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Grown in Philippi - Smallholder Floris Brand

Grown-in-Philippi---Smallholder-Floris-Brand

Blog and photo by Deni Archer. This series forms part of World Design Capital 2014 #WDC585.

Philippi smallholder disillusioned by the City’s ability to manage

To say that Floris Brand is disillusioned by the City of Cape Town’s ability to manage Philippi would be an understatement. Having been a smallholding resident in the agricultural area on the urban edge of Cape Town since 1978, Floris has been witness to the gradual degradation of the area, which he says is simply due to neglect from the powers that be. “It’s been a painful transition,” Floris reflects. “Like watching something young and pretty turn into something horribly unpleasant over 30 years.”

When Floris moved here from the suburbs in the late seventies to rear horses on his plot, Philippi was pristine. During his outrides over the flats, he would meet only native buck grazing the plains, and occasionally the local troop of baboons on their seasonal migrations through the area from Tokai. Not these days, says Floris.

Floris Brand, 59, has lived in Philippi since 1978. He is saddened by what he views as its "painful" demise.

Grown-in-Philippi---Smallholder-Floris-Brand

Neglect breeds dysfunctionality

That Philippi has become a dysfunctional area is common knowledge. The City of Cape Town (‘the City’) is using this as an excuse to push for the rezoning of large tracts of prime agricultural land for property development. But Floris feels that this dysfunctionality is entirely the fault of the City’s neglect. In fact, he goes so far to say that Philippi has been neglected on purpose, to support unconsulted political decisions on town planning.

Floris has a thick file of papers documenting his participation in numerous citizen forums and meetings with the City. He pulls out a copy of The Philippi Horticultural Area Management Plan which lays out the entire area. It shows the importance of the smallholdings which act as a vital buffer zone between the residential suburban areas and the commercial farming land, protecting it from urban pollutants. “But I don’t have a small holding anymore,” complains Floris, “I just have 2 500 square metres of land in a built up area which is becoming more and more ungovernable. And now they want to dump more people in the area through high density housing when there are already so many problems in the area?”

Agricultural area not politically represented

Floris believes the problems began back in the nineties when the rural council was disbanded and the City’s demarcation board included Philippi and other agricultural areas like Noordhoek and Constantia into the metropole. “That’s when we lost our political representation because Philippi was included in the same ward as more built up suburban areas. Naturally, the councillors voted in are chosen by the suburban residents, not the farmers, because of the numbers,” Floris explains. Floris believes that this lack of representation combined with the appointment of new officials who didn’t understand the complexities of an agricultural area, formed the foundation for the poor management of the area.

However, this doesn’t explain the lack of response that Floris and his neighbours experience on just about every complaint they raise, or democratic process they participate in. They’ve still heard nothing in response to concerns and issues they highlighted at a public participation meeting on proposed developments in Philippi, run by Setplan for the City. Nor on consultations held on the The Philippi Horticultural Area Management Plan. Floris feels disempowered: “When I have participated in things like this, why am I still sitting at this crossroad where I may have to abandon my home? I am almost 60. I can’t start over again.”

Philippi key to future-proofing Cape Town

In terms of the threat to the productive land in the area, Floris is pragmatic in his opinion. He feels the potential of the area to produce even more of Cape Town’s food is immense - if it can be protected. He also feels it’s a no-brainer that Philippi should be kept in agriculture. “If you look at the things that are going to affect us in the future - transport costs, and the carbon footprint of the vegetables reaching your table  - if this is within the boundaries of the city and you have a coolish climate and lots of water, like Philippi does, the facts all point to a productive area that needs to be preserved. If you look at this against the backdrop of a world that is drying out, with growing populations, then to keep a fresh produce area in Cape Town alive is definitely sensible,” he says.

Floris points to land in the northern reaches of the Philippi Horticultural Area to address the need for housing. That land is no longer suitable for farming, he says, so it makes better sense to put housing there, and keep the fertile land free for food production. “Here’s the big question,” Floris says earnestly. “Is the City going to make responsible decisions so that in twenty years we still have affordable vegetables on our tables? Or is this administration going to be seen as the administration that starved future generations of food security?”

Grown-in-Philippi---Smallholder-Floris-Brand

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are not those of Foodwithastory.co.za. This is a representation of the interviewee's opinion as interpreted by the interviewer.

The Grown in Philippi project is independent of Foodwithastory.co.za. Deni Archer is a founder of this project, which aims to create a relationship between Cape Town’s citizens and the food growing area at its heart. Grown in Philippi is presently a zero income volunteer programme focused on storytelling and consumer education. Grown in Philippi is fully supportive of the Save the PHA campaign, led by Nazeer Sonday. To find out more about the Save the PHA campaign, contactnasonday@gmail.comTo find out more about Grown in Philippi, contact deni@foodwithastory.co.za


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