During a recent Food Tank and Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) panel, chefs from Western and Southern Africa talk about driving change through local food networks.

The panel is part of a series to explore BCFN’s seven cultural pyramids. These pyramids —  intended to illustrate the impact of different food groups on the health of people and the planet  — provide a model for sustainable eating adapted to regional diets around the world.

Moderated by Food Tank president Dani Nierenberg, the conversation features Ozoz Sokoh — Nigerian Food Explorer, culinary anthropologist, and author of the blog Kitchen Butterfly — and Mahlomola Thamae — executive chef of the catering business TM Innovations in Johannesburg and a member of Chefs with Compassion.

“Seasonal produce really supports health,” says Sokoh, noting that fruits high in Vitamin C, like citrus and iyeye, bloom in Nigeria’s cold months. “The understanding that the earth itself is in balance with humanity — having these things in season at a time when they’re most needed — is critical.”

Both Sokoh and Thamae emphasize the need to strengthen local food systems. “My approach to food is really from farm to table, and part of that is a reclamation of heritage crops,” says Sokoh. She highlights fonio and acha, which are both drought-resistant and nutrient-dense.

“The capitalist world wants one crop — a monopoly — such that there is an industrial approach to production. And what that does is that it destroys and diminishes local, indigenous, smaller farming systems.”

Thamae urges African chefs to lead the charge in reclaiming Indigenous foodways by prioritizing local products and cuisines. “It’s all about promoting our own sustainable ingredients — making sure that we’re going back to traditional ways of eating things.”

Read the full article about sustainability in indigenous foodways by Amy Martin at Food Tank.