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Old Naledi: Networking Food, Ideas and Innovation

A co-created, inclusive food system that applies knowledge management principles to refine Old Naledi's cultural practices.

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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Infers Group PTY LTD

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.

Michigan State University, National Agricultural Research and Development Institute (NARDI), Botswana Council for Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO), University of Botswana, The Dialogue Group

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

  • 1-3 years

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


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


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

Old Naledi, Gaborone

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I grew up in Old Naledi, a low income urban suburb within the capital of Botswana, Gaborone. Old Naledi continues to provide the main labour force for Gaborone. However, as with other regional townships, Old Naledi fell off the scale of collective expression, development and investability within the host city that it gave rise to. Over the years, while the rest of the city advanced, Old Naledi remained a low income community. 

Despite its reputation as an unsafe crime-ridden environment, Old Naledi boasts high social cohesion. As someone who understands Old Naledi’s potential, I find it worrying that its diversity and knowledge has not been fully distilled and harnessed to create a system of self sustenance in food production, with the potential to be replicated in other similar communities in cities. I grew up witnessing how people with low income are able to produce and share resources to keep themselves going under hard conditions. It is therefore my belief that such approaches could be unearthed through civil society and shared with research centres for further refinement. Gaborone has most of the functions to be an accelerator not only for Botswana, but for the future economic and skills transitions of the SADC region as a whole. This can be achieved through Old Naledi as the testing ground.

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.

Old Naledi is the oldest township in the city that emerged from the settlement of labourers from diverse tribes and cultures, around the time of Botswana’s independence in 1966, Old Naledi helped Gaborone to establish itself by providing a major labour force, as it hosted rural migrants eager to make a living. With these migrants came a cultural diversity informed by their tribes, from all corners of Botswana. One can therefore argue that Old Naledi is a cultural melting pot, with a high level of social cohesion.  

The township hosts a highly developed ecosystem for entrepreneurs of necessity (NSMEs) derived from a hybrid of Botswana cultures co-existing in predominantly low-income communities. Every society has its unique way of producing, consuming and preserving food informed by cultural knowledge. The informal sector is dominated by women, especially the sale of food and alcohol. Backyard restaurants and taverns are common. People eat a combination of cheap, accessible fast food and traditional food based on dominant crops in the region, such as maize meal, beans, amaranthus and watermelon. Meat, especially beef and chicken, plays a central role in meals, as Botswana is known for its cattle farming and high quality beef. In Old Naledi, residents tend to keep free-range chickens, while red meat is sourced from local farmers. Fish is less common as part of the regular diet, but is often sourced from the local dam situated a walking distance from Old Naledi.

The climate of Gaborone is semi-arid, with erratic rainfall (an average of 85mm during the wettest month, January). Summer months are very hot, with temperatures often reaching 30 degrees celsius and higher. Access to cheap fast food has negatively affected the health of residents, increasing the rates of lifestyle diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. Traditional diets and remedies were used to manage health issues in the past. Now it is common for residents to visit the clinic for minor ailments rather than resorting to changes in diet, especially since healthcare is free for citizens. 

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


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

Current challenges include poor living conditions, such as congestion and a lack of basic amenities (e.g. running water and electricity). Many young people drop out of school and fail to develop skills that can bring in an income.  Most residents have cellular phones but connectivity is not readily accessible. The township lacks adequate plumbing, sanitation and waste disposal services, as well as effective drainage. Unless progress is made in these areas, the community will continue to stagnate even as the rest of the city develops.

Traditional local food has many health benefits, but unhealthy foods high in trans fats and refined carbohydrates are cheap and easily accessible. Batswana in lower income households in places like Old Naledi subsist on a nutritionally imbalanced diet. Promoting local foods and traditional preparation methods will not only improve nutrition but will also shift agricultural focus to indigenous crops that adapt to the dry climate and do less harm to the environment. 

National policies designed to benefit citizens, such as the Economic Diversification Drive and Citizen Economic Empowerment Policy, have not yet been passed into law. Botswana has a reputation for developing wonderful policies, but struggling to implement them. Part of the problem is increased institutionalisation, which has led to duplicated activities, top-down solutions, competing mandates, a lack of coordination of efforts and inadequate monitoring and evaluation of programmes. 

An ecosystemic model steeped in local norms will increase community involvement in the creation of projects. If Botswana does not shift in this direction, by 2050 Old Naledi will face a larger population, increased marginalisation of its residents, and an increase in health issues due to greater reliance on cheap fast food and a lack of support of local food vendors. The socio economic challenges of the township will only increase.

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

For a city to be considered an ecosystem, diverse communities and institutions should benefit from the by-products of their activities. As cities mature these activities are articulated and managed, strategised towards new goals  and primed by political, cultural, civic and investment  inputs. Therefore, the success of any national economic plan depends on cities embracing and incorporating it into their rich ecosystemic processes. 

This project seeks to integrate local knowledge with contemporary science by exploring potential ways to transact cultural capital into a knowledge economy for Botswana. Food culture in Botswana is unique among the regions of Africa and the world and it is a fundamental base for health. The project is designed to position local food in a creative industry value chain through a model that seeds innovative food enterprises in Old Naledi, enriched by community participation, as it integrates traditional knowledge and food science technology. Creative industries and youth and women owned enterprises in a project economy promise to provide inclusive and sustainable economic growth. 

An ecosystemic model steeped in local norms and including all major stakeholders from public sector, private sector, civil society, media and academia will cascade across sectors. This is the ripple effect we hope for - changing the system by changing our approach to food and health in one of the most culturally diverse spots in the country.

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.

We have a vision of Old Naledi’s pioneering modern urban neighbourhood becoming a global example of the new creative lifestyle of playing, working and living in a facilitating urban setting, with Old Naledi as the proof of concept. Old Naledi can smarten and strengthen food and health systems, teaching and learning, the management of resources and long term care of the environment, access to economic and vocational opportunity and African cultural integrity in the face of globalising pressures, by folding the innovations of the knowledge and creative economy into supportive ecosystems for Botswana’s citizens and cities.

Old Naledi residents will be part of an ecosystem that drives trends in food production, tourism, research, health and creative industries. Through this ecosystem, Old Naledi residents benefit from an inclusive project-based knowledge economy and is at the centre of the country’s cultural intellectual property production, fuelling and inspiring growth in all sectors. The unique food of Botswana will be the focus of a thriving community that attracts visitors, investors, innovators and partners from across the region, the African continent and the world. Instead of relying on welfare from the state, members of the community can take charge of their own economic growth through community-owned enterprises, in partnerships with universities and industry.   

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

Gaborone has most of the functions to be an accelerator not only for Botswana, but for the future economic and skills transitions of the SADC region as a whole. Botswana's policies emphasise diversified and inclusive economic growth, higher levels of productivity and an export led economy. Poverty eradication, economic inclusion of previously and potentially marginalised groups and job creation remain headline concerns and relevant measures in new policies. The key tenet is prosperity and opportunity for all. Food and health systems 

Old Naledi has been identified as the most significant and effective starting point for preparing Gaborone as a whole to play this role. This is because Old Naledi can give compelling proof that inclusiveness is compatible with the other goals of SADC knowledge economies, which are the achievement of economic diversity and autonomy, the emergence of market mechanisms and the full economic participation of the human capital invested in the youth demographic.   

By promoting Old Naledi's inherent cultural knowledge and food systems, and creating visibility for Old Naledi as a go-to tourist spot, this project carries the potential for social, health, economic and environmental transformation through the cross-pollination of ideas and opportunities, and an expanded ecosystem of diverse enterprises. This should lead to the emergence of new enterprises enriched with high cultural capital, the acceleration of globally scalable start ups ranging from the existing value chains and opportunities for the most marginalized communities. 

Through Public, Private, Community Partnerships (PPCPs), interaction between and use of cultural and institutional capital can produce a co-created bottom-up prototype of a food and health ecosystem, with systems and tools for planning, implementing, reporting, management and resourcing for projects.

In line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Botswana's Vision 2036’s emphasis on inclusion, the proposed model enhances community ownership and participation in health and food sectors and economic diversification into the knowledge-based economy by translating policies, cultural know-how, research and technology into sustainable long-term societal economic benefits.

In 2050, Old Naledi must be able, to continue to use its true tacit food knowledge systems, have a technological platform where communities are able to dialogue and refine their knowledge on how their food can be improved and how it affects them, have innovation parks, labs, where they can refine their food. Old Naledi foods must become a global brand known to be a uniquely as a high end products only found in from there, and can be ordered online by certain high end restaurants. This must bring sustainability to the people of Old Naledi. Research and Development will be accessible to all residents despite their qualification.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Prize partners


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