Trustfeed Women Resist Eviction from Communal Garden
One of the 18 community groups supported by PACSA based in Trustfeed, Hlakaniphani is a group of 16 widows who came together to farm together in order to strengthen the food security for their households.
They had been farming for four years on their respective homesteads when they decided to negotiate for the use of a private land that was lying idle in their area to establish a communal garden for the group.
The negotiations with the owners of the land resulted in an agreement to allow the Hlakaniphani women to use the 10 ha land for agricultural purposes. The women applied for support from the Department of Social Development which was granted for the purposes of tilling the ground and fencing. The group, through its networks received agricultural training, mentorship and seedlings and seeds to start the garden.
The group continued to farm on the land for two years and the garden is beginning to be popular in the area and successfully providing fresh produce for the members of the community on a daily basis and particularly at pension pay sites where their products are sold to the local community. During the course of 2013, the land owners began to indicate that they were reviewing their agreement. The owners were insisting to have the Hlakaniphani women give up the well tilled part of the garden and give it to the owners’ to use for their own agricultural purposes. The group found this request according to them “both offensive and full of envy”. On one morning in January 2013 when the group members arrived at the garden they discovered that the owners of the land had locked the group out of the garden. The group invited PACSA, Dept of Social Development and the local ward councillor the group to support the in their negotiation with the owners of the land which resulted in them being allowed to continue working on the land.
In the middle of January one of the representatives of the land owners informed the women that they will no longer be allowed to continue working on the land from 31 January 2014. The women engaged the legal department of Social Development and it became clear that the group does not have any legal recourse on this matter. The decision by the land owners to evict the woman from the land that they had put in their “sweat and blood” into, was received with both anger and tears from the group. They were suggesting many courses of action based on anger including destroying their own crops as a demonstration of their loss of hope.
The group held a review session with other stakeholders to think together and re-strategise on this matter. Some of the ideas that came out of the review session held out of the community in a guest house, include, defying the instruction to discontinue working on the land sin since they have not harvested some of the crops e.g. beans, maize and sweet potatoes; engaging the MEC for Agriculture; up-scale their not agricultural activities i.e. beadwork; strengthen their effort in demanding their own land from the local municipality.
Should the group be forced to discontinue farming on this land the food security of the households of the 16 women and 18 other households supported by the group will be affected. Over and above the members of the group members’ households the 40 members of the community who rely on the group’s garden to buy their vegetables from will have to travel over 5 kilometres to Wartburg to buy vegetables from town. The hope and sense of doing things for themselves has been affected by the threat to their livelihood. They however are continuing to work on the land and supporting one another on a daily basis.