An immersive sensory experience was in store for those who entered the grass boma dotted with cooking fires. As the sun bathed the acacias in its last red rays and a highveld thunderstorm rumbled overhead, the robust flavours of smoky braais filled the air. Michelin Star Chef, Jan Hendrick van der Westhuizen and his team were putting the finishing touches to an African feast.
The cause for celebration was the launch of a R10 million rand collaboration between Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation and the African Wildlife Economy Institute of Stellenbosch University (AWEI) to promote sustainable and inclusive wildlife economies in Africa.
And what better way to celebrate than with a selection of expertly prepared cuts of game showcasing how wildlife can contribute to economic development?
Guests from all walks of life were welcomed by Head of Research and Conservation at Oppenheimer Generations, Dr Duncan MacFadyen, who set the tone for the evening by highlighting the “lack of knowledge of wildlife economies and what is required to enhance their contribution to sustainable development and wildlife conservation across the continent”.
Professor Kennedy Dzama, AWEI Chair and Deputy Dean of AgriSciences added that “governance of the wildlife industry is complex, and suffers both from a lack of and a surfeit of mandates, standards and regulations”. He called on the private sector and governments to create an enabling environment, and emphasised that a key focus of the work of the AWEI is to identify how community livelihoods can be enhanced through scaling up the wildlife economy”.
But the proof of the pudding would be in the eating.
Among the inhibitors preventing uptake of game are various misconceptions. That’s where it took the remarkable talent of South Africa’s first Michelin Star Chef, Jan Hendrik who, together with Oppenheimer Generations chefs Theo Msiza and Siphokazi Sihlali, prepared no less than 16 succulent and delicious game dishes for the guests to enjoy.
Prior to sharing the meal, Jan Hendrik spoke about the nutritional value, health benefits, commercial opportunities and socio-economic advantages that can be expected with increasing acceptance of game meat. And then the delighted guests were able to dispel their own misconceptions around the preparation and taste of game meat as they revelled in the richness of a shared meal, enhanced by the flickering fires, the sensual African music and the knowledge that this rich heritage could be one of the ways to build inclusive African wildlife economies.
Following the formalities, the guests put their new knowledge to the test in a blind-tasting of kudu, warthog, quail, wildebeest and springbok. Through fun, social and informative initiatives like Taste of Game, AWEI together with Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation aim to support the development of an inclusive and sustainable wild meat sector across Africa that benefits both people and nature.