Saving Philippi Farming Area For Future Generations
Big Issue|Issue 290
Certified professional soil scientist Christopher D’Aiuto of the PEDI AgriHub turns the spotlight on commercial farming in the city, and shares lessons learnt from the Philippi Horticultural Area.
Christopher D'aiuto

The Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) encapsulates Cape Town’s hopes for a fair future. Those of us in the food space hope for a future of increased food production with land restitution. What we see day-to-day, however, is increasing theft, abandonment, and settlement where the land becomes more untenable. As we are told that older heritage farmers are aging out of a conventional system of agriculture that makes less and less commercial sense, what is the future of this uncertain land?

What few have noticed is that some have taken land restitution into their own hands. Around 1999, three families moved to the PHA from surrounding neighbourhoods, and are now working hard to build commercial organic farms that are productive and regenerative spaces.

Sameena and Abdurahman Kariel of Valota Farm started farming conventionally four years ago in order to start generating an income from the estate. Sameena’s husband’s family had originally moved there from nearby Montana for peace and quiet, and to have wide open space. Sameena and her husband started selling vegetables and herbs to wholesalers connected to hotels and restaurants, but it was hard to break in to the market, and the returns didn’t cover the costs.

“With COVID-19, it has actually been somewhat of a benefit to us because we had to go retail,” Sameena says with some relief. Most of the clients they’d had closed down under Level 5 lockdown. “We launched a website during lockdown that increased the exposure of the farm. Sales have been better for us since the lockdown; sending out veg boxes to households and supplying lots of other online stores.”

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