has also ensured that the food system has the absorptive capacity and capability to transform and sustain the resilient model. 

Culture | How will your 2050 food system ensure that the cultural, spiritual and community traditions and/or practices in your Place flourish?

In 2050, Cape Town’s food system has fully embraced the rich cultural history and biological diversity of the Cape Peninsula, acknowledging its colonial past, whilst galvanising a reconfigured food system that is neither oppressive nor exclusionary. The caution issued by the South African playwright and social commentator, Mike Van Graan, in 2007 remained relevant and informed the approaches applied in activating the regenerative and historically-sensitive food system we enjoy in 2050: “And now, even though we have embraced an ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ democracy, ‘the people’ still appear to be forgotten too easily ... Cape Town is still a city in the making. The question is whose tastes, smells, feelings, sights and sounds will come to prevail in defining the character and experiences of the city? (Van Graan, 2007: v). Van Graan’s statement alluded to Cape Town’s inequality in 2020, but also questioned whose voices, or agency, were to determine the nature of the City. The complex histories of both South Africa and Cape Town are implied in the above statement. This history is critical as it is the foundation of the form, nature and politics of Cape Town. The history of Cape Town is deeply entwined with the region’s food history.

A food narrative is interwoven into many of the Cape’s historical accounts, from trade between residents of the area and European spice trade ships travelling to the East, to the reasons for the founding of the first formal European settlement (a refreshment station fed by the Dutch East India Company’s Garden still evident in the Cape Town city centre), to the food access challenges (food insecurity) associated with that settlement, and to the role that food and the control over grazing played in the subjugation of the original residents of the area. Food and the need to protect grazing land and the settlement reflect the first forms of‘apartheid’ deployed within the Cape Town region (Clare, 2010). The diaries from those European settlers recounted seeing hunter gatherers collecting foods along the coastline, pastoralists grazing cattle in the sweet waters flowing from Table Mountain, but also how accustomed those settlers were to the environment and its food systems at that time (1650s). This elite capture of the food system was a primary concern of 2020 as it perpetuated inequalities that were viscerally apparent in the contrasting food landscapes of gastronomic wine farms overlooking nutrient-poor informal settlements. 

Food and culture are also political. Other food related narratives are entwined in the history of Cape Town and its food system. One such narrative highlights the role that food played in mobilisation across different, increasingly excluded, sectors of the community. The formation of the Cape Town Women’s Food Committee (CTWFC) is an interesting instance. It emerged out of Queue Committees set up in 1946 to ensure order at the food distribution points following rationing after the Second World War. By 1947 the CTWFC represented an estimated 30 000 women from across the Cape Peninsula. Although many members joined the CTWFC to ensure access to food, their engagement with the CTWFC resulted in women playing an active role in the politics of that period. The CTWFC laid the foundation for the politicisation of a number of prominent women in the struggle against apartheid (Walker, 1991).

The ability to ensure food access was essential in the development and expansion of the early European settlement in the region. The need to acquire food remains a critical city endeavour today. However, the diffusion of cultures from the North and East, driven by that original settlement has meant that there are multiple cultures in Cape Town, and perhaps even more food cultures. We have endeavored to support their expression and our food system is one that embraces this plurality, this rich diversity. Food acts as a connecting rather than differentiating force- with diversity as its cornerstone. 

Cape Town is not only rich in diverse food cultures, but also in its biological diversity. The Western Cape is uniquely positioned in terms of being a biodiversity hotspot and home to the fynbos biome that has not traditionally been seen as an edible landscape. However, the potential of local and indigenous foods for more sustainable, healthy and equitable food systems has been recognised since 2020 (Akinola et al 2020). 

Cultivating and cooking with indigenous ingredients has helped to connect to the land and with its history and acts as a bridging force between different cultures in 2050. Both biodiversity and food cultures are strong enablers of vibrant and inviting public space. Drawing the rich ecology into central public spaces, within which vendors, chefs and the public can share food experiences, has contributed to enhanced social cohesion and learning between citizens. 

Technology | What technological advances are needed to transform your food system into one that meets your goals and embodies the values of your Vision in 2050?

The promise of Information Communication Technology (ICT) will have been realised in 2050 with universal access to internet supported by national legislation of “Free Basic Data” for all citizens, similar to South Africa’s “free basic water” and “free basic energy” approaches. This access to information is supported by widespread use of mesh-networks in Cape Town communities. These networks were established primarily to monitor the quality of water and sanitation services provided in informal communities, with the secondary benefit of providing an intranet system that could be resourced with educational and skill-development programmes, and employing local agents to maintain and manage the system. In 2050, these mesh networks are a primary form of cheap, reliable communication, which support open data collection, community mobilisation, transparent governance, development of cooperative enterprises, and participatory planning. 

Open Governance has been bolstered by open source data which enables decision making at all scales by all food system actors. Here, data serves as a democratising element which brings transparency. Open data is accompanied by strategic approaches, which guide what data is required for sound decision making, rather than relying on bulk data to determine decisions. In this way, Cape Town’s Smart City approach has centred around people and social outcomes, in which technology supports human interaction, and does not remove people from the system. Numerous shocks to Cape town's food system, including droughts and pandemics have proven that people are the best infrastructures and that infrastructures of solidarity should be supported. These have grown even stronger through widespread availability of ICT. Effective use of ICT has allowed numerous positive food system outcomes:

  • Healthy food has been made more convenient and affordable. Underpinned by behavioural economics, healthy food choices are reinforced by positive incentives. Food is one element of gamified wellbeing programmes which encourage exercise, healthy living and mental health. 

  • ICT linked community farming co-operatives, based on the principles of permaculture - earth care, people care and surplus share - allow the scaling of individual efforts to access markets, while restoring natural soils.

  • A standardised supply chain information environment based on global standards (GS1 system) ensures full traceability of food, ensuring compliance with food safety requirements. This system uses technology such as RFID and blockchain, with competent practitioners.

  • Due to increased consumer interest in knowing where food comes from, complete supply chain information is a requirement for any food sales. This does not exclude informal vendors whose products’ quality are assured by the Food System Working Group in the City of Cape Town. 

Supporting Innovation and Experimentation, The Urban Sustainability Unit in the City of Cape Town  developed an innovation site in 2019, welcoming business, researchers and communities to try out novel ideas, new business models and develop proof-of-concept projects, which were scaled out if effective. This has set a basis for much of the technology we enjoy today.

Achieving climate neutrality has required technological innovations that included improved battery capacity to enable decentralized off grid and feed-in renewable energy that support agriprocessing and subsidize municipal energy generation to support harbor and freight logistics. The regulatory environment supported widespread decentralized solar generation. Accompanying regulations incentivized a mobility paradigm shift in which private vehicles became less desirable than clean, reliable, fast, and safe public transport. We now operate a larger fleet of buses and taxis, supported by biogas produced from our waste water treatment centers, and a large portion of organic food offcuts. Cape Town surpassed the SDG Goal for food waste to landfill by 2030, instead assuring that no organics arrive at landfill at all, improving Cape Town's carbon balance. 

Policy | What types of policies are needed to enable your future food system?

In 2050, Cape Town’s governance structures are transparent, adaptive and collaborative in order to achieve cross-cutting coordination between different government departments, spheres of government as well as different sectors of society. Processes of food provision are planned and managed in such a way that they are transparent to all concerned stakeholders, including matters such as origin, use of agro-chemicals, GMOs, additives, health risks, labour conditions, and value distribution. Stakeholders are enabled to participate fairly in decision making about food policy, planning and programming across the city through a collaborative food governance forum which contains Civil Society Organizations, academia, health workers, farmers, cooperatives, retailers, and government officials. This collaborative food governance forum works closely with a parallel transversal institutional platform set up within local government which started to take root in 2019 and brings together officials from across a range of departments. These officials are fully aware of the linkages between the food system and ‘their’ sector, and the need to coordinate across departments and there is allocated budget to do so. They act as champions within their departments to continually raise the importance of using a food lens in all decision making as well as advocating for specific food related actions. This governmental platform is coordinated by the resilience department of the City in order to oversee the implementation of the Food Programme as part of the Cape Town Resilience Strategy. The platform also liaises with other spheres of government at provincial and national levels making sure that policy objectives and directions are both fed down and fed back up. Furthermore, biannual Food Dialogues with events across the city provide an opportunity for all members of society to engage and become more connected with the food we eat, with the goal of fostering greater understanding and appreciation of the food system and their role in it.

Leverage points across government are utilised to integrate consideration of food into all existing government wide coordination mechanisms. For example participatory deliberation on food provision and consumption informs spatial and programmatic planning through instruments such as Integrated Development Plans and Spatial Development Frameworks, development planning applications, environmental impact assessments and architectural designs. A food lens was inserted into more the more experimental and adaptive governance approaches that were being rolled out in Cape Town City and Western Cape Provincial Government, such as the Whole of Society Approach, in 2019. These approaches have further developed and help in part to address the historical divisions and power imbalances in the city. This place-based governance approach integrates all service delivery, from all of government and non-government stakeholders, in a particular area. This means that it applies to the delivery of every service, e.g. health, education, safety and security, social development, infrastructure, etc. that is relevant in that area – hence the ‘whole of society’ label. The provision of a just, sustainable and resilient food system that services all the community is now considered one of the services that this governance approach is geared towards delivering and allows the particular circumstances, needs and priorities of a local population (e.g. a Ward or Sub-Council) to be deliberated and met. This sometimes takes trial and experimentation with regular monitoring and feed-back in order to get the changes required. A learning network across local WOSA sites enables learnings to be extracted and communicated across the city. 

In 2050, this ‘whole of society’ approach to implementing food governance in wards and sub-councils is necessarily driven and supported by a vibrant and engaged civil society including Non Governmental Organisations, Civil Society Based Organisations and Faith Based Organisations. The COVID-19 crisis that took place in 2020 reinvigorated a range of forms of civil society engagement with food systems governance. The emergence of the Community Action Networks (CANs) under the loose affiliation of Cape Town Together Network were able to leverage food and financial resources and conduct data collection that guided state action. These CANs also enabled dialogue and partnerships across previously divided spaces. At the same time, at the micro-scale, street committees re-emerged to address the pressing food needs in lower income areas. These structures supported the City in developing more inclusive food systems governance structures. Food has become a common language, interest and concern, uniting people and communities.

Describe how these 6 Themes connect with and influence one another in your food system.

It is clear from the articulation of the themes above that they cannot be addressed in isolation

Achieving an inclusive, safe, resilient and nourishing food system requires a wide range of socio-technical, socio-economic and socio-ecological processes to align. Concepts such as environmental wellbeing, healthy and sustainable diets, historically-sensitive food cultures, innovative technology, developmental economics and good governance are invariably interlinked and interdependent. In this way, finding positive outcomes in each sector requires coordinated investment across sectors. In 2050, we expect to see a society in which economic production and technological innovation support social wellbeing through environmental regeneration, cultural expression and access to safe diets. These must necessarily be held by an open, transparent, and participatory governance system. This is already under exploration in Cape Town. This is why our vision’s entry point is the Cape Town Resilience Strategy.

A few key interlinkages seen in 2050 are worth expanding upon:

  • Healthy environments provide many ecosystem services which provide local food and medicines, regulate our climate and attenuate flooding, support biodiversity and provide space for recreation, psychological respite and social interaction. Investment in universal access to parks, and incorporation of foodways into nature has resulted in improvements to physical and mental health, while offering productive pastimes.

  • Biomimicry is at the heart of much of our technological advancement: given that nature is inspiration for many of our most successful innovations, our technology must support the regeneration of nature, which will reinforce the positive benefits of ecosystem goods and services

  • ICT will support broad access to information which improves shared cultural expression, open data and participatory food governance, food safety through supply chain traceability, and improved consumer agency

  • Economic development is supported by wide skills training, particularly on financial viability of enterprises, and investment in food processing and distribution sectors, whose diversity of mode enables multiple responses to shocks. The investment in universal nutrition ensures that all Capetonians are able to enjoy full lives and livelihoods, contributing to their communities and the economy. Engagement through economic and leisure activities reduces negative outcomes of violence and crime

  • Cape Town’s unique food cultures, ranging from street food, family restaurants, fine dining and market experiences, provide inspiration to visitors and residents alike. Indigenous foods are championed for plentiful nutrition, local production and climate resilience, as well as for a signature Cape flavour

  • These aspects are woven together and supported by an engaged Collaborative Food Governance Forum, that ensures food considerations are included in all decision making, and ensures the voice of diverse stakeholders are heard

Describe any trade-offs you may have to make within your system to attain your Vision by 2050.

Following the serious drought that affected Cape Town and the Western Cape Province in 2017 and 2018, one of the trade-offs that may have to be made is between availability of water and the export orientation of commercial agriculture, in particular fruit. South Africa’s National Development Plan recognises the need to reorientate agriculture; however this needs to be seen against an economic backdrop in which commercial agriculture creates jobs and livelihoods (even if seasonal) and exports generate foreigns exchange. 

Another trade-off may have to be between support for big agriculture and the major food retailers  and support for programmes that create livelihoods and jobs in small scale farming, small food retailing and restaurants, and informal food trading. A more diversified food value-chain may be more robust against external shocks such as drought and climatic changes and may be more democratic and inclusive.

A final trade-off will be managing the politics of the food system. Radical changes are needed, but there are entrenched value chains and vested interests in the food system. It will be important to bring all voices to the table and keep the conversation going, aiming to rely mainly on incentives and invitations to collaborate, while necessarily understanding that firm regulations may be necessary. 

3 Years | Describe 3 key milestones that you would need to achieve within the next three years for your Vision to be on track?

By 2023 the City of Cape Town will have a Food System Working Group in place that brings together government officials from across City of Cape Town departments. This was founded in 2019 but will now be formally established with well developed procedures and coordination with other stakeholder platforms and spheres of government. The Food System Group will also have put in place a Food Programme of Action as required by the Cape Town Resilience Strategy. This will build on deliberations with stakeholder platforms as well as initial mappings of food programmes within the City conducted in early 2020. 

Food Dialogues will be consistent fixtures across the city. These events started in 2014 and continued in 2020 but will now be further supported to provide more consistent opportunities to bring together food growers, academics, activists, writers, nutritionists, policy makers, food lovers and anyone interested in sustainable food system approaches. These dialogues may engage in an ongoing debate on Cape Town Food Vision. These dialogues will change location to welcome new voices and perspectives. Community Action Networks, street committees and other Community Based Organisations mobilized in the COVID crisis will help draw interest and support for these dialogues. The dialogues will also provide a platform to share learnings and gain new knowledge about the food system to share with their communities and each other. 

A ‘collaborative food governance forum’ will also be formally established and linked to both the Food Dialogues and also the City’s Food System Working Group. These linkages will be through the overlap of key members of platforms as well as the flow of written and oral information. All platforms will be transparent with publically available agenda, minutes and participation lists.  The Collaborative Food Governance Forum will be developed from the existing Food Governance Community of Practice that has been in place since the beginning of 2018.

10 Years | What progress will you need to make—by 2030—that would set your Vision up to become a reality by 2050?

By 2030 Cape Town will have secured formal political support for its Food Vision from City and Provincial Governments. This high level buy-in from both spheres of government will be the result of a various factors: 1) champions across government (including those in the Food System Working Group) raising awareness  of the connection of food to activities of ‘their’ departments; 2) the increased importance placed on food security issues brought about by the Covid crisis; 3) the resurgence of CSO mobilisation around food as a service delivery issue in their communities that they demand to be addressed; 4) The collaborative food governance forum will also feed in research and knowledge across government through policy briefs, podcasts and infographics. The formal recognition of food as an important government mandate will lead to a secure funding stream, establishment of a Monitoring, Evaluation and Information dissemination platform available to all stakeholders.

Also within ten years the community groups and CBOs which emerged to provide food in the Covid crisis will have developed into a network of neighbourhood/district food committees which link into the food coordination platforms within the city  as well as food groups in Africa and elsewhere in the global south. These committees will be the backbone of operationalising the Cape Town Food Vision on the streets and plates of the city. 

The result of these governance actions will see physical manifestation of elements of our vision. There will be zero organic waste to landfill. Private vehicles will have reduced in number through strong regulation. There will be more instances of green in previously barren neighborhoods, and there will be an exquisite long foodway supporting a recreational corridor through the city. Research will start to speculate about a shift in trends of obesity and stunting, attributed to improved availability of cheap, healthier food options.

If awarded the $200,000 prize what would you do with it?

If awarded the $200,000 prize, we would:

  • Continue various engagement processes around food system visioning and action (COP, FOOD DIALOGUES, FOOD Working Group and more), with resources to support greater reach. This is based on an understanding that the process is more important than arriving at a final vision. Creating a holding space for the many people who are playing a role in the Food System. Activities could include:  

    • Food-based competitions to raise awareness on food system, for example a cooking competition that reflects personal perspectives on what would be good food systems in Cape Town

    • Design competitions with a proposition around how to integrate food into Cape Town’s development. for example: trading plans for informal and township areas, design of informal trade spaces, process or innovative technologies aimed at enabling CANs and community action groups around food.

    • Support co-creation processes towards a governance approach for food in Cape Town, which will have learnings for many municipalities in South Africa.

  • Support research on food system interventions to support how we make the visions a reality

  • Support CANs to operate beyond COVID Crisis, improving food security across the city 

If you are chosen as a Top Visionary, The Rockefeller Foundation would like to share your Vision widely with a global audience. What would you like the world to learn from your Vision for 2050?

It is possible (and necessary) to focus equally on sustainability, and equity in re-imagining resilient food systems. By focussing on the role the food system plays in urban well being a number of social, economic and environmental goods, beyond the food system itself can be achieved. The "good" food system can only be addressed if its position in a wider system of systems is understood and engaged. 


In Cape Town, as everywhere, the food system can only be changed if we face our histories and politics head on. As James Baldwin said, "‘NOT EVERYTHING THAT IS FACED CAN BE CHANGED, BUT NOTHING CAN BE CHANGED UNTIL IT IS FACED."

Please share a visual that communicates the structure and operation of your food system in 2050. Describe the visual.

These media represent some visual articulations of Cape Town’s food systems and are a metaphor for our process. We have begun quantification of our food system. Yet food flows change rapidly. Our discussion on tracking food flows concluded that it may be more vital to understand the barriers, points of vulnerability and alternative pathways in our system. Further, our vision may be forever incomplete, but the process of revising, sharing, and enriching the vision will continue. 

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