Farmers fear development of Cape Towns Philippi urban farmlands could cost them their livelihoods and worsen the citys already extreme food inequality
Losing the Philippi Horticultural Area to development would be catastrophic, says farmer Nazeer Sonday who has been fighting to protect this farmland in the heart of Cape Town for nearly a decade.The area is key to the citys climate resilience and resolution of its food crisis.
The coming months are critical. Last week, a court battle began which Sonday fears may determine not only his own future, but that of the most fertile agricultural land in South Africa.
An hours drive around Table Mountain from the centre of Cape Town, the PHA is surrounded by the densely populated Cape Flats townships of Mitchells Plain, Grassy Park and Athlone areas infamous for poverty and gang violence. Yet, cooled by sea breezes from nearby False Bay which help make up to five crop cycles a year possible, the farmland produces around 200,000 tonnes of vegetables a year, mostly carrots, cabbages and squashes. Its 50 farms supply up to 30% of vegetables consumed in the city.
The underground aquifer on which the PHA sits is crucial too, providing irrigation and drinking water even during times of severe drought. Last year, as the city neared day zero, the Cape Flats Aquifer remained a key water source.
But despite being farmed for more than 130 years, campaigners fear the citys vegetable basket is under threat. Last Tuesday the PHA Food and Farming Campaign and Sonday, its chairman, brought a case against the City of Cape Town and the provincial government for Local Development, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.