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"Masibambane"-lets stick together' : contentions on the role of urban vegetable gardens in the Cape Flats

University of Cape Town
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  • Social Anthropology
  • Agricultural Science
  • Economics
  • Political Science


This dissertation focuses on three collectively managed urban vegetable farms in two of Cape Town's urban townships, Guguletu and Philippi. I entered the field through an NGO, Abalimi Bezekhaya, engaged in promoting small-scale, organic forms of urban agriculture through training and the provision of selected locally accessible services such as nurseries based in the Cape Flats, and also in 'greening' schools and other public areas. I also noted the activities of Department of Agriculture (DOA) officials in the gardens. Early on I noticed an apparent discrepancy between the stated intentions of the two institutions in terms of their expectations of what could be achieved in the urban vegetable gardens they facilitated and the motivations for participation gardeners themselves gave. While the DOA, and to a lesser extent Abalimi, claimed that urban vegetable gardens would provide participants with an important source of income in cash and kind, I found, in line with prior research on urban agriculture in Cape Town, that such incomes were negligible and often depended on participants having access to regular sources of income outside the gardens. In fact, the reasons participants gave for their ongoing participation tended to be largely social. This dissertation, therefore, explores the more convivial personal and social motivations behind participation in urban vegetable gardens for participants themselves, briefly comparing and contrasting these with the stated goals of Abalimi and the DOA. By way of contextualisation, I understand these discrepancies, where present, to be couched firmly in the structure of the 'development industry', born as it is of a global neo-liberal capitalism.

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