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Thursday Jul 25, 2013

Philippi farming area 'critical agricultural asset'

The Philippi Horticultural Area was of 'critical importance' to the city and loss of the area would undermine livelihoods and food security, and fundamentally erode any notion of Cape Town as a sustainable city.

This is one of the findings of a study by two researchers at UCT's African Centre for Cities, Jane Battersby-Lennard and Gareth Haysom, who assessed whether Philippi Horticultural Area was an agricultural asset, or a node for potential urban development.

The study, released last year, found that the area was a key city asset and any decisions about it had broad implications for a wide set of stakeholders.

They estimated that Philippi produced just under 100 000 tons of fresh produce a year, which included an estimated figure of more than 2 000 tons of produce that was given free to farmworkers every year. This played a critical role in the food security of surrounding communities.

More than 50 types of crops were grown. The farmers had realigned their production to new markets and were 'actively selling direct to the major retailers, retailer agents and restaurants and speciality stores'.

There was a trend of high labour use, with an average of 2.5 full-time workers a hectare, and another 1.5 temporary workers a hectare between December and April. With an estimated land area under production of 940ha, this meant 2 350 full time employees and 1 410 part time, a total of 3 760 jobs. As different farms used labour differently, this was a potential employment estimate. About 70 percent of the workforce was female.

If a more conservative estimate of 2 000 full time employees were used, this would translate into annual wages of R36 million for full-time employees and R7.5m for part time, and total 'wage opportunity' of R43.5m.

A trend the researchers picked up was that there appeared to be a distinct shift - contrary to market trends - of increasing full-time permanent staff. Generally staff came from Crossroads, Philippi, Browns Farm, Samora Machel, Grassy Park, Nyanga, Langa and Gugulethu.

The researchers said previous 'narratives' had often deliberately undermined the value of the area. However, the city's own Agricultural Land Report of 2008 had found Philippi Horticultural Area to be of 'significant importance' and rated it fourth out of 13 agricultural areas in the city.

Previous studies had not looked at Philippi through 'a food lens' and had created a view that the food value of the area was negligible and the area in decline. This was 'certainly not the case'. They also debunked the notion that commercial farmers in the area were simply 'waiting for offers from developers and will then leave the land'. Many farmers, both larger scale and emerging small-holders, were investing heavily in the land. The areas had been farmed since at least the mid 1800s, and was of 'critical heritage importance'.

Problems researchers found was in the administration of the area, and the uncertainty surrounding its future. This worried and frustrated farmers. The study recommended that the urban edge needed to be defined clearly and the Philippi Horticultural Area secured as a farming area.

One governance structure should be established and given full responsibility for the area. An intergovernmental task team with full decisionmaking ability should support and co-ordinate activities in the area.

Cape Times


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