Peasant hub: we source help for peasant farmer: Willem Hartnik

Financial assistance from Thembisa Trust, has enabled the Niche Unity peasant hub initiative to assist Willem Hartnik, a small-scale farmer from the Eden District in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, to purchase and install a 5000 water tank, guttering and basic irrigating equipment so that he remains self-sufficient.

The importance of this particular venture

Large commercial ventures in South Africa continue to displace indigenous rural people who become concentrated into low-cost housing townships located in job-scarce rural nodal towns; a model, only partially sustainable, because of South Africa’s social grant system. Why is so little farming happening? Why is the taken-for-granted model for putting food on the table increasingly big-agri?

In contrast, there is a scattering of successful, indigenous, off-grid, small-scale farmers who have not gone with the flow to towns and cities and have, instead, against odds, remained self-sufficient.

Enter Niche Unity, which has set itself the goal of locating a number of these farmers and, with strategic interventions, such as this one made possible by Thembisa Trust, winning trust, rewarding initiative and forging alliances within an informal network, with the aim of providing opportunities for learning and action research out if which case studies, examples of best practice, models and/or stories will emerge that will highlight alternative ways of understanding how to put food on the table. In short, the goal of NU HORUS is to develop an alternative narrative to big agri.

Why Willem Hartnik

Willem Hartnik's new tank with the tap close to his humble abode
Willem Hartnik’s new tank with the tap close to the front door of his home

Willem, has built two shacks: the first of which sleeps him and his family, the second of which he uses as a kitchen. Willem was earmarked because he

  • is of indigenous stock
  • lives off-grid far from shops and salaried employment
  • has used the space practically to build a diversified system and diverse crops (see the sketch and accompanying photos)
  • runs a sustainable operation that isn’t dependent on pesticides or petroleum-based inputs that deplete or pollute his environment
  • demonstrated how a family can feed itself with the right attitude, by taking responsibility, and with loads of vasbyt (dogged determination)
Layout of Willem Hartnik's farm
Layout of Willem Hartnik’s farm