Building an active civil society and promoting democracy

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195 Schaapkraal Road, Philippi Horticultural Area, Ottery, 7941 Email:

Building an active civil society and promoting democracy

Re: Media release, saving the PHA

Date: 25.03.2012

Dear Sir

The Philippi Horticultural Area-PHA- has historically been very important to the City's food system and ecological stability. The PHA produces over 50% of the fresh produce consumed in Cape Town. The area also serves as an important recharge function for the Cape Flats Aquifer and is the green lungs for the Cape Flats. The PHA has been reduced in size through development pressure over the years and the remaining part is under immense pressure right now.

The PHA is an agricultural area located in the heart of the greater Cape Flats. It is approximately 3000ha in extent and is rural in character. The area was first intensively farmed when German immigrants landed on the shores of the Cape of Good Hope in 1883.

In the early 1900’s the agricultural area of Philippi stretched from the current M5 in the west to near the False Bay coastline in the south, from parts of Athlone in the north to the whole of Mitchell’s Plain up to Swartklip Road in the East. The area became known as the ‘’Kaapse Vlakte’ or Cape Flats. The Cape Flats was used by indigenous hunter gathers for millennia. It was the grazing ground for Khoisan herders for over 2000 years prior to the arrival of the European settlers. The Cape Flats became the contact point between the local herders and European settlers during the 17th century.

As the population of the city grew over time so has the need for housing also increased, with the consequence the agricultural area today has consolidated into a unique space in the heart of the current Cape Flats.

From a food security perspective for a growing population, the PHA is a critical resource now and even more so in the future. Poverty and inequality is rife on the Cape Flats where according to an AFSUN study 80% of the population is food insecure. PHA agriculture supports 2000 jobs and this increases by 40% in summer. It also supports vulnerable groups such as illiterate women, hawkers, spaza shops and small business. Because of its close proximity to the low income market on the Cape Flats, the cost of access (transport, etc) is cheap which keeps the price of fresh produce low. There is some 600ha that can be made available for cultivating food crops by emerging farmers which can increase the PHA’s contribution to the market from 50& to more than 80%.

The on-going food crisis in the world has led to food security being the number one focus for progressive cities in the developing world. In the climate of climate change, increasing transport and energy costs and rapid urbanisation, progressive cities in the developing world are planning ahead for the food security of their populations. As a city, we should be thinking and planning around these issues too.

The increasing and often violent service delivery protests are as much about the high cost of living as it is about the slow rate of transformation, lack of jobs and development. The agriculture sector has the potential to address these issues if our agricultural land is protected and emerging farmers are nurtured in the appropriate technologies and support.

South Africa’s water demand will outstrip supply by 2015- WWF

The ecology of the PHA is part of the larger Cape Flats ecology which plays an important role in the lives of the people in Cape Town. The Cape Flats is the custodian of a massive underground water reservoir called the Cape Flats Aquifer. A study done by the United Nations Environmental Protection Agency in 2006 concluded that there is enough water in the Cape Flats Aquifer to supply two-thirds of the basic water needs of the city of Cape Town.

Underground aquifers are a very efficient way to store water since there is little evaporation. Aquifers don’t use any surface area. But the aquifer has to be protected from abuse such as over-extraction, pollution and be allowed to replenish itself. Levels of pollutants are high in the CFA. This can be managed by improving or upgrading sanitation in informal settlements in the PHA and on the Cape Flats and upgrading the estimated 800 soak-away-septic tanks in the PHA’s housing estates that discharge sewerage into the water table. The wetlands in the PHA and on the Cape Flats which recharge and replenish the aquifer must be protected from development.

The PHA holds the last naturally occurring wetlands on the Cape Flats. 20% of the PHA floods during winter. This recharges the CFA and is a critical function to maintain the level of water available and improve the quality of water. The PHA ecology support 95 plants species, 100 bird species, 7 reptilian species and 4 amphibian species. Agriculture in the PHA depends entirely on the CFA for irrigation. But crucially for Cape Town, the CFA is an important future water source and mitigation against the worst effects of expected climate change.

Large parts of the Western Cape are already water stressed and this means available water resources need to be better managed while recycling water will take increasing prominence in the future. Annually millions of litres of recycled water at the Strandfontein Waste Water Works is pumped into the sea. The close proximity of the PHA to this facility could see recycled water diverted to farmers’ irrigation dams in the future.

A planning study in 2009 found that due to the highly favourable climate and soil factors in the PHA, similar crops grown on the periphery of the city use as much as 4 times more water. This together with the ever increasing transport and energy costs has a huge influence on the price of fresh produce at the stores.

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