Rural development can be sustainable

Developing sustainable rural hamlets and villages will not only help counter urbanization, but will also help create livelihoods in rural areas where 40% of South Africans live, said rural development firm Crossways Farm. Village, co-developer Dr Chris Mulder said this week.

Cities around the world have developed from villages that grow and eventually merge. South Africa should focus on creating smart and sustainable villages in rural areas with a good standard of living, he suggested during a webinar hosted by Rode and Associates.

“People are looking for rural life and open spaces. However, during the development of Crossways Farm Village, we were told that we would not be able to receive municipal water or wastewater treatment services.

“We have obtained permits to take water to draw water from the Van Staden River and built our own drinking water and wastewater treatment plants,” he said.

The project proved that the sustainable development of rural villages was not only possible, but also that it could be achieved without relying on the government to create the infrastructure first, he noted.

Mulder criticized the typical development of houses by municipalities for not focusing on the full range of community needs and providing a healthy environment in and around residences, so these houses do not offer a healthy lifestyle desirable for residents.

“Creating developments with sustainable value requires a diverse, passionate and multidisciplinary team, including architects, urban planners, engineers or environmental specialists, to design, plan and build economic, social and cultural value, environmental value and sensory value, ”said Mulder, describing what he sees as the four fundamental elements of sustainability and the retention and growth of real estate value.

“Social and cultural value distils the contribution a place makes to society and to the sense of value and belonging of community members. Environmental value, on the other hand, is quite straightforward because, if you don’t take care of your surroundings, your surroundings won’t take care of The focus on environmental value also improves profitability and performance of assets in addition to provide a healthy environment and a healthy lifestyle.

“The ultimate value creator is sensory value, referring to sights, sounds and smells. If a place doesn’t have sensory value, people won’t want to live there,” he said.

An important element is ensuring a mix of amenities and different residence sizes, including single and multi-family dwellings, as well as waterfront homes. Development is also dispersed and non-contiguous, preserving ecologically sensitive areas and open spaces.

“The development started as a nearly 600 ha dairy farm on both sides of the N2, 30 km from Jeffrey’s Bay and Port Elizabeth. We started with an environmental scan to map high potential agricultural areas and soils. and conservation areas, including riparian areas, which have been excluded from development.

“There are still cows on the 120 ha of agricultural areas, which also mow the lawns and provide us with fresh milk, and the agricultural areas have been preserved to support local food security. We also insist that every household collects rainwater, ”he said.

The development also has dedicated fiber optic infrastructure, a school, a farmers market and many outdoor activities such as mountain biking and hiking. More than 660 residences have been built, he added.

“Sustainable rural development is achievable and feasible,” he said.

The second phase of development will include mixed-use stores and office buildings, and the developers have been granted permission to construct an airstrip. A community trust has also been created, which receives 2.5% of the sales proceeds.

“The stands are generally smaller than [Reconstruction and Development Plan] houses, but the difference is in the amenities enjoyed by the 3,000 residents. Planning and designing the end product is central to creating lasting property value, and what makes the difference in creating desirable development.

“It’s a smart village, not a smart city and not tied specifically to digital technology, but designed to be sustainable and livable. It can be done. We can develop rural South Africa outside of urban boundaries, while providing communities with all useful services to build and maintain community and livelihoods, ”he said.

“The rest of the world has developed into hamlets and villages like this, and that’s what prompted me to focus on rural development with the aim of creating places that people live in. a life of dignity, ”Mulder said.

About Keneth T. Graves

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