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Referral to Bill Mollison' Magnum Opus: Permaculture - a designers manual


Dear Thomas,
 
I would guess that you guys know about, sleep with, and pay suitable homage to Bill Mollison's book on Permacutlre.  Do you?  What is needed in South Africa is a complete re-write of that book for township shack dwellers.  My only problem with doing that is that I really do not think it makes sense for millions of people to depart from the spacious and relatively well endowed rural areas of South Africa to cram themselves into a couple of hundred square kilometers of shack settlements to live of the garbage discharged by the extraordinarily wasteful high tech metropoles such as Capetown.  
 
I feel conflicted about helping more people to dump themselves into the Cape Flats where it will cost so much more to cater for the basic needs and to construct a reasonable infrastructure to support civilized existence.  Based on my previous work with the Transkei AT Unit, the cost of stabilizing a poor family in the Cape Flats will be between 5 to 10 times more expensive than stabilizing the same family in a more rural environment.  I sincerely believe that we are allowing the trailing side of history to destroy us all if we decide to fight the struggle for equitable development and full employment in the wrong zone.  South African society cannot afford to fight the battle for a prosperous future in Khayalitsha.  It does not have enough wealth to accomodate, feed, employ, transport, etc. the millions of rural and peri-rural dwellers, not to mention the millions of refugees from a collapsed rural economy, who are just waiting to jump into the middle of each and every new urban opportunity.
 
My own view is that we must solve the un-solvable problems of Khayalitsha by assisting the surplus people living there without any reasonable access to a future that will work for them to relocate themselves to new communities in areas where the cost of development is radically lower, as much as 1/10th the cost of assisting the same family 'make it' in an upgraded township situation. 
 
I have always felt conflicted about helping the masses of displaced people 'make it' in the Cape Flats which I see as a terrible mistake from which there is no affordable way forward.  If the ANC government attempts to tackle the problem of mass poverty in the peri-urban townships of South Africa - in a futile effort to protect the vulnerable urban industrial core areas from being sacked by hungry and criminalized mobs - then it will go down in flames.  The struggle, the war, to provide employment and equity for the 70% of the population of SA that is outside of the urban industrial enclave can only be fought and won outside of the metropoles in what I have taken to calling the peri-rural zones of SA which fall somewhere between the townships (the peri-urbs) and the deep rural zones.  I would encourage you guys at the Quaker Peace Center to consider solving the out of control and compounding problems of the township poor by creating escape routes from the pressure cooker of the townships that allow those families who genuinely want out to find their way back into radically lower cost and more humane rural environments.  How?  By helping them to get land, housing, food, self employment, good community governance, firewood, etc. at a much reduced cost to themselves and to the society in more rural zones.  Here in the remote areas of the Eastern Cape I can purchase land in large parcels for as little as R100 a hectare.  To get the dollar value divide by 6, or about $17 a hectare (divide by 2.4 to get the cost per acre, about $6 an acre).  Are you paying attention?  Better land with more reasonable rainfall, some boreholes, fences, buildings, etc. - functioning farms - can be purchased in the Stutterheim area for between R600 to R800 per hectare ($100 to $130 per hectare and $25 to $30 an acre).  Why battle for space for a hydroponic garden in a crime infested hell hole in the Cape Flats when you could convert the cost of an urban gardening programme into whole land based communities in the backlands of the Eastern Cape?
 
If you tell me that the people do not want to live in the backlands of the Eastern Cape or the Western Cape, that is fine and dandy.  Development professionals and government officials are resposible for making use of very scarce development funds in ways that that get the biggest bang for the buck, not the biggest applause from a disoriented and desperate urban proletariat.  We must make development happen in those places where the society can afford to cater for all of its people, not just the fortunate few, and then the people will eventually be guided by the hunger pains in the guts to walk away from the peri-urban quagmires of the Cape Flats in the direction of new communities in rationally positioned peri-rural communities where every family can be provided with 4, 5 or even 10 hectares of land, rather than a 2 roomed house on a 300 by 300 meter plot in a township, where they have water and electricity but no food, no job, and no future. 
 
Sorry for the rave.  I have written a complex article on this topic which was published several years ago by the Development Society of SA.
 
In search and service,
                                    Cecil Cook
                                    BADI




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