We have been warned of extremely cold, wet and windy weather conditions in the Western Cape. Although we are very happy to have had nearly 70mm of rainfall since the start of the cold patch on Thursday, we are extremely worried about the many challenges that such weather brings to already struggling rural farm families on Middelpos and surrounding farms.
The families on Middelpos farm live in clay brick housing structures (mainly one or two rooms each and one small window) with asbestos roofs. Every time it rains, more holes start to show in the crumbling walls and asbestos roofs. The families spend much time to scoop water from their houses, dressed in all the clothes that they own and cuddle up close to each other to help one another stay warm. The families are prepared to do the renovations themselves, but need much needed financial support to buy the materials. A heartbreaking situation.
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in South Africa, owner of the Middelpos farm, approved the building of 13 houses more than 5 years ago, but to date has not delivered despite the many efforts from the beneficiaries of this farm (13 poor, struggling and very vulnerable families) to go as far as negotiating to settle for upgrading of the existing inhuman and very poor housing structures instead of building new houses. Instead, the department has turned a blind eye to the suffering of the farm families leaving it to themselves to find a way to restore their human dignity and develop a 60ha farm. They continue to buy more farms and yet fail to make the ones owned by them work, instead. It has been nearly two years since the Middelpos CPA requested the government to hand over the title to the farm to them which will help them to farm under less restrictions such as asking permission every time they want to plant a crop or renovate a falling building structure. How can you be expected to learn how to be a farmer in the absence of true ownership by people who never owned land before? How the government expects South African farm families to develop rural farms when they are reluctant to improve the very basics that human beings need to get up in the mornings and continue the hard work of farming, is beyond our imagination.
Thanks to the partnership between the Middelpos Communal Property Association (Middelpos CPA) and INSPIRE CHILDREN AND YOUTH TRUST a holistic and integrated community programme aimed at creating safe spaces for rural farm children and women was developed and implemented on Middelpos farm since 2017. This INSPIREprogramme seems to work. To date more than 50 children from Middelpos and surrounding farms participate in JUDO, holistic educational support, health awareness and assistance, Auntie Judith’s Food Garden and entrepreneurial training. We call the children INSPIREpreneurs because as much as they need to improve their chances to escape a generational cycle of poverty and abuse, they also have a responsibility to INSPIRE more to join their cause and solve their own challenges. More than 40 permanent jobs for farm women have been created since 2017 and each day provides a safe space for abused, struggling, vulnerable and poor women on Middelpos and surrounding farms to improve their livelihoods, mental and physical health, education and create more jobs for other farm women who are trapped in similar cycles of poverty and abuse. We believe that the poor should solve their own problems. They know the answers already, but are seldomly asked how and given the time to solve their own challenges on rural farms. Who would not feel human when you have a proper and decent toilet or are not ducking any asbetos flakes when a strong wind blows through your clay-brick walls? What child would not feel more motivated to continue to attend school if they had a nice, warm house to hide away from the cold?
Despite the many achievements, a constant worry for us is the failing efforts to persuade government to take responsibility and provide some support to these determined rural farm women and children. We believe that once their housing conditions are improved, the many social challenges will start to dissapear too. Many women have no security on farms and continue to live in abusive relationships because they have no other house to escape to. It saddens us to think that the very same women who are growing the most delicious organic vegetables, make jam and pickled vegetables are making it with the fear of returning to abusive homes, tears because of the many humiliations faced at home and extremely vulnerable tenureship on rural farms. If they stand up for their rights, they may loose everything including a home for them and their children.
We appeal to our South African government to put the two requests from Middelpos farm namely the financial support to do some basic renovations to the Middelpos houses and grant them ownership of title on their agenda and work with INSPIRE to incubate the most successful and very exciting alternative economy on a rural farm that provides permanent jobs to farm women and address the many socio-economic challenges faced by rural farm families on Middelpos and surrouding farms. Thank you!