The intentions behind one of the City of Cape Town’s development projects has been questioned by the Phillipi Horticultural Area (PHA) Food and Farming Campaign. It follows the signing of a R40 million agreement between the City and the Philippi Economic Development Initiative (PEDI), described by the City as “a non-profit company and local implementing partner of the City.”
“This investment comes at a time when COVID-19 is threatening the health and livelihood of local communities. Collaboration between the local government, communities, the private sector and non-governmental organisations is needed more than ever before in strengthening our resilience and overcoming challenges,” said Cape Town Mayor Plato, in a statement.
This was elaborated on in a press release which outlined three main components of the project “within the Philippi Opportunity Area”:
- an expanded and upgraded agri-processing and packaging plant with the necessary equipment and technology to enable a variety of processes;
- an expanded waste-to-fertiliser manufacturing facility, including earthworm farming, that will assist in reducing solid waste volumes at landfills and benefit the environment; and
- a modern agri-training facility and support centre, offering a wider variety of training and skills development programmes related to small-scale organic farming methods and principles, as well as business development and support services
Speaking to VOC on Monday morning, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment Marian Nieuwoudt stated that the project, which was received with “excitement”, was selected out of four proposals that will heighten opportunities amid the job losses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. She echoed the sentiment that Phillipi has potential for economic development given its proximity to the Cape Town International Airport and abundant resources.
The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, James Vos, also pointed out that the expansion of a new market facility at the Philippi Fresh Produce Market expected to provide an alternative to small-scale and emerging community farmers to trade at lower costs. Vos described it as a pilot project which seeks to establish an “aerotropolis in the Metro-south East, to leverage a possible Special Economic Zone at ACSA’s 500ha Swartklip site and an industrial complex geared towards mass processing of fresh produce grown in the PHA.”
The City also claimed that it would be “tapping into the productive capacity of the PHA to strengthen existing agri-value chains and improv(e) local farmers’ market access”.
But, according to PHA Food and Farming Campaign co-ordinator Nazeer Sonday, the PHA had only been informed about the investment last month.
“As far as we’re concerned, we don’t believe that the money is actually invested in our area and communities. Nobody consulted us or any of the local stakeholders about this investment. We were dumbstruck,” said Sonday.
“The objectives of the funding appears to be an investment to the Philippi horticulture area but that’s not true, because if it was then the stakeholders would be part of designing the funding we would need for (our priorities) and challenges,” he noted.
The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Urban Management, Grant Twigg also described it as a “catalyst for real economic transformation” in the area.
Sonday said a similar commitment was made 10 years ago and bore little fruit.
In mid-February, small-scale farmers from the PHA were successful in their bid to halt a mixed-use development on 500 hectares of the area. The City and developer Oaklands City had planned to build over 30 000 homes.
Although the Cape Town High court found that the development wouldn’t pose a food-security risk because the land was not being used for farming, Sonday explained that the City lacked “climate impact, water, aquifer assessments”, the most recent of which were done in 2016.
Judge Kate Savage stated that South African municipalities must, from then on, specifically consider climate change and water scarcity when making planning decisions.
“We hoped that the City was going to leave it there and not concoct some different avenue for having the development approved because the court suspended the development,” said Sonday.