Bertram’s urban farm, which has been operating for 16 years, is being demolished in June, disrupting dozens of feeding schedules
Refilo Molefe, 63, ran a prestigious urban farm in Bertrams, Johannesburg for 16 years, providing food and education to thousands of people.
Two acres of land belonged to the city of Johannesburg and Molefe farmed it with his permission.
In June, the city bulldozes his farm. There are plans to set up a “one-stop social development service center” at the site.
But Molefe vowed to continue farming.
Refilo Molefe, better known as Mama Fifi, was determined to rebuild his thriving inner-city farm after the city of Johannesburg and its farms were taken over by bulldozers in June as part of his acclaimed Bertrams urban farming project. Is. Her donations to a network of feeding programs and an agricultural education program for youth have benefited thousands of people over the years.
Molef, 63, began building Bertram’s Inner City Farm in 2006 after noticing many in his community were starving. She contacted the local council and asked if she could use the two acres of vacant land in Bertrams, a suburb of Johannesburg. The city of Johannesburg agreed.
“I’ve looked after young children of mothers who have been out of work, but I realized those kids would go to bed hungry,” she told Groundup. Molefe decided to grow organic produce to feed these children. Soon the initiative took up all his time. “I knew I could help more children and their families by focusing on growing food.”
With the help of the community and NGOs, Molefe installed taps and an irrigation system on the site, built greenhouse tunnels and a packing station.
Over the years, his urban farm has become an inner-city farming success story, winning numerous local awards and accolades from food security organizations. Her fresh produce soon became so plentiful that she was able to supply dozens of soup kitchens through a network of nutritional programs and co-founded the Bambanani Food and Herb Cooperative Project.
The success of her farm led her to contact several universities to train students in urban agriculture, including Tshwane University of Technology, the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Johannesburg. She said she has trained thousands of students over the years. “When you compete with young people, you always learn something new.”
But after 16 years, the city ordered the farm to close immediately to make way for the R275million multi-purpose center to be built.
Fields were bulldozed and irrigation pipes, equipment and greenhouse structures were removed and dumped at a nearby location.
“I was devastated, I couldn’t even get out of bed the next day,” Molef said.
The land is owned by the City of Johannesburg Department of Health and Social Development. Molefe said unidentified officers who claimed to work for the department visited the farm last year and told him there were plans to build a multipurpose center on the site.
“He never left his number and I never heard from him again, so I put it in the back of my mind.” She said when she later contacted the department, she was assured her tenure was safe . With a farmer incubation agreement, Molefe said she is confident about her tenure.
But in May of this year, officials from the city of Molef visited the site again, this time with documents showing that the multipurpose center project had been approved and that Bertram’s urban farm was to be demolished.
Under the city’s plans, the land would have a “central service center for social development” and, ironically, would include greenhouses and urban farms.
In response to the city’s announcement, a group of more than 60 NGOs and activists from across the country, many of whom have supported Molefe over the years, issued a statement criticizing the city’s and authorities’ decision to close prompted. A rethinking of the negative effects is required. on food security in the region. He also criticized the city’s lack of advice and communication with Molefe.
The Legal Resource Center stepped in to represent Molefe and appealed to the city, citing Molefe’s credit for building and maintaining a fundamental food security network that benefits hundreds of people in Bertram and the surrounding area.
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But despite these efforts to stop the city, the demolition continued.
In July, city officials and the mole met and she was offered new land in Eikenhof, south of Johannesburg, 20 kilometers from the community and soup kitchen she supports. “I left without a written agreement. How can I trust them?” Molef asked.
As a result, many people have approached Molef and offered their help. She has received two concrete offers for land on which to rebuild an urban farm.
For now, he has started cultivating a piece of land given to him by a local church in Comptonville, 10 miles from Bertrams.
“I just want to keep planting, teaching, and feeding my community,” Molefe said. “I will be successful again. I have no choice. People are starving there.”
Questions were sent to the office of Ashley Sauls, a member of the Mayor’s Committee on Health and Social Development, with no response.