Save our urban agriculture

WHETHER it is Abalimi Bezekhaya in Philippi, Tyisa Nabanye @ Erf 81 in Tamboerskloof, or Gaia Waldorf & Oude Molen Farm in Pinelands, all of the City’s urban permaculture projects providing much needed employment, organic produce and sustainability are under threat from developers.

Urban agriculture may once again be destroyed by officialdom as Big Pharma and Agribiz stages a complete takeover, and the connection between those living in the cities, and the rural areas is finally severed.  If plans already underway reach their conclusion, the green lungs and arteries of Cape Town will be shutdown forever.

Farmers of the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA), which produces 150 000 tons of vegetables a year, “fear they will have to make way for a development in the area, as developers have already purchased hundreds of hectares of land and have requested the City’s go-ahead.”

“Farmers say they worry that if a rezoning application by Multi Spectrum Property Developments (MSPD) was granted, it would mean the “death warrant” for vast hectares of prime agricultural land.”

At Oude Molen, farmer Gary Glass finally got his marching orders last year, after a decade spent contesting eviction by the City authorities. Given an option to stay but only under close management, or leave, and with plans that severely curtailed the ability of the farm to produce food, he chose to vacate the property in December last year. The property still has a number of food allotments, but the bulk is being developed, alongside the Vincent Pallotti redevelopment, which will see a public hospital being turned into housing, yet another blow to the roll-out of national health insurance.

Farmer Andre Laubscher at Erf81 faces a similar dilemma. The farm which is the site for artists, traders and a permaculture township outreach project called Tyisa Nabanye is on prime real estate overlooking the City. That all three projects provide sustainable food production in the City appears to be of no consequence to the mandarins in power.

The projects are all a legacy of the anti-apartheid struggle, in which food gardens and permaculture were seen as the antidote to conscription into the apartheid military.

Oude Molen is the result of dehospitalisation, after the apartheid asylum on the property was torn down. Erf81 has a similar history, being a former military base and arms magazine, it is now an example of demilitarisation. Abalima Bezekhaya is most notable for being an outreach project started during the 80s, producing much needed food gardens, also known as peace gardens.

Without a green fringe, the City risks becoming a strip mall.

In order to provide public housing while maintaining the green arteries, the City would need to expedite the WesCape development on the Western edge of the City, but this also means sacrificing farmland. Deciding which farms are to stay and which are to go is an impossible task.

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