By Melanie Gosling
Philippi farmer Achmat Brinkhuis does not sleep most nights, but stands guard over his vegetable crops, pump-house and irrigation pipes.
He resorted to this after thieves stole farming equipment from his small-holding 17 times in the space of 12 months. “Sometimes in the morning, I can’t stay awake,” Brinkhuis said.
Brinkhuis was one of a group of farmers briefed by the provincial government on Tuesday on the findings of a socio-economic study, commissioned by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, to investigate the significance of the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA). The study, led by Indego Consulting, had a stark warning: If urgent action is not taken to protect the PHA soon, it will be lost.
The loss of the Philippi farmlands would result in the loss of thousands of jobs, millions of rands to the regional economy, cause a spike in the local price of vegetables, and make a dent in Cape Town’s food security, according to the study. Karen Harrison, who led the study, said the special growing conditions of the PHA were “irreplaceable” within a 120km radius.
Because it was cooler than the other big vegetable-growing areas of Ceres and Malmesbury, Philippi could produce vegetables in summer when those regions could not, giving it a competitive edge.