The construction of South Africa’s first “green rural town”, which in time will operate largely independently of the national energy grid, has started.
The new town is known as Crossways Farm Village, and is located on the edge of the Van Staden’s River Gorge, 25 minutes outside Port Elizabeth on the N2 towards Jeffrey’s Bay in the Eastern Cape. It will be the first rural town fully integrated with a professionally-run dairy farm.
Construction of the first houses are expected to start by April. CMAI, the firm of Dr Chris Mulder, is responsible for the design, planning and implementation of the R3.4bn project. Mulder says fibre-optic technology will serve as infrastructure for a wide range of services, from regulating the town’s energy grid to controlling infra-red security systems and providing high-speed connectivity.
Mulder is incredibly passionate about agriculture, and his idea was to buy a farm and develop it with a view to tackling the country’s priorities which he sees as food security and production, job creation, poverty alleviation, skills planning, and rural development. “In the old Western Cape there are about 30 little towns, created 40 to 50 years ago with no schools, infrastructure or hope for jobs. I wanted to make sure that the people in one of these towns next to us have access to jobs, schools, ambulances, and the internet, which is why the 740 residential units at Crossroads Village will employ as many people as possible from the surrounding areas as entrepreneurs, contractors, service providers and construction artisans, and to do maintenance jobs.”
Mulder explains that the development recreates the rural village lifestyle with a strong sense of community. “Residents will have access to a range of dairy products as well as organically-grown fresh fruit and vegetables. The town square will be in the centre of the village and facilities and services will be concentrated here and regular markets held where fresh produce and locally-produced handicrafts will be on offer.
“Crossways Farm Village is a fully operational dairy farm equipped with a large fully-automated milking parlour. This means fresh milk on your doorstep and, in time, access to a range of cheeses, yoghurts and other dairy products produced on the farm. All the agricultural activities will be located in the area known as the Farmyard, situated on the edge of the property. Facilities will be created for championship shows and auctions of registered Holstein stud animals as well as for equestrian sports. The Farmyard will also house on-site education and training facilities where courses in farm and dairy management will be offered. A village school will be built and curriculum provided by neighbouring Woodridge College. An on-site medical clinic and support facility as well as a wide range of housing types, will ensure an opportunity and rural lifestyle for all age groups. This will be the only facility of its kind in the Eastern Cape to do so,” he adds.
Through the Homeowners’ Association, the farm will be leased to experienced operators in which the 10 farm workers, through a Farm Workers Trust, will own their own property and houses and share in the farm profits. Homeowners can also participate in the dairy farm activities by acquiring their own cows. These will form part of the existing 500-strong Holstein stud herd and will be in the care of the farm management. Owners will receive a monthly cheque for the milk produced by their cows, less a management fee.
Mulder adds that residents will be able to get involved in other small-scale agricultural and complementary operations at the village once the 170ha dairy farm has been completed, and fruit orchards and vegetable farming are introduced. “Homeowners will similarly be able to participate in these operations and benefit financially from them. Residents who want to make artisanal cheeses or yoghurts will have direct access to the on-site dairy farm products. In turn, they will have a captive market in the village.”
He says that Crossways Farm Village dovetails perfectly with the government’s rural development strategy. “When completed, it will have created nearly 3,000 construction jobs and 700 permanent jobs in a largely agricultural and rural part of the country and will have expanded existing irrigation pastures and the dairy farm, which is in line with the government’s commitment to food security.”
In its motivation for approving the concept, the Eastern Cape Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries stated that the village and the concept of New Ruralism offered the opportunity for rural development and economic stimulation, job creation, equity and ownership to previously-disadvantaged people as well as training, education and the expansion of existing agricultural activities.
The Kouga municipal area, in which the village is situated, covers a fertile coastal landscape of 2,133 sq kilometres. The population is relatively small, but is
growing at a healthy 10% annually. With developments such as the Coega deepwater port 20km northeast of Port Elizabeth, it is becoming one of the fastest growing areas
in the country. - Melissa Jane Cook