Oranjezicht City Farm: food, community, connection

Jacana, 2016 

The story of an urban farming initiative in Cape Town, written for, and with the Oranjezicht City Farm volunteers.

The Hungry Season: feeding Southern Africa's cities  

Picador Africa, 2012 

The food we eat is as diverse as the cultures and lifestyles of the people consuming it. But the issues underlying food run much deeper than the whims of our cultures or palates. Until now, the subject of food security has mostly been viewed as a rural issue, with research and development work honing in on subsistence farming. But with the massive influx into cities, the focus needs to shift to the metropolis.

The Hungry Season takes science writer Leonie Joubert and photographer Eric Miller to eight different cities and towns around southern Africa as they explore the complex issues around food security.
Ultimately, The Hungry Season looks at the crisis of hunger and malnutrition surrounding us in the city, hidden behind layers of affluence and comfort. It tackles the fundamental question: Why is it that in southern Africa we produce enough calories and nutrients to keep the region full, satisfied and well nourished, and yet we still have such high levels of hunger and malnutrition?



Reviews of The Hungry Season
‘Leonie…what a clever and perceptive journalist you are. How silky-smooth your writing. How detailed your observations on the diversity of food issues faced by the many sub-populations of Southern Africa. How kind and thoughtful your considerations of the many whys there are to explain food choices. And how salient and solid your conclusions. While your subjects live thousands of miles away from the UK, so much of what you discuss translates fully into food issues debated in this country. The Hungry Season is a delightfully full colour, content-rich book that will enhance the professional interest of all dietitian readers.’ Ursula Arens, NHDmag.com, October 2013 – Issue 88.
‘(The Hungry Season is) a compelling and robust analysis of poverty, hunger and obesity that will hopefully persuade urbanists in southern Africa to use the urban food question as a prism through which to better understand the distinctive drama of African urbanisation’. Prof Kevin Morgan, Governance and Development at Cardiff University for Urban Africa.
‘(Leonie) has written my favourite food book of the year. The Hungry Season is an amazing and much-needed book that looks at the state of the nation through the way we eat, whether by choice or lack thereof.’ Andrea Burgener, Bread & Butter, The Times, November 2012.
‘Richly descriptive, quietly empathetic, always rigorous, The Hungry Season is a vital contribution to a subject urgently deserving of our attention.’ Alexander Matthews A feast of words, Business Day, November 2012.
‘Part travel writing, part science writing and part investigative journalism.’ Former Getaway editor Don Pinnock.
‘Hearty applause after moving, searing narrative account, read aloud by Leonie Joubert.’ Liesl Jobson via Twitter for Bookslive at the book launch.

Invaded: the biological invasion of South Africa 

Wits Press, 2009

Invaded is a story about pollution...but not the more commonly reported oil spills, litter or filthy smoke-stacks. Invaded is about biological pollution - the plants and animals that have spread around the globe on the back of human movement, those that have traversed the boundaries of natural habitats and have begun to erode their new adopted environment. In telling the story of biological pollution, Leonie Joubert documents the grave consequences of humankind's intended and unintended introduction of alien species into South Africa.

While some rivers have lost their natural fish populations, the west coast is choked over with mussels from a far-off country; the Cape Floral Kingdom's rare plants have come under increasing threat; sensitive renosterveld has been reduced to a few isolated islands of resistance; dams and lakes have been taken over by an umbrella of aquatic plants; and water is being consumed voraciously by thirsty alien trees.

Working in close collaboration with the Centre for Invasion Biology at Stellenbosch University, Leonie Joubert brings the general reader a scientifically sound yet accessible and important book. Invaded is, however, not a story of despair. Instead, it encourages scientists, citizens and policy-makers to continue with their efforts to contain and eradicate invasive alien species. It is a book for the guardians of the South African environment


Boiling Point: people in a changing climate

Wits Press, 2008 

'When you tug on a single thing in nature,' said the conservationist John Muir, 'you find it attached to the rest of the world.' Nowhere is this more evident than in the climate crisis. Tugging on a thread of our shared atmosphere in China or the USA, for example, by shunting pollution into the skies, causes the fabric of local weather patterns to unravel half a world away. Climate change is the biggest moral problem of our time, as people who have contributed least to the pollution responsible for global warming are increasingly understood to be most vulnerable to the shifting environment around them.

In Boiling Point, Leonie Joubert embarks on a journey in which she explores the lives of some South Africans affected by this phenomenon: a rooibos tea farmer in the Northern Cape, a traditional fisherman in Lambert’s Bay, a farmer in the centre of the Free State’s maize belt, a political refugee in Pietermaritzburg and a sangoma in Limpopo mining country. Most of these communities live on a knife-edge because of poverty and their dependence on an already capricious natural environment. Boiling Point considers what might happen to them as normal weather trends are amplified in a hotter world.

Scorched: South Africa's changing climate

Wits Press, 2007

Scorched is a vivid journey through southern Africa’s mesmerizing landscapes as climate change sets in. It wanders through the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands to capture the last faltering calls of a rain frog that was named after the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. The author pauses for thought following an elephant stampede to consider how savannahs might shift in an altered climate. She trails the wading birds of the West Coast into the high Arctic tundra for their annual breeding season before returning to a Cape which is crisping over as drought continues to grip the province.
Another world exists somewhere beyond the global politicking of superpowers and petrostates. This is the place where a solitary bee continues to pollinate the pale, demure flower of an orchid near Darling, or where the limey coral skeleton hosts its colourful algae on a Sodwana reef. These plants and animals—many of which are unique to the region—continue to do what their ancestors have done for millions of years. Yet the world is shifting its shape around them. In places it is warming and drying, elsewhere the rains come in greater deluges. Some are abandoned by the other plants and animals with which they have cohabited, as species retreat before the onslaught of rising greenhouse gases and altered weather patterns.

Scorched gives powerful local color to a global problem. It ponders the morality of the changes humankind has wrought, and the future of life as we know it.


Praise for Scorched
Scorched is a stimulating read, mostly because of the author’s metaphoric and often poetic style of writing … More importantly, it makes you want to do something about global warming.’ – Don PinnockGetaway magazine
‘Meticulous in its research, the information [in Scorched] is presented in a refreshing and surprisingly humorous style – better, even, than Tim Flannery [author of The Weather Makers] or Al Gore.’ – Duncan Butchart, WILDwatch.com



Opinion Pieces by South African Thought Leaders

Penguin, 2011, edited by Max de Preez

Bending the Curve

Africa Geographic, 2008, edited by Robert Zipplies

Get the full book here.














Climate Governance in Africa: a handbook for journalists

IPS Africa and the Heinrich Boll Foundation

Download the handbook here