Grow­ing ur­ban net­work

High poverty, un­em­ploy­ment, in­equal­ity could be ad­dressed by small-scale farm­ing – cam­paign

Cape Argus - - METRO - NAZEER A SONDAY Nazeer A Sonday is chair­per­son of the PHA Food & Farm­ing Cam­paig n.

MEET ur­ban farm­ers Nomonde Buthelezi and Hazel Nyaba who live and farm in Mfu­leni, about 40km from Cape Town.

Over two days last month, 20 smallscale farm­ers and farm­ers-in-train­ing got to­gether to help build farm­ers Nomonde and Hazel’s mi­cro farm, part of a grow­ing net­work of smallscale farm­ers who sup­port each other through farmer-to-farmer learn­ing and shar­ing of re­sources. This is an ini­tia­tive of the PHA Food & Farm­ing Cam­paign*.

More than 70% of global food pro­duc­tion is from small-scale farm­ers – 70% of Africa’s food is pro­duced by small-scale farm­ers. China’s food se­cu­rity de­pends on 200 mil­lion small-scale farm­ers who farm on an av­er­age of two hectares. In South Africa, colo­nial­ism and apartheid al­most de­stroyed smallscale farm­ers. But de­spite this and poor gov­ern­ment sup­port, 200 000 black small-scale farm­ers are ac­tive.

Small-scale farm­ing fea­tured in the ANC’s New Growth Path, the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan and now in a state­ment by Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa.

The late and re­spected Univer­sity of Stel­len­bosch pro­fes­sor Sampie Ter­re­blanche warned that with­out de­vel­op­ing South Africa’s man­u­fac­tur­ing and small-scale farm­ing sec­tors, it would not ad­dress the high poverty, un­em­ploy­ment and in­equal­ity lev­els.

In his es­say “Early Zim­babwe land re­form showed the value of smallscale farm­ers” Pro­fes­sor Xolela Mangcu noted Zim­babwe’s land re­form in the early 1980s (be­fore the “fast-track” pro­gramme bet­ter de­scribed by Ho­race Camp­bell as “ex­ec­u­tive law­less­ness”), shows small-scale farm­ers made bet­ter use of land which led to the in­crease of to­tal na­tional agri­cul­tural out­put.

De­vel­op­ing small-scale farm­ers in agroe­col­ogy can help ad­dress some of to­day’s key chal­lenges like cli­mate change, hunger, soil, wa­ter and bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion. It’s an im­por­tant com­po­nent of land re­form and restora­tive jus­tice.

Agroe­col­ogy is con­cerned with the eco­log­i­cal, so­cio-eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal im­pact of agri­cul­ture and the food sys­tem. It seeks to place farm­ers and con­sumers at the cen­tre of the food sys­tem. Farm­ers prac­tis­ing agroe­col­ogy seek to mimic na­ture in pro­duc­tion.

Two im­por­tant el­e­ments for pro­duc­ing crops are ni­tro­gen for growth and man­ag­ing pests. Ni­tro­gen and 40 other nu­tri­ents es­sen­tial for growth is ac­cu­mu­lated through land use man­age­ment tech­niques such as us­ing cover crops, crop ro­ta­tion of ni­tro­gen-fix­ing legumes and com­post use.

In­dus­trial-style pest man­age­ment (via pes­ti­cides) is a large con­trib­u­tor to the ex­tinc­tion of in­sects. These in­sects play a vi­tal role in the web of life on earth: for ev­ery pest there are 1 700 ben­e­fi­cial in­sects. Pes­ti­cides kill a few pests but de­stroy en­tire pop­u­la­tions of ben­e­fi­cial in­sects, and the residue in our food is a ma­jor health con­cern.

Through agroe­co­log­i­cal prac­tise, farm­ers con­serve lo­cal plant species and even set aside land for this as part of an ecosys­tem to main­tain pest and preda­tor in the right bal­ance. In this way two giant over­heads (fer­tiliser and pes­ti­cides) are elim­i­nated, mak­ing food more af­ford­able and in­fin­itely health­ier for peo­ple and planet.

For ev­ery R1 mil­lion spent in the veg­etable in­dus­try, 4.5 in­dus­try jobs are cre­ated and 46.5 in­di­rect jobs. This mul­ti­plier ef­fect is un­par­al­leled in any other sec­tor, es­pe­cially within vul­ner­a­ble groups: youth and women.

Agri­cul­ture zoned land is so zoned be­cause of its prop­er­ties. Favourable cli­mate, soil and wa­ter in the PHA is ir­re­place­able and there­fore fi­nite. Our strug­gle il­lu­mi­nates the is­sue of pro­tect­ing well-lo­cated agri­cul­tural land from ur­ban sprawl – a global cri­sis.

The de­bate about land re­form is also play­ing out in the PHA. The con­cept of ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion – in the pub­lic in­ter­est – of agri­cul­ture zoned er­ven owned by de­vel­op­ers, spec­u­la­tors and min­ing com­pa­nies is cen­tral to pro­vid­ing Cape Town’s 500 ex­ist­ing farm­ers like Nomonde and Hazel with a vi­able liveli­hood.

There are 11 000ha of non-agri­cul­tural land iden­ti­fied by the city as ap­pro­pri­ate for de­vel­op­ment – and hous­ing must be placed there.

Hunger is a lo­cal and na­tional cri­sis: a 2012 African Food Se­cu­rity Ur­ban Net­work study on 1 000 homes in three wards (Ocean View, Philippi and Khayelit­sha) quan­ti­fied house­hold food in­se­cu­rity at 80%. This means that adults and chil­dren in these house­holds are go­ing to bed hun­gry.

Mean­while, su­per­mar­ket shelves are over­flow­ing with food; the prob­lem lies not in avail­abil­ity, but af­ford­abil­ity. Small-scale farm­ers can ad­dress this through the pro­vi­sion of food lo­cally. Thus, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion is im­por­tant. The strug­gle to pro­tect the PHA is ex­actly this.

Pro­tec­tion of land like the PHA is crit­i­cal be­cause it’s close to peo­ple. The PHA is within 15km of ev­ery cit­i­zen – so close we are al­most in your kitchen. The ben­e­fits don’t stop here.

Agri­cul­tural fields are habi­tat for bees and pol­li­na­tors. It is es­ti­mated two-thirds of our food will dis­ap­pear through poor land use man­age­ment in­her­ent in the in­dus­trial large-scale farm­ing model and through ur­ban sprawl. Farm­lands har­vest storm wa­ter to recharge aquifers – 25% of the earth’s to­tal sup­ply is stored as ground wa­ter. Via Man­aged Aquifer Recharge us­ing avail­able waste wa­ter now dumped into the sea, the Cape Flats Aquifer can de­liver 30% of the city’s potable needs.

Clas­si­cal eco­nomic the­ory would have it that the “free mar­ket” price of a cab­bage is ar­rived at through sup­ply and de­mand. But in re­al­ity, be­cause super­mar­kets con­trol 70% of our food, they dic­tate their own price to farm­ers; and while watch­ing their com­peti­tors cal­cu­late the max­i­mum sell­ing price on what con­sumers will bear.

Share­holder prof­i­teer­ing is the pri­mary con­cern. The only thing free about the “free mar­ket” food sys­tem, is that cor­po­rates are free from gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion to amass mas­sive prof­its; while 14 mil­lion South Africans go to bed hun­gry – on one meal or less per day. In the ab­sence of af­ford­able vegeta­bles, land and time, obe­sity, di­a­betes and hy­per­ten­sion mul­ti­ply.

Small-scale farm­ers can ad­dress this mid­dle­man ex­trac­tion model by grow­ing food lo­cally and make healthy, af­ford­able food avail­able through di­rect sales: food boxes, bakkie traders, hawk­ers and farm­ers’ mar­kets.

To­day, 34 000 white com­mer­cial farm­ers pro­duce 80% of our food, but 80% of this is pro­duced by only 20% of these farm­ers. The rest are land­lords.

In a wa­ter-scarce coun­try with only 14 mil­lion ha ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing food, up to 80% of our agri­cul­tural land is in­ef­fi­ciently used or fal­low.

Mean­while, 200 000 black smallscale farm­ers hold down mul­ti­ple jobs in or­der to farm. They sim­ply don’t have ac­cess to enough well-lo­cated land and the ap­pro­pri­ate sup­port to make their farm­ing an eco­nom­i­cally vi­able liveli­hood.

In the PHA, landown­ers seek to cash in on the land spec­u­la­tion bub­ble and sell to de­vel­op­ers. Had the agri­cul­ture zon­ing been re­spected by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, this would never have hap­pened.

Via spec­u­la­tion, peri-ur­ban agri­cul­tural land has be­come scarcer and too ex­pen­sive to farm; this di­rectly af­fects the price of our food. The su­per­mar­ket busi­ness is not about food, but the lo­gis­tics of mov­ing goods across the coun­try, and around the world.

The fur­ther food trav­els, the greater the profit. If food can­not be sourced lo­cally – the logic goes – we truck it in. Lit­tle thought is given (ex­cept in ad­ver­tis­ing) to the phe­nom­e­non of global warm­ing, re­gional and na­tional droughts; or peri-ur­ban agri­cul­tural land in South Africa is be­ing wiped out at an alarm­ing rate by ur­ban sprawl.

The num­bers out of PHA stud­ies show that if the whole of the 3 169ha farm­lands is pro­tected – the PHA Cam­paign is in the high court fight­ing for one-third un­der threat from de­vel­op­ments and min­ing – the con­tri­bu­tion to the city’s econ­omy will be R848m di­rectly and R1.6 bil­lion in­di­rectly; jobs – 5 000 di­rect and 55 000 in­di­rectly.

Hor­ti­cul­ture is food we eat ev­ery day: vegeta­bles, fruits, nuts, herbs, small an­i­mal pro­tein. Ex­trap­o­lat­ing the PHA num­bers na­tion­ally means in­creas­ing the 200 000 small-scale farm­ers to 500 000 and pro­vid­ing mean­ing­ful jobs to 5 mil­lion. Now this is huge im­pact and why agri­cul­ture is con­sid­ered the back­bone of an econ­omy. Nomonde and Hazel are cen­tral to this equa­tion. The PHA Cam­paign Far­mBuild is funded by the Hein­rich Boll Foun­da­tion.

SEV­ENTY per­cent of Africa’s food is pro­duced by small-scale farm­ers. In­set: Nomonde Buthelezi and Hazel Nyaba.

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