Politics, land ownership and power have dramatic effects on a city’s farming and food production. Leonie Joubert explores the Cape Town context in chapter 5 of the Food Dialogue Report, which contrasts the Philippi Horticultural Area with the Oranjezicht City Farm.
Cape Town’s veggie patch since the 1800s
The open farmlands and wetlands in the Philippi area of the Cape Flats have become contested territory. This is the last remaining piece of an area that has been regarded as Cape Town’s vegetable patch since the late 1800s.
It’s hard to say precisely how much fresh produce it feeds into the city’s food system every day but we get at least 40% to 50% of our cauliflower, carrots and lettuce from the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA), according to a report written by Dr Gareth Haysom and Dr Jane Battersby from the University of Cape Town’s African Food Security Urban Network (AFSUN).
- Find out more by browsing through AFSUN’s very relevant publications on food and cities in Southern Africa.
However, our city’s growing population also needs somewhere to live. People move here from elsewhere in the country, and natural birth rates also push up numbers. There is a huge housing shortage, with 300 000 families waiting for homes, although the plan to rezone the PHA isn’t for low-cost housing.
Nazeer Sonday, with the Schaapkraal Civic and Environmental Association, is spearheading a lobby group that is calling for the protection of the PHA from development. Reasons to protect the PHA:
- It’s a local source of fresh produce that has a lower carbon footprint and greater nutritional value because of the short distance between farmer and fork.
- Jobs are created directly through farming for people living in neighbouring communities, mostly in surrounding townships and informal settlements (2 000 to 3 000 jobs, depending on the season, two-thirds of which are for women).
- ‘Downstream’ employment and business opportunities linked to informal food markets.
- It helps recharge the Cape Flats aquifer.
Call to action: help saving the PHA
- Consumers can ask supermarkets to label PHA produce so they can seek it out at their local grocery stores and support Philippi farmers.
- Lobby city and provincial politicians to halt the 570ha Oakland City Development.
- Lobby government to declare the PHA South Africa’s first ‘agricultural conservation area’.
- Ask the Public Protector to investigate the Ministry of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning Anton Bredell’s decision to support the 570ha Oakland City Development.
‘Place’ and ‘placemaking’ are political things
‘Placemaking’ is the idea of building communities around places. It’s a way of planning and using public spaces that promote wellbeing and health in a community. Food has the ability to be at the centre of placemaking.
‘Places are already there,’ says Zarina Nteta of the Cape Town Partnership. ‘We can’t necessarily make places and we don’t want to entrench social, economic or cultural divides any more than are already there. What we bring to those places, is what matters. It can be a political act – how do we use and plan around ‘place’ in a way that challenges or overcomes the apartheid-formed spaces?’
Putting food back into public spaces is a political act. Planting fruit and nut trees in public spaces, and claiming public road verges, traffic islands and allotments for growing food for the community, are all ways of not just getting more fresh produce into our cities but changing attitudes towards food, community and public spaces.
The notion of ‘food sovereignty’ is as much about making sure that people have access to healthy culturally-appropriate food, as it is about people having ownership of the food system. It’s about communities not being the passive recipients of a trading system that has an unequal share of the power to decide who has access to what food, where, and at what cost.
Supporting local producers, informal traders and other links in the food value chain is about doing just that – giving local communities food sovereignty.
Market Day at the OZCF
The OZCF Market Day has taken on the function of a lively new public square.
Many people enjoy hanging around the OZCF farmers’ market, whether they’re there for a bunch of carrots or a head of lettuce, says OZCF’s Sheryl Ozinsky. There’s a lot more going on than the exchange of money for food at community markets. Someone might be collecting signatures on a petition. Another playing music. Children darting about. People sampling fresh produce, and talking to farmers and producers. Friends and acquaintances stopping to chat.
Michael Pollan, American food activist and writer, reports that one sociologist calculated that people have 10 times as many conversations at farmers’ markets than they do in the supermarket.
Farmers’ markets put the relationship between consumers and producers on a new, more neighbourly footing, enriching the kinds of information exchanged in the transaction, and encouraging customers to regard their food rands as ‘votes’ for a different kind of agriculture and, by implication, economy. It seems that people get more satisfaction from eating when it’s not just affordable, but has ethical and political value as well.
Promoting farmers’ markets throughout the city will help to support local producers, create a space for community engagement and promote access to nutritious food. This also recognises the legitimacy and importance of the informal food system.
Read more from the Food Dialogues Report
- Food security: Why city layout matters
- Food shopping: A guide for the flummoxed
- Food sovereignty: Politics and veggies in Cape Town
- Food culture: A city is what it eats
- Food gardens: The secret to success
- Food nutrition: The real cost of bad eating
- Food ecosystem: Greening up our plates
- Nutritious food? Why money matters
This article first appeared in the the Food Dialogues Report. Click on the link to download the PDF (36mb), or flip through it on Issuu.