Posts in "Fuel"

Busty bombshells bare more than their beautiful butts

Along with the full dose of bitchiness and belly laughs, the Trolley Dollies take the audience into their confidence and a little deeper into the life of a drag queen in their new show, NON-Specific, at Gate 69.

‘Choosing’ to be a woman in a man’s world can be fabulously funny, but it is definitely not just a big joke. The new show really is fabulous and funny; it is also poignant and thought-provoking as the three brassy babes bravely reveal their more fragile side.

The moment the gorgeous Cathy Specific greets us on the red carpet we are whisked away into a world of make-believe. Three former rugby players in enormous wigs, 9 inch heels and fish net stockings make us scream with laughter and sing along loudly as they dust off some classic numbers that unite a diverse crowd. Signalling their wide appeal, groups of all ages, colours and creeds include various birthday parties (at least one 40th and a 70th) and a 40th wedding anniversary.

A tasty and generous tapas-style dinner of meats, cheeses and pates is served on a Lazy Susan on each table before the show. It is great for tucking into before the show and picking at throughout the rest of the evening. The spread on the Lazy Susan would be more than enough but the little extras (a delicious starter of lentil soup, warm bread and ice cream cones) served fresh from the kitchen by the stars themselves adds a lovely touch.

I am not sure it was the usefulness of the Lazy Susan that sold the girls on it; more likely, it was the chance to say Lazy Susan a few times during the show, a silly little pleasure which has proved irresistible to me too. Sometimes it is hard not to be silly, but I am happy to give myself a break here. (I manage to keep up the show of being grown up and serious a lot of time.)

It’s great that the girls are giving themselves a break too. Underneath the bravado and the fabulosity there are three sensitive, if gritty, souls. It is pretty brave of Cathy, Molly and Holly to let us into their dressing room and take off the masks for a while.

They switched between being the big and beautiful bombshells belting out big numbers on stage and three blokes dressed as girls sharing stories about coming out and being stung by the cruel jokes and taunts about being clowns.

This confiding in the audience never feels self-indulgent and there is plenty of bitchy banter to remind you just how tough these three are. A flow of cracking, original one-liners keeps the mood light and the laughter flowing.

The dressing room scenes have their sad moments, but it feels like these three fabulous show girls are somehow having the last laugh. Expect the show to sell out!

NON-Specific stars Brendan van Rhyn as Cathy, Rudi Jansen as Molly and writer-director Christopher Dudgeon as Holly. Additional lyrics are by Brendan van Rhyn, sound and lighting is by Chad Goldsworthy, set design is by Eddie du Plooy, wigs are by Tessa Denton and costumes by Lloyd Kandlin and Kyle Jardine. Choreography is by Sven-Eric Muller and musical direction by Melissa van der Spuy.

NON-Specific runs until July 27 with performances from Wednesday to Saturdays at 8:15pm, with recommended arrival time at 6:30pm for a warm embrace from Cathy Specific on the red carpet and dinner before the show. Cost is R520 to R599 pp and includes the show and dinner. Booking is through www.gate69.co.za or 021 0351627. PG16

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is NonSpecificX-258x300.jpeg

Photographs by
Nardus Engelbrecht

Very familiar and completely vreemd

How I wished I didn’t have to read the surtitles in Moedertaal. Whenever I listened to the Afrikaans words spoken by Sandra Prinsloo I understood snatches of a beautiful, lyrical Afrikaans that cannot be translated. When I heard the Afrikaans and saw the translations in English I wanted to shout out: “That is not what she said; it is definitely not what he meant!”

That’s right, I said ‘he’. Hard as it was for me to believe, a man wrote this poignant and intimate story told in a very powerfully feminine voice by Prinsloo, that grande dame of South African theatre. Familiar and vreemd indeed.

Written and directed by Nico Scheepers, Moedertaal is the third instalment in Sandra Prinsloo’s trifecta of one-woman plays that began so beautifully with Die Naaimasjien. Scheepers, who also composed the music, has been described as “one of the most exciting young theatre-makers in this country”. He and Prinsloo make a formidable pair.

Evocative, compelling narrative (even in the translated surtitles … although less so) grabs us from the beginning. ‘Almost-poetry’ that brings to mind and body the feeling of bare, dusty feet as we explore with Nellie her dead uncle’s farm. (The family has moved here after he put a gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger in a tragically familiar narrative.)

We feel the air thick with sticky, plummy smells and a sweet conspiratorial bond as she helps her dad make moonshine from the maroela fruit.

We feel the fire on our skin and our hearts break as the orchard burns down one night. Later, our hearts repaired a little, we are overcome by awkwardness when Nellie meets her life’s love as a teenager.

Their story is three-quarters familiar, populated and coloured in by many versions and vignettes of our white South African stereotypes. The rest of it we watch from a distance, sometimes amused, often horrified. This quarter is the deeply personal, unique happiness and pain that can never be shared, the private journey between two people in love, touched occasionally by a third: a parent, another lover or, most importantly, a child.

As in life, even as each of them is uniquely quirky, there is a certain familiarity to all the misfits, the loners, the nut-jobs … in Afrikaans and in English. We think we know them and fear what they might want from us, so we back off and thank the heavens we didn’t end up like that … although we can remember more than a few moments when things looked to be heading that way.

Moedertaal gives us a tiny flash of how little we know about all the others – their lives, their loves and their losses – even if it looks so familiar that we thought those dusty bare feet were our own for a minute.

Review: Moedertaal, The Fugard Studio Theatre, November 14 to December 2. Performances are Tuesdays to Fridays at 8pm and on Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm. Tickets (R130-R165), available via 021 461 4554 and Computicket

Pop in to the one and only Dias Tavern next door for pre-theatre dinner, best chicken peri peri and calamari in town, booking essential 021 465 7547

Think out of the box, put the farm into one

Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja with fellow breakthrough female tech entrepreneurs: FinFind’s Darlene Menzies, left, and Aisha Pandor of SweepSouth, right

In this age of Eat Local campaigns, one might be a little alarmed to encounter vegetables called rucola, petite-this and mange-that, on a plate in the Nigerian capital, but fear not, Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja told a briefing at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Africa 2017 meetings in Durban, these micro greens are not just grown near Abuja, they are grown within the teeming metropolis.

This young Nigerian, a winner of the World Economic Forum’s Top Women Innovators Award, has turned adversity and a modern city’s hunger for imported vegetables into a thriving business.

She grows micro greens in shipping containers in town, allowing her to add “hyper local” to the tag.

The founder and chief executive of Fresh Direct Produce and Agro-Allied Services in Nigeria said her business started with a regular farm, but making a success of that proved so challenging that she was forced to innovate.

The business started with 10 greenhouses on a leased 300 hectare farm. The green houses took up only a small part of the land, with the rest covered by trees. Beside the cost of clearing, which would have been exorbitant, Angel said, she had a problem with the idea of displacing forest.

An additional problem was that the farm was three hours from market.

As any farmer will confirm, this business is not for the faint-hearted. Angel told the briefing on the last day of the WEF Africa meetings in Durban that small farmers like herself could expect to lose up to 50 percent of their crop before harvest. Lack of funds compounds problems around a shortage of information and lack of inputs and tools.

Access to finance would be a game changer for farmers, but bank loans are usually available only to landowners in Nigeria.

“First I need to be rich before I can get a loan,” Angel said.

Transporting often-delicate, perishable goods along bad roads and a lack of storage facilities added to problems which meant that, she added, another 25 percent of produce could be lost from farm to market.

Not just for rabbits: hipsters like them too

Another challenge that forced a rethink of the business was when the fuel price increased from 87 Naira a litre to above 200 Naira in a short period of time.

It was these and other challenges that forced Fresh Direct to innovate and “pivot”, as she described it, and develop their genius plan to grow vegetables in town. The business now grows micro greens in containers stacked five high at two sites in Abuja.

Each 20-foot shipping container would fit a car – instead they take 4,000 plants per cycle, with a cycle lasting from seven days to a month.

The vegetables are produced using a hydroponic method where plants are grown in nutrient-filled water, rather than soil. The business is moving into aquaponics too, where fish are added to the system to enhance the cycle.

This is a long way away from fast food, but the vegetables can be delivered to customers 15 minutes after they are harvested and washed.

Fresh Direct’s customers are restaurants, hotels and grocery stores. “The nice thing with corporate customers is that they are consistent,” Angel said.

An outlet in Lagos will soon be added to the two already operating in Abuja. In Lagos, Angel said she expects to tap into an ever bigger demand for micro greens, niche foods that are a favourite of modern chefs, foodies and other hipster types.

Fresh Direct currently employs 10 people full-time and another 59 part-time, many of whom would find it hard to secure good jobs elsewhere. Angel told the WEF briefing that not one of her staff had gone to secondary school and just one had previous agricultural experience.

She said her staff called themselves “tech farmers” in a country where farming is sometimes looked down on as a less-than-dignified career.

Angel clearly doesn’t look down on traditional farming. In fact, she seemed pleased and relieved to say that doing the fancy vegetables, rather than staple foods, meant she was not competing with traditional rural farmers, rather they were providing vegetables that were otherwise imported.

Take one HQ, add a large portion of Bizerca …

 Cape Town foodies will be interested to hear the news that the chef and owner of Bistrot Bizerca, Laurent Deslandes, will be joining the team at HQ, another Mother City favourite, as group executive chef.

The combination of these two celebrated brands means patrons at HQ can look forward to ‘HQ Courtyard by Laurent’ serving a Bizerca-influenced tapas and “plat du jour” menu for lunch from Monday to Thursday, and until 8pm on Fridays.

HQ said in a statement on Thursday that Deslandes’ “passion for cuisine” had already been experienced on HQ’s tapas menu and at signature monthly events such as Fine Wining and Raise the Steaks. Thursday’s statement signalled the start of a deeper association after Bizerca stopped trading at the end of March.

Laurent Deslandes

“Look out for some Bizerca classics, a little bit of new fun, and expect the casual style atmosphere that HQ does best,” said Deslandes.

In addition to “refining the food offering at HQ”, the statement said, the French chef who moved to South Africa after a successful career sweating over a hot stove in Australia would also be cooking up another new restaurant concept.

The mouth waters…

– African News Agency (ANA)

A feast fit for foodies as casino cooks up a change

The ‘hautest’ of foodies might look down on the casino complex culture otherwise so popular in South Africa … but perhaps not for long, if a recent lunch at the Chef’s Table at soon-to-opened Time Square at Menlyn Maine in Pretoria is anything to go by.

The R4 billion Time Square development, which will be the second largest casino in South Africa after Cape Town’s GrandWest Casino, opens on April 1. A group of journalists on a tour of the final phases of construction were given a taste of the complex’s delectable food and beverage offering.

Brett Hoppé, general manager for Time Square, said: “What we have done with this property is try to break the mould… We really wanted to make it completely unusual.”

Time Square will include 18 restaurants, lounges and bars offering a diversity of cuisines and experiences. Notably the list of restaurants excludes any franchised concept except for a Spur, which seems like a natural fit for the children’s area alongside the arena.

Hoppé said they had some “really cool and funky” food and beverage outlets, all of which had been purpose created. Some were brands that Sun International owned; others they were partners in.

The lunch at the end of the site visit was very much purpose-made, having been prepared by five of the company’s top chefs.

Ronald Ramsamy, Sun International’s group executive chef

After seating the touring party at an immaculately set Chef’s Table in the kitchen, Ronald Ramsamy, Sun International’s group executive chef, explained that the kitchen would serve as the nerve centre for all the restaurants in the complex.

One could only imagine that it would never again be so peaceful and quiet that one could hear the delighted murmurings of fellow diners.

Chef Ronald introduced the chefs who had designed and prepared the menu for the day.

First up was Chef Justin, who soon narrowed the distance between us by likening the first course to a first date. He will probably soon have his own TV show, I thought.

Not your average steak tartare

His steak tartare, with nods to the traditional and shouts to modernism and individuality, seemed the perfect start to this meal that felt like a metaphor for Sun International’s re-invention of the food and beverage experience.

Jack Lester, Time Square’s food and beverage manager, who Hoppé describes as having “one of the finest palates in the country”, had chosen a La Motte Syrah/Viognier 2013 to accompany the starter.

Both choices of starter and wine were a little surprising to me, like Tchaikovsky opening the 1812 overture with the cannons perhaps. Any shock at this rather muscular opening soon passed to be replaced by a quick succession of delicious surprises.

Seductive flavours and textures – melt-in-the-mouth steak tartare, caper berry, burnt onion, egg, caviar, parmesan brullée, slightly charred mosbaletjie toast – each all too quickly overtaken by the next.

The charring was done to replicate flavours reminiscent of toasting bread on a grid and the choice of mosbaletjie, a traditional bread made from dough enriched with fermenting grape juice or must (soetmos in Afrikaans), added a thoughtful local touch.

If Chef Justin has a hint of the celebrity chef about him, he will be in good company in the Time Square restaurant environment.

The American celebrity chef and television personality Guy Fieri will be opening his first restaurant in Africa at the complex.

“We think it is a really exciting and unique offering,” said Hoppé.

Local celebrity will also be represented in the form of local chef and radio personality Fortunato Mazzone, and Joao da Fonseca, aka Mi Casa frontman J Something, both partnering in restaurants in the complex.

Mazzone – a much-loved opera-singing restaurateur from just up the road at Ritrovo in Waterkloof Heights – has described his new restaurant at Time Square, Forti Grill and Bar, as “the restaurant of my dreams … a fusion of food, wine, music and art, which is cutting edge, contemporary, exquisite and offers the ultimate in cuisine and hospitality”.

At our very own fusion of food and wine at the Chef’s Table in the Time Square kitchen things moved on to an elegant, second course, prepared by Chef Adrian and Chef Ramon.

Fish and fennel

It is hard to imagine scallop or even halibut appearing in anything but a starring role, but Chef Adrian told us they had built this dish around fennel pollen. He said he had been looking for the pollen of the subtle liquorice-flavoured herb for years and just a day before we met he found a farm that does “micro-cresses and micro-vegetables and all this delicious foliage”.

The chefs said they had kept their course light because they knew what was coming on either side. Served with an unwooded Meerlust chardonnay, this light course inspired by beautiful flowers and herbs felt more like a power nap than a rest.

Just thinking about the choice of places to eat and drink at Time Square makes one feel in need of a real power nap. Other options include Sun International signature food concept, the Brew Monkey gastro-pub, and KungFu Cowboy, an East meets West restaurant created especially for the venue.

These restaurants will be complemented by authentic Indian and Chinese offerings. “Those are something we don’t do ourselves,” says Hoppé. “The authenticity of that cuisine is critical so we don’t give it to our chefs, we find specialists.”

During a visit to a Baccarat suite on the tour Hoppé and food and beverage manager Lester had talked about cultural sensitivity, explaining that this card game, which is very popular with the Chinese community, was something that needed to be understood to be serviced well.

“There is superstition, culture and cuisine … In a heartbeat you can cause massive offence and then you won’t see that community again,” Hoppé explained.

My neighbour at the Chef’s Table – Simphiwe, a photographer who was raised in the Karoo – and myself were talking culture without causing any upset. That might have changed when Chef Chester announced that the next course would be sous-vide Karoo lamb.

I thought Simphiwe did well to say nothing, not even mentioning the French term for ‘under vacuum’, which describes a method of cooking where meat is vacuum-sealed in a plastic pouch and placed in a water bath at a controlled temperature for a number of hours.

The sous-vide process brings out an extraordinary tenderness in the lamb, which seemed to inspire a new tenderness in Simphiwe. Dare I say he murmured approvingly like a little lamb…

The lamb was served with a smoked ponce puree, baby carrots and a balsamic reduction for that hint of tartness. Why bother with a glass of wine, you might think. But I certainly wasn’t going to say no to a glass of Rust en Vrede cabernet sauvignon 2014, a perfect companion to the delicious combination of tenderness and flavour.

After a while, Simphiwe broke his silence to declare: “Heaven on earth!”

A breathy description that reminded me of Hoppé’s earlier comment: “I have been around the business for a long time, at Sun International for 27 years, and this property takes my breath away.”

We still had a couple of courses at the Chef’s Table to evoke breathlessness. The fourth course, a pre-dessert, was delivered to us by Chef Shaun, who was introduced to us as the ‘Molecular King’, along with a glass of De Grendel Shiraz 2015.

A dolce mousse with coffee jelly, a hazelnut and a malted salt caramel streussel on a bed of chocolate that looked a little like a bird’s nest … laced with some secret popping candy to (you guessed it) take our breath away.

You might wonder why so much effort is being put into the food and beverage offering at a casino complex. Hoppé explained that bars and restaurants are footfall drivers.

“Food and beverage might not be as distinctly profitable as gaming is but, without food and beverage, you certainly wouldn’t be as profitable in gaming,” he said.

Cooking up something new: Sun International chief executive Graeme Stephens, left, and Brett Hoppé, general manager for Time Square PIC Simphiwe Nkwali

Sun International’s outgoing chief executive Graeme Stephens agreed. Even if creating the right experience and atmosphere in a casino is a lot less scientific than molecular cooking, he told us that a lot of time and effort is put into creating the experience.

“The experience typically in South Africa revolves around the experience value as much as, Am I winning or losing,” he said.

Stephens said many families visited Sun International’s venues without ever going into the casino. The restaurant offering is a very big part of a South African casino experience for many people, with choice and authenticity being key considerations in getting people to come back.

Hoppé said Time Square had created a service ritual for each restaurant. The various styles of being received and treated should be sustained, he said, from how you were greeted to how your bill was delivered at the end of the meal, the “last touch point on a dining experience”.

An example he gave was at the Globe bar, a super sophisticated bar in the complex, the bill will be delivered in a beautiful silver orb and handed over by a white-gloved waiter.

Chef Lee-andra

Frosted forest PIC Simphiwe Nkwali

The last course at the Chef’s Table was a deserving companion to the champagne, Billecart Salmon Rose, served at its side. From the “little big-hearted pastry chef”, Lee-andra, the frosty, snowy forest that included white chocolate, apple, cucumber, mint, yoghurt gel, kiwi, quince sorbet and mohito macaroons …. Was the sweetest of farewells.

A grand and deliciously decadent end to a site visit that left at least one foodie wannabe hoping Time Square will be successful in its bid to reinvent the casino eating experience after the complex opens on April 1.
– African News Agency (ANA)

Young Africa Works: Making farming sexy

A beautiful, noisy thunder shower greeted delegates arriving in Kigali, Rwanda, for the Mastercard Foundation’s second annual Young Africa Works Summit in late February 2017, shattering expectations of cracked skin and dry taps after a terrible year of drought in many parts of Africa .

The trip from the airport to the Marriott Hotel, where the summit took place, gave an indication that many more expectations would be shattered.

One hoped the 300 delegates at the summit would still take serious note of the various warnings about being water wise but, as for other old expectations, they might as well have been flushed away. New stereotypes are being  minted by the day in Africa, with its burgeoning population of young people and blossoming cultures of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Looking for a ‘killer app’ to link agriculture and youth unemployment

Opening the conference Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT Jean Philbert Nsengimana, pictured, put his faith in the agricultural sector to solve the mounting problem of youth unemployment … even as he used hi-tech lingo to describe the problems facing Africa.

He said finding a solution that combined Africa’s demographic dividend with its agricultural promise would be like creating a “killer app”.

This is a man with an MBA in IT management and a master’s degree in software engineering, yet he said he had no doubt that the agricultural sector was best placed to solve the problem of how to put a burgeoning young population to work in a sustainable and meaningful way.

He said when he thought of agriculture on the continent he was struck by the appalling paradox of problems and opportunities existing side by side.

The summit will hear much about this paradox, of Africa’s bountiful potential, an abundance of fertile land, long growing seasons and large young labour force, among other things, in such conflict with the reality of starvation and poverty.

“This is the time for change,” the minister said. “This is the time we say no to this unending paradox of problems living side by side with solutions.”

Kenyan women on top

Africans rising: from left, Brian Bosire, Laetitia Mukungu, Rita Kimani, Jean Bosco Nzeyimana and Pilirani Khoza

(As one has become accustomed …) Kenya stood proud at the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works Summit with two of the East African country’s leading young entrepreneurs, both of them women, hosting the youth keynote address.

Rita Kimani, founder of FarmDrive, and Laetitia Mukungu, founder of the Africa Rabbit Centre, co-hosted a panel of three young people doing great things in the agricultural sector on the continent.

Making farming sexy and feeding a continent

The conference really did live up to its promise of putting young people centre stage.

The potential of a “Green Revolution”, which has been talked about since the Seventies, shows fresh promise with a growing and increasingly innovative new generation of young farmers, most of whom consider themselves professionals despite the sector’s reputation as a depository for people who have not made it elsewhere.

That there is shame associated with any part of food production in Africa is a scandal in itself.

It is widely agreed that the real shame is that Africa, with most of the world’s arable land and a large and growing workforce, spends $35 billion a year importing food. That is the real crisis that the next generation of agriculturalists is under pressure to solve. It is good news for the young people themselves, they say, that they are also chiseling away at the sector’s bad reputation.

Farming already has the weight of critical importance on its side. It is widely seen as the sector with the most potential to defuse Africa’s ticking timebomb of a booming population and a growing unemployment crisis.

Africa has a young workforce in an ageing world, with an estimated 226 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. More than 70 percent of those youngsters are believed to live on less than $2 a day, most of them relying on vulnerable or unpaid employment for their survival.

According to information from the Mastercard Foundation, the agriculture sector is set to create an additional 8 million stable jobs by 2020, a figure that could be significantly increased through increased investment in education, infrastructure, technology and various other support services.

An important shot in the arm is being delivered as scores of young entrepreneurs begin to make headlines as they build healthy and exciting businesses by applying cutting edge innovations and new technologies in a sector known until recently as the most old-fashioned and anti-tech, even some might say ancient.

And here is a little about just two of them:

Jean Bosco Nzeyimana and his organically fuelled revolution

Recycling municipal waste might not seem glamorous at all but it was thanks to turning waste into a clean burning fuel that Rwandan Jean Bosco Nzeyimana, pictured, was flown to America to appear on stage alongside Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg, among other things.

Nzeyimana was one of the young African farmers firing things up at the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works summit in Kigali in late February 2017, with stories about using innovative ways to earn a good living off the land.

As a member of a panel during the keynote session the 23-year-old talked about more idyllic times when his parents’ small piece of land would provide such a bountiful harvest that they would recruit all the young people of the valley to help at harvest time.

One thing he remembers not liking about this time, however, was that the farming tools were so important to his parents that they were kept in their bedroom. In the eyes of the young Jean Bosco, the last of seven children, they got to “sleep” in Mum and Dad’s bedroom, something he would have liked.

That was nothing, though, compared with the pain and difficulty caused to Nzeyimana and his family as the harvests got smaller each year as climate change and poor farming methods took their toll.

He said he doesn’t blame his parents but he didn’t like the way the older generation was practising farming. He said it was clear they were not able to adjust to the changing climate.

While this was happening he was doing well at school but coming to realise that his parents would not be able to fund any further education.

As he was watching his family’s lifestyle becoming harder to maintain, Nzeyimana said, he “became very competitive at school” in the hope of winning government support to attend university. This he did and he now holds a bachelors degree in business administration from the University of Rwanda.

Then, he said, he was determined to show his parents that what he had learned at university could be put to good use.

“I wanted to see if what I had learned at school could make the family more stable,” he said.

This was the motivation behind starting Habona, a company that processes waste into affordable and environmentally friendly fuels such as biogas and biomass briquettes.

The briquette, made of compressed organic matter, is a clean burning fuel with high energy efficiency. The company processes waste for a large community, including a refugee camp, and produces a sustainable replacement to wood charcoal, which is easy to light and can burn longer than charcoal.

Nzeyimana has been named Rwanda’s top young entrepreneur and an India-Africa Young Visionary as well as being awarded the African Innovation Prize. He was selected as the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow through the flagship programme of the U.S. president for Young African Leaders.

As a fellow, this young Rwandan, the first in his family to study at university, did intensive training in leadership, business and entrepreneurship at Northwestern University in Chicago as well as environmental and green energy studies at the University of Wisconsin. And now, he told African News Agency, he has dreams of doing an MBA at one of the “big schools”, by which he said he meant Stanford, Oxford, Harvard, Yale and the like.

The glamour of awards and international training aside, Nzeyimana’s business has created 30 permanent jobs and provides another 40 temporary jobs every month.

It provides cost-effective, renewable energy sources to households, businesses, schools, farmers and government, extremely beneficial in the face of Rwanda’s severe energy crisis. The company also produces bio-fertilizer for farmers and consultancy and maintenance services regarding integrated waste management and energy solutions.

“It is two and a half years since we started and we are very proud of the impact we have made,” said the soft-spoken young man, who is also fueling the revolution that some of his peers describe as “making farming sexy”.

Laetitia Mukungu, making healthy, affordable food fashionable

While feeding a nation might not be dripping in the cool factor, being ahead of the curve of food trends in hip restaurants definitely has a big helping of it. Laetitia Mukungu, founder of Kenya’s Africa Rabbit Centre, now has this claim to fame.

Mukungu – who was co-host of the youth keynote address at the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works summit, which wrapped up on Friday – reported the good news at the summit that Nairobi’s famous Carnivore Restaurant, a popular haunt of tourists and locals, would soon be stocking her products.

Mukungu gave a very convincing presentation about the Africa Rabbit Centre at the Mastercard Foundation’s first Young Africa Works summit, in Cape Town in October 2015, but the world didn’t seem quite ready for her then. A year and a bit on, the business she started as a way to help struggling rural youth and women is growing in leaps and bounds.

However, the young Kenyan told the second Young Africa Works summit in Kigali last week that farming’s bad reputation remained a concern. She said one of the biggest obstacles to young people becoming farmers was that the education system undervalued agriculture as a potential career.

Mukungu, who is currently studying Agricultural Engineering at Earth University in Costa Rica, remembered that schoolteachers would tell poor performers that they would end up as farmers when they grew up if they didn’t improve.

She has been recognised by the Anzisha Prize and Spark Kenya Changemaker and is named by many other young farmers as the reason they are looking at starting to breed rabbits.

Rabbit meat is very high in protein and low in fat, but it also ticks another important box: there is little waste. The meat is eaten, the pelts are used for clothing, the faeces are used as fertilizer and even the urine is used as pest control.

Minimising waste is another key consideration for this next generation of farmers, who are experiencing the effects of climate change in a way the generation that went before could hardly imagine.

And an almost coup …

One of Ghana’s most accomplished statesmen almost pulled off a coup on “Young Africa” at the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works summit in Kigali … but not quite.

There were no obvious signs that it was part of a carefully planned exercise but Sulley Gariba, right, senior policy adviser to the government of Ghana and the country’s High Commissioner to Canada, certainly had the element of surprise on his side (as with any well-planned coup).

Before he sprung a question (from the audience) about succession planning on one of the bright young things on stage anyone over 35 had borne the brunt of any generational finger-pointing. Until that point friendly tension between old and young at the summit had left the older folks looking a little ragged.

Later that same session, which was about how policies can better support young people to become engines of agricultural transformation, the moderator, Dr William Baah-Boateng, perhaps emboldened by Gariba’s surprise move, had pointed out to the same young gun, Ugandan Francis Arinaitwe, that he had been like him 25 years ago.

Sensing a small victory perhaps, he added: “In 25 years’ time will you be like me. What are you going to do?”

Baah-Boateng, currently a senior research fellow at the African Centre for Economic Transformation, is on a sabbatical from his position as senior lecturer in economics at the University of Ghana. As a university lecturer he had perhaps felt more keenly than others the slight turning of tables at the summit, which seems to very successfully have encouraged young people take a bigger role in setting the agenda.

To be sure, the young man in question, panelist Francis Arinaitwe, left, the parish youth chairperson for Mayuge District in Uganda, had stuck his neck out, even perhaps put his head on the block for his generation.

He had started by calling on policymakers to “leave your office … come and conduct focus groups with us on the ground”.

“It is your initiative and your responsibility to consult us on the ground!” he said firmly, adding that not all young people were educated enough to feel able to approach the offices of leadership.

It was Baah-Boateng who had come in strongly in support of the young farmer here, saying that leaders must be careful to not become armchair policymakers. In fact, except for the small challenge about succession planning, which he handled with aplomb, Arinaitwe had received nothing but encouragement from Baah-Boateng and Gariba.

The young farmer who is also spokesman for many had very specific demands and requests for policymakers. His eloquence and clarity left none in doubt that he was ready for the raised profile he was seeking for his generation.

Policies around financial access should be amended to make them simpler, affordable and friendly were his description of what was required.

He also called for action around policies about land ownership, particularly regarding equality for men and women.

There were a number of other specific suggestions but there was also a general request that seemed to speak to the more general handing over of the baton.

“It is high time you stopped thinking about us as beneficiaries,” he said.
“It is time to make us participants.

“I know you were once a youth, but that was then,” Arinaitwe said, adding that it was time that his generation gave input into the policies that affected them.

Brits get a taste of desert gold in their G&T

Scenes from the Kalahari, a brutal but splendid place PHOTO Luke Daniel

The Gods must indeed be crazy!

Britons looking for something exotic to mix with their tonic at end-of-year cocktail events will be able to spice things up a little this year with some flavours of the Kalahari in KWV’s boutique-style handcrafted gin, Cruxland.

Angie Jacobs, brand manager for KWV’s premium spirits in South Africa, said on Monday that media and other commentators in the UK were responding extremely very well to the recent arrival of this unique gin in the UK, which she described as “a very difficult market to crack”.

With its launch of Cruxland in South Africa last year, the South African wine and spirit producer tapped into the craft-spirit trend and, according to some, raised it a level.

The boutique-style London Dry gin is infused with nine exotic signature botanicals, including rare Kalahari N’abbas, also known as Kalahari truffles or desert gold. The species of truffle, indigenous to the Kalahari Desert, grows only for a short time after the first rains. KWV said in a statement that only a very experienced truffle hunter could spot where to start digging for them.

Well-known British reviewer Oz Clarke, writing on the portal Three Wine Men, said: “Don’t even ask me whether I like this stuff – I love it.”

He added: “Unlike some craft gins, it goes brilliantly with every tonic, good or bad.”

Jacobs said it was too early to comment on sales of KWV Cruxland, but “activity and awareness of the brand has been great and sales have definitely shown a positive trend”.

According to Anneke Mackenzie, KWV’s global portfolio manager for spirits, Cruxland’s successful introduction into this discerning market was due to the gin offering a “distinctive point of appeal”.

She added: “Experts say the gin revival has been sparked by unusual flavours and launches of small batches, which are adding vitality to the category and the re-emergence of a cocktail culture. KWV Cruxland Gin offers gin consumers something that is 100 percent unique and, more importantly, something that has a ‘taste of origin’.”

– African News Agency (ANA)

Spier shares cash from carbon credits with workers

The Spier team celebrates the good news

Workers at the Spier estate in Stellenbosch in South Africa’s winelands will have a little extra to spend this Christmas after the farm decided to divide a portion of cash earned via carbon credits.

Spier announced on Tuesday that it would give 27 workers a share of half of the R204,000 earned for practising regenerative farming on part of the organically certified wine farm through a climate change mitigation initiative.

“The farm has acquired the credits for sequestering 6,493 tons of carbon dioxide in its soil, which is cultivated in as natural way as possible by using regenerative farming practices like high density grazing,” says Spier Wine Farm’s livestock farm manager, Angus McIntosh.

“This is a technique that involves frequent stock rotations aimed at using livestock to mimic nature by restoring carbon and nitrogen contained in livestock and poultry urine into the soil profile.”

The conversion of grasslands and forests to crop and grazing lands across the globe has resulted in losses of soil carbon, which accumulates through photosynthesis as plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When land loses its cover of natural vegetation and becomes degraded through practices such as intensive agriculture and the use of chemicals, carbon escapes into the atmosphere.

Spier’s credits were bought by a South African bank, brokered by Credible Carbon, a business that facilitates carbon trading through credits earned for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Spier said the office of the premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille, was among institutions that had bought credits.

Livestock farming on Spier is done using high-density rotational grazing practices alongside the vineyards. A total of 74 hectares of pastureland supports about 300 cattle, 4,500 laying hens, 1,200 broiler chickens, pigs and sheep.

“The presence of a great many animals in a confined space for a short period of time deposits enormous amounts of manure and urine on the land, leading to healthy, vigorous pasture growth without the need of fertilizer,” said McIntosh.

“No inorganic fertilisers nor grains are used as animal feed, thereby disassociating the farming practice with industrial agriculture.”

Soil samples from the livestock farm were tested over an 18-month period by a leading U.S. laboratory. “They confirm a significant and rapid enhancement of soil organic carbon over this period,” according to Credible Carbon.

Spier Sustainability Director, Heidi Newton-King, said this initiative added to the farm’s sustainability and underlined the fact that regenerative farming was not only good for the environment but made good business sense.

“We now have a sixth revenue stream from carbon credits in addition to our other five, from sales of beef, chicken, eggs, pork and lamb,” Newton-King said.

– African News Agency (ANA)

Local is lekker: Hyperli steps into space left by Groupon

Bargain hunters will be pleased to hear that Hyperli, a hyperlocal hypermarket of a deal website, on Wednesday promised to fill the space left when the international discounting business Groupon exited South Africa last month.

Groupon withdrew from a number of markets – from South Africa to Switzerland, Panama to Portugal

Groupon groupees were left feeling short-changed by what seemed to be a sudden exit in early November. At the time, Groupon was reported as saying it was withdrawing from a number of markets – from South Africa to Switzerland and Panama to Portugal – “to focus our energy and dollars on fewer countries”.

Not much longer than a month later, and just in time for Christmas, online discount hunters are hoping that the newly formed Hyperli will honour its pledge to “take the online deal marketplace by storm”.

South African consumers were increasingly likely to shop online with the availability of great deals cited as a reason for the migration, alongside saving time, as well as access to reviews and price comparisons.

Online deal-of-the-day services have been credited with introducing customers to new brands, and driving brand awareness and sales. Research from Groupon showed that around 80 percent of merchants who have used deal sites to attract new customers indicated that they would use them again.

“Times are tough for South African consumers and business alike so being able to deliver well-priced, immediate deals makes great business sense,” said Hyperli chief executive and founder, Wayne Gosling.

“Hyperli connects businesses to consumers. It provides an effective marketing tool for brands and service providers looking to expand their customer base and to profitably grow their businesses.”
Funded by Team Africa Ventures, the early stage investment fund run by entrepreneurs, and backed by the team that brought Groupon to South Africa, the Hyperli platform incorporates various standout features, the company said in a statement.

The merchant offering includes enriched data analytics and seamless redemption through the Hyperli merchant app.

“Recognising that cashflow is king to small business, a transparent pricing structure has been incorporated so that business owners can select the right deal redemption criteria to meet their business needs,” the statement said.

Hyperli added that it had formed strategic partnerships with popular South African brands, including Ster Kinekor, Unilever and Jimmy’s Killer Prawns, to deliver exciting deals in the run up to the festive season.

The company said it valued its relationships with local merchants and had prioritised cost-effective business solutions that drove growth as a core objective in the coming months.
“Hyperli aims to be the business platform that assists SMEs with systems that can manage marketing, reservations and payment so that they can concentrate on what they do best, offering their customers amazing experiences,” it said.

Hyperli has its sights set on becoming South Africa’s foremost online commerce player. Over the coming months, the company said it would expand its reach to cover all major cities across categories such as food and drink, beauty and spas, things to do, goods and getaways.

– African News Agency (ANA)

When the journey is the destination

railstop-copySometimes one goes there and back just to see how far it is, this was a day like that.

A steam train trip from Cape Town to Ceres and back on a hot, still Saturday in November made us feel that we had all the time in the world to do nothing but chill, chat, and gaze out the window at the passing glories of the Cape Winelands. Layers of stress peeled off almost imperceptibly.

trainfine-copyIt was one of those days where one feels nostalgic, yet deeply satisfied. We think our day out was reminiscent of a slower, more elegant age but we don’t really know if such a time really existed, nor do we care much.

 

Total serenity was interrupted by oohs and aahs and the clicking of camera shutters as various people hung out the windows to better experience sensational views.

The beat of the engine and the echo of the whistle sounded almost primal as we travelled over passes and through valleys pulled by the big, beautiful beast of a steam engine.

This old girl, Jessica, was manufactured in the UK in 1948; the Ceres railway track was completed in May 1912. The Ceres Rail Company story is very much one of revival, of breathing new life into the old.

steamtrain-copy

In the late 1990s, local businessman Derick du Toit bought the property on which Ceres Golf Course is located and built the Ceres Golf Estate development. He soon came up with an idea to bring the old railway track that runs through Ceres Golf Estate back into use.

It is not for nothing that employees describe Du Toit as fearless, hardworking, relentless and visionary. Together with his business partner and fellow off-road racing enthusiast, Simon Beckett, and Transnet he has now made that happen.

So far, the Ceres Rail Company’s fleet comprises of Jessica, a class 19D locomotive #3321; Bailey, a class 19B locomotive #1412; and the very famous, one-of-a-kind South African-built Class 26, fondly known as the Red Devil.

witzenberg-copyThere is nothing devilish about Jessica, who took us on our idyllic journey to Ceres and back. The town is situated in the Witzenberg district, one of the biggest deciduous fruit producing areas in the Western Cape. The scenery on the way is breathtaking, dramatic rock formations and valleys and hills carpeted in fynbos.

After our glorious morning rolling through the countryside, Jessica stopped near the Waverley Hills Wine Estate so we could disembark via stairs brought and deposited in the sand by staff at our own little pop-up station, all a little mad and magical, SA-style.

vineyard-copyWe opted to drift on foot through the vineyard rather than wait for the bus organised for us. On our lazy and languid walk there and back again after lunch it felt like time was stretching out into the distance like train tracks to a new, distant calmness.

The lunch itself and the accompanying wines were a reminder of the bounty of fresh products and raw ingredients on Cape Town’s doorstep as well as the geniuses who put them together.

waverleyhillssalad-copyA highlight for me was the starter of creatively assembled and explosively crunchy lettuce and cucumber salad with a poached egg, croutons, and an anchovy and spring onion mayonnaise that was so subtle it was impossible to separate and identify the flavours except for “delicious” and “knock-out”. Perfectly paired (by yours truly) with a delicious organic Waverley Hills pinot grigio.

Our day was all about luxury and delight but the Ceres Rail Company is dedicated to more than just indulgence.

The trains started rolling after a concession agreement was concluded with Transnet as part of the South African railways company’s branch line strategy. The branch line between Wolseley and Prince Alfred Hamlet has been revitalised with two main aims – to develop the tourism industry in Witzenberg to help with rural development and job creation and to move freight into Cape Town.

The company started running freight, largely juice, pulp, and concentrate, to Cape Town harbour in April, most of it in general purpose containers. There are plans to increase the reefer (refrigerated containers) business, the largest component of freight out of the Witzenberg area.

Since April, Ceres Rail has sent just under 1000 containers out of Ceres to the harbour. The company’s target for next year is 3000-plus containers and, ultimately, it hopes to shift the majority of the 20,000 containers coming out of this area from road to rail.

jessicartpJessica and mates get to rest during the week as Transnet Freight Rail moves the freight train using a diesel locomotive. Ceres Rail Company runs the steam locos to Ceres and back on weekends with a stop for lunch.

More information and booking here: http://www.ceresrail.co.za/
– African News Agency (ANA)