South African student’s food security idea wins in Germany

Emile Coetzee, winner of the Future Leaders Forum at the World Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings and Events (IMEX) 2019 in Frankfurt, Germany.

It was a remarkable night for South Africa and Africa as North West University student, Emile Coetzee, was crowned the winner of Future Leaders Forum at the World Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings and Events (IMEX) 2019 in Frankfurt, Germany.

MsCoetzee edged out five other finalists from around the world and the announcement, made on 22 May 2019, was met with ecstasy from South Africans in the crowd. As the winner, Ms Coetzee has been awarded with the MPI Foundation/Maritz Global Events Student Scholarship and jet off to New York to present her idea at a gala dinner.

Participants had to come up with ideas that would ensure food security in the future. Ms Coetzee’s Forbidden Fruit concept on the consumption of wild plants – which is simple, yet so effective – blew away the judges.

She said the consumption of wild food, such as some nutritious weeds in our gardens, can “reduce the gap of sustainability and poverty” in the near future. “In the context of food, South Africa is very [diverse]. It is something unique we can give to the rest of world in terms of our conservation.”

Ms Coetzee came up with the concept when she realised that the other finalists will be incorporating technology into their food security solutions. “I thought about what other people would do and thought they will go for more technology-driven food, like how meat will be produced in technological ways.”

She then thought about what South Africans were looking for in their food and came up with the Forbidden Fruit concept. “I looked at the nation as a whole. All of us want to live more sustainably and do not want GMO in our foods. So I thought of forbidden fruit, which goes back to where it all started, to [teach] people to harvest wild food. It can be more sustainable than technology-driven food.”

Ms Coetzee even suggested we take a look in our gardens to find nutritional wild plants. “The weeds in your garden; not all of it is poisonous. it might just make a tasty salad,” she said.

Ms Coetzee believes South Africa is one of the “breadwinners” for Africa’s tourism and meetings industries, attracting the bulk of international tourists to the continent. “We had the opportunity to be at IMEX, meet a lot of people from different countries and represent Africa as a whole – it will definitely bring new feet to the [continent].”

South African Tourism’s Chief Convention Bureau Officer Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo was at the gala dinner where Coetzee received her award.

“This is an extremely proud moment for us to see such talent from the South African tourism industry shine on the global stage,” said Ms Kotze-Nhlapo.

“Credit must also go to the Tourism faculty at North West University, as Emile is the third student from the university to have won this prestigious award in the last five years. It is also encouraging to note that next generation of tourism leaders from the African continent are starting to come through.”

“We wish Emile all the best with her scholarship and look forward to her sharing her key learnings with us and the greater tourism industry,” concluded Ms Kotze-Nhlapo.