Prolonged drought hits farmers hard, its impact felt both on the land’s surface and underground. But in Philippi, Cape Town, lies South Africa’s most productive horticultural area per hectare, atop a massive, easily accessible aquifer. If developers have their way, that will soon change, with potentially serious consequences for both the farmers and food security. By MARELISE VAN DER MERWE and HEIDI SWART for DAILY MAVERICK CHRONICLE.
All Chapters of the Cape of Storms to Come investigation can be accessed here
The Philippi Horticultural Area currently produces over 100,000 tonnes of vegetables per year – some estimate as much as 200,000 tonnes – keeping food costs low thanks to the farms’ proximity to the city centre.
The area is also described as “drought-proof” as it lies atop the Cape Flats Aquifer – a boon during the Cape’s devastating drought.
But the PHA is under threat. For nearly a decade, activists have been contesting two major property developments in Philippi on an area measuring some 753ha. They recently began fighting a proposed silica sand mine by Consol glass nearby, too.
The battle has now escalated. This year, the PHA Food and Farming Campaign is taking 12 respondents – including officials from local, national and provincial government – to court to fight for the land.
Initially, officials and developers argued development would help solve an urgent need for low-cost housing. But there was more to the story… DM
Photo: The southern edge of the Philippi Horticultural Area. Drone footage by Christiaan Serfontein
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