Amaoti Organic Farming Project
Project Description
 
This was a planning project within a former Apartheid era buffer strip, but now zoned for agriculture, and encompassed some 60 ha of land averaging 200m in width and stretching along a 2,5km long stream.  Some 330 allotments of 400 m2 each were proposed together with a Farmers Support Centre and 1000 homestead gardens within the surrounding communities. 
 
Project Brief
 
My appointment by the Greater Durban Community Foundation (GDCF), which is an NGO operating on behalf of the eThekwini Municipality, was to prepare a holistic agricultural development plan to address the need for food security and local economic development.  The GDCF realized the need for this plan in order facilitate co-operative governance amongst various municipal and government entities so as to deliver in a holistic manner a sustainable community based agricultural development project.  To this end, a Development Concept Plan was prepared for how the physical and institutional support components could be implemented in a sustainable manner.
 
Design Process
 
An over arching design criteria was to consider an alternative and more sustainable approach to the typical (and generally unsuccessful) communal / community garden scheme delivered by government entities at that time, hence the proposed allotment scheme.  The design concepts used Permaculture design principles which embraced low external input sustainable agriculture (LEISA).  This design process was only for the planning phase as shown in Figure 1.
 
Figure 1 - Design Process
 
The Development Context researched the planning framework for the project which confirmed its designation for urban agriculture, and also obtained other base mapping information.  The Site Analysis identified the physical design challenges, such as, the predominant dry north easterly winds and the cold rainy south west winds; the incorporation of a proposed major road through the upper part of the site along its entire length; erosion as a result of uncontrolled stormwater discharges along the higher part of the site; and, the need for rainwater harvesting systems in order to avoid abstraction of ground water and use of municipal mains supply.
 
The Site Design Concepts outlined how to mitigate against the physical site challenges and incorporated these designs within the overall rainwater harvesting system, and, the layout for the allotments.  A Design Concept was also outlined for the wider extension of the project via homestead gardens with a Grameen Bank type financing option.  A further Design Concept entailed a farmers co-operative support centre for the training of farmers in organic farming practices; the ongoing technical support to farmers; the marketing and logistical support for the distribution of surplus produce both locally and to potential retailers; and, a local recycling centre.
 
A Project Phasing plan was then outlined due to the size of the project.  This followed with a detailed Project Budget per task and an associated Project Programme that showed how the implementation of the physical design should be integrated with institutional community building tasks.  The conclusion summarized the Project Phasing and Resourcing requirements over the envisaged 3 year development programme.  The Development Concept Plan report was workshopped and refined with all stakeholder groups, including the beneficiary community and various government entities in order to solicit co-operative governance for the adoption, financing and implementation of the plan.
 
Project Status
 
Despite the endorsement of the Development Concept Plan by all stakeholders, there has not been much co-operative governance by the various departments within eThekwini Municipality and other government departments to budget for this project and then procure a service provider to implement the project.  Nonetheless, some 100 community members did receive 6 months worth of training and mentoring in organic farming systems by an accredited training organisation, but, in order to save funds, the Parks & Gardens Department of eThekwini Municipality attempted to implement the various infrastructure aspects themselves.  This latter effort was a failure and the project has not manifested at all.
 
As a result of this failure and lack of inertia, the Housing Department of eThekwini Municipality has grabbed this opportunity and the latest plans are to establish a low cost housing scheme.  Sadly, this housing project will use the only remaining green lung within this general area and also opportunities to address food security at scale.
 
Learning Experience
 
This project has at least been used to demonstrate some unique rainwater harvesting designs and raise awareness that co-operative governance is required to deliver holistic and sustainable community development projects.  However, the urgency to address food security in this project area may still arise and perhaps this project may be re-considered when the housing project proceeds with its planning approval process. 
 
The design concepts were used to disseminate information to the project beneficiaries that were trained in organic farming practices.  Alas, these beneficiaries have not been able to fully utilize the project site but have applied some basic design concepts on some adjoining land within an old age centre.
 
The project report included a detailed budget from which it was able to assess the yardstick social investment cost per beneficiary as a means of comparison with other similar projects.
 
Documentation
 
 
 

 

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