Two tonnes of tomatoes land on your doorstep. What do you do?

This isn’t a riddle. This is what happened in March 2022 in Magaliesburg when a Men’s Forum meeting at the Nedbank-funded community activation hub received a generous donation of mixed-grade tomatoes from local Olympian turned farmer, Martin Senore and his business.

The answer? You sort, grade, donate and hold a Magaliesburg Hot Sauce Competition!

“The purpose of the Hot Sauce Competition was to explore ways in which products produced at community gardens can be processed and sold. The competition was sponsored by the Nedbank Proud of my Town programme,” says Ranyaka local coordinator in Magaliesburg, Ryan Marsden.

“Gardeners who have been trained to grow tomatoes have been encouraged to turn sub-par grade produce into cooked products for sale at local outlets. Because of the mixed nature of the tomato donation, we were able to do a practical exercise on sorting the tomatoes and grading them into categories for distribution to local charities, the clinic, the old age home, NGOs, NPOs and competition participants,” explains Ryan.

A total of 8 teams (20 women and 18 men) took to the kitchen to show off their sauce-making skills. The Chairperson of the Magaliesburg Stakeholders group, Cogta official Matapelo Ndlovu, was present at the forum gathering to receive the tomatoes and was instrumental in encouraging about 20 of the men to participate. “Matapelo had already been hard at work, rallying stakeholders to encourage unemployed individuals to participate in the competition,” says Ryan.

Adding extra flavour to the occasion, a retired local restaurateur with more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality sector offered to assist with the competition and judge the sauces. Says Ryan, “He was impressed by the orderly structure of the day, which started with the prompt arrival of participants to set up the venue MasterChef style, a welcome and opening prayer and then a set timetable for events during the day. Advance planning had been thoroughly done and all of the consumables and disposables required for the event had been procured locally, giving an impetus to local farmers and businesses.”

The challenge at hand? To produce a ‘Magaliesburg Hot Sauce’ that should eventually provide employment opportunities for local community members trained to produce and market the sauce. The retired chef went from table to table, advising contestants on kitchen hygiene, safe cutting techniques, and the quantities of tomatoes that should be included in the sauce. By lunchtime, every group was able to sample their products on fresh bread and then prepare testing samples. Blind judging was done and the “Gogos Team” won the event with their very tasty mid-strength chilli sauce.

Each of the 38 participants went home with a Nedbank bag, tomatoes and cooked sauce – and, of course, the invaluable experience of having prepared food in a commercial kitchen, thanks to the hands-on guidance of the judging chef.

Nothing went to waste, with local pig farmers collecting all the scraps left from a day of cooking up a veritable storm. It would be conservative to estimate that at least 500 community members benefited from a jam-packed (or would that be, tomato-packed?) day. This would not, however, have been possible without upfront planning and coordination to ensure local buy-in from community stakeholders, the provision of food preparation and cooking equipment – and of course, the generosity of farmers growing and donating their sub-grade produce for re-appropriation by the local community.

Thank you to every stakeholder, donor and MasterChef in the making who was involved in ensuring the success of this day. May this be the start of great things!

Magaliesburg is one of 21 communities in 8 provinces across South Africa that forms part of the Nedbank Proud of my Town programme, for which Ranyaka is the implementation agent. Ranyaka started working in Magaliesburg more than five years ago – working alongside dynamic local change agents, the Magalies Development Initiative, the Magalies Business & Tourism Forum and other local stakeholders to explore and implement ways to help grow and develop the area. The journey is ongoing and it is a privilege to work alongside such committed local community heroes!

A big thank you to our local coordinator in Magaliesburg, Ryan Marsden, who has also become a key team member assisting in driving a national food gardens project in multiple communities across several provinces. We are proud of our towns – and proud of our team!