An idea that was inspired by a demand for chilli around Gauteng brought international recognition for the Chilli of Soweto. This tasty, organically-grown chilli variety has been listed as the 45th unique product in South Africa on the international Ark of Taste.
The Ark of Taste finds and promotes small-scale quality products from around the world that exemplify the cultures they sprung from – from fruits and vegetables to cheeses and sweets.
The Chilli of Soweto was developed by Siyanzenzela Plant Biotech and Agricultural Consultants after one of their team members, Nkosinaye Radebe realised the demand for dried chilli “by the guys who sell cooked ox head meat,” according to Phila Cele, the company’s founder “We then ordered seedlings from KZN and we started planting in 2012.”
The new chilli variety was cultivated in the Siyanzenzela gardens in Phiri, Soweto. Today they produce nearly 200kgs of chilli a week in season and sell one kilogram for R10. A range of vegetables and herbs grow alongside the chillies in the football field size gardens.
The recognition happened after the founder of International Slow Food Movement and the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy, Ambassador Carlo Petrini paid a visit to one of Cele’s gardens in Soweto.
“The guys from Slow Food South Africa had been regularly visiting the gardens and when Mr Petrini came to South Africa, they suggested he’d also visit. He was very impressed when he saw the chilli,” says Cele.
Siyazenzela Plant Biotech and Agricultural Consultants have never received global recognition before.
According to Petrini the food gardens he had seen were fantastic and reinforced the message that organic food is not just for people with money.
“At the moment we do not supply any big companies. We have sold our chilli to Fontana Spar, at Claim Street in Hillbrow. We have also supplied the vendors at the Hillbrow Market and the Indian market in Fordsburg and Lenasia,” he says.
Cele has a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Microbiology and an Honours degree in plant biotechnology, both from Wits University. He started farming in 2011 when he launched Siyazenzela.
Subjects he is interested in researching at the moment include: Are natural agricultural methods sustainable, water efficient, labour saving and good for the improvement of soil quality? Do natural agricultural methods improve the nutritional value of crops?
The Chilli of Soweto will be one of the attractions at the Slow Food Soweto Eat-In & Food Conference which takes place at the Soweto Theatre on Saturday, September 3.
“The slow food industry needs more attention and recognition. It can create long lasting employment,” Cele says.