Creating jobs has more to it

Charles America, Ocean View

I read about the City’s leading role in initiating community food gardens in some of our local communities reeling under the undue socio-economic constraints not of their making.

I certainly applaud the authorities for their effort. The rapid rate of unemployment and household food insecurity is set to increase.

The recent Oxfam Africa Food-Insecurity and Climate Change Survey Programme revealed very scary results in terms of unemployment as well as food insecurity partly as a direct or indirect result of a combination of political policy shortcomings and natural factors.

And although I commend local government for their commitment to help bring about some sort of assistance in this regard, the problem lies much deeper than merely assisting communities with setting up these food gardens.

There needs to be a whole host of other resources invested for the sustained running of workable and meaningful community-based food production projects.

My personal research studies over the past four years found that there are many barriers in the way of making an adequate impact with these projects.

Although much of the challenges lie with the issue of securing the buy-in and participation of locals, the major barrier remains that of the feasibility, scope and viability of such initiatives and schemes, since almost all the existing projects are run on a residual or hit-or-miss shoestring budget that often runs dry before the first decent harvest can be realised, and thus renders the participants efforts fruitless.

Suitably located tracts of land is one of the key factors in establishing viable community gardens. In and around Ocean View there are huge tracts of land lying fallow and un-tended.

It would not be a major mission to transform much of these wise open spaces into highly productive food gardens (barring of course, the baboon element, etc).

I can think of certain projects such as micro-commercial or cottage-based small-micro scale organic food production, micro-sized aquaculture farms or aqua-ponics which will almost immediately absorb large numbers of unemployed or unemployable people from within and around our local communities.

Let us use the untended land held “in-custodianship” by SA National Parks or the Cape Nature or Table Mountain National Park.

It will be interesting to set up a fully-inclusive commission or a public-participatory stakeholder consultative-and-advisory forum to research such initiatives.

Can one imagine how many disadvantaged and less-fortunate people can become meaningful assets to their communities.

Sustainable self-help and self-sufficiency is by far more rewarding and beneficial than charitable philanthropic generosity or occasional hand-outs. I would rather prefer people to be taught how to become self-reliant and dignified contributors than being mere liabilities who continue to remain depended upon the goodwill of their fellow man.

There is no acceptable legal or logical reason why open land spaces around us cannot be put to good use, instead of building lavish five-star bouquet hotels or luxurious five-bedroom holiday mansions or even second homes for a few, while thousands go without a slice of bread.

I am a victim of one such “conservation” trick, in which I and a number of fellow artisanal fishers had our fishing boats impounded from the historical Klein Slangkop natural slipway. We lost the only means of making a livelihood, when the area was suddenly and very arbitrarily declared a, “protected natural sanctuary”, by the local provincial authorities at the time.

However, this was yet again only one of many such politically-motivated economically-driven tactics of government for having us completely removed from the Kommetjie area in which many of us had actually grown up as children long before the village became an almost exclusive private holiday haven for the few rich and wealthy.

Our fishing boats were hurriedly removed, damaged and impounded to make way for the development and construction of large three to five bed-roomed thatched-roofed luxury holiday mansions right there upon the exact same foreshore sand dunes we had been forcefully barred from.

In response to the weak and grossly repetitive counter-argument of (eco) tourism, “conservation” and the litany of other very tired heard-it-all-too-often exhaustive reasons and lame excuses, as to why certain areas cannot be used, I just wish to remind the opponents and objectors of the above proposals that, historically the area in question was good and fertile enough to have fed the many DEIC ships’ crews and Dutch and other European invaders who had popped-in at Table Bay during their industrious as well as illustrious sea journeys of expropriation and extraction. Why can the very same lands of which most of it lies fallow not feed us today?

If I may put a political points-scoring spin onto this, how much more will such a brave and courageous government-led initiative not help boost the people’s trust and help increase public confidence in our provincial government?

We must not forget that by far most of the land had been expropriated and or dispossessed from its original inhabitants and occupiers purely and essentially on the basis of political motives and or upon economic grounds. Are these motives and grounds still legal and valid today?

How about initiating and establishing com-munity-owned cooper-atives as part of the new initiative to encourage local entrepreneurial and sustainable self-help economic development among local inhabi-tants?