Sustainable local economic development (SLED) explained in the Orania context
Although Orania is an example of a well-functioning small town in many respects, it has not yet been proclaimed as a town (Opperman 2009). However, it is a proclaimed conservation area (De Beer 2006:112). This has enabled Orania to develop in its own unique way, largely independent of government intervention. While the government’s framework for stimulating local economies focuses on what the state can do to support local leaders, communities, businesses, NGOs, organised labour and other stakeholders to realise their own as well as their collective objectives, Orania developed independently without government support and financed all local development itself (ODM 2008:13; Opperman 2009). The Orania SLED strategy is discussed here as an alternative to the top-down approach of pro-poor LED based on investment in basic services, which fosters a dependency on the state (Parahanse, Goldman, Nel and Rogerson 2006:5).
According to Van Zyl Slabbert (2006:112) Orania is a model of self-sustaining rural development. A dozen Orania-type settlements in the Northwest and Eastern Cape could make a significant dent in rural poverty in South Africa. In his assessment of the economic sustainability of Orania in comparison with Philippolis, Steyn (2004:20) states that two different mindsets are at work in these two towns. The driving force in Orania is self-help within a Christian National culture, where skilled people initiate projects with their own labour and money. In Philippolis, also in the Northern Cape Province, the community depends on government and other institutions to initiate projects. Skills management, good financial planning and capital to purchase essential materials from outside Philippolis are needed on a continuous basis to keep projects going (Steyn 2004:20; De Beer 2006:112). This shows the value of the bottom-up SLED strategy of Orania.
Sustainability is a controversial concept and there is little agreement on how to define it, let alone LED and development (Simon 2003:128). Macroeconomic forecasts exclude natural resources and quantitative estimates, such as estimates of soil erosion, atmospheric pollution or habitat extinction (Dasgupta 2007:5). The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the total or gross value of all the final goods and services which an economy produces, but does not deduct the depreciation of capital that is used in domestic production, especially natural capital (Dasgupta 2007:5+9). Sustainable economic development (SED) has to estimate the changes that take place over a period in the inclusive wealth or all capital assets value of a region and its institutions, relative to its population. A method of calculating these figures is only developing now, and no developed country uses inclusive wealth in the determination of GDP or SED. Living standards cannot be maintained or enhanced over time, while an unsupportable demand is made on the finite resources (Ekins 2000; Jackson 2007:13). Therefore, this article does not try to define SLED, but rather reports on the factual developments in Orania to demonstrate and measure its success in achieving sustainable development.
The 10-point plan for SLED in Orania was spelt out at the conference in 2008. Firstly, Orania had to take stock of what it had achieved and decide whether the community was prepared to pay the price for a sustainable lifestyle, while they were still busy paying the price for using only their own labour. This was their choice for the sake of their culture, language and religion. They would now have to choose a sustainable lifestyle in order for their children to inherit a habitable earth (Strydom 2008:3+4). The solution to this problem would have to be tackled with passion and enthusiasm, because it was too late to be half-hearted. Definite rules would have to be laid down to achieve SLED. For example, all new buildings in Orania would have to be equipped with a solar system for heating water. For existing buildings a period of five years would be granted to convert to solar heating. Water tank(s) to catch rainwater would be made compulsory at every house and composting toilets that are functional would also be considered to save water (Strydom 2008:5).
Secondly, the leaders in the community would have to lead by example by living sustainably every day. Thirdly, serious consideration would have to be given to new developments. Each new development would be measured against the three principles of using one’s own labour, sustainability and adhering strictly to ecological and ethical principles (Strydom 2008:5).
In the fourth place, Orania would now have to begin to make ecological friends. It had already made friends for the sake of identity and culture, but it was now necessary to make friends over the ecological spectrum. This was essential in order to learn from other communities, to see what they have achieved and to share knowledge (Strydom 2008:5). Fifthly, the community would have to expand its knowledge of a sustainable lifestyle, which would include orientation and evaluation. In the sixth place, businesses in Orania should negotiate to buy goods in bulk with less packaging. The buyers should then provide their own containers of wax or brown paper that is more environmentally friendly than plastic.
In the seventh place, the community would have to be educated to generate less waste and handle the waste wisely. Harmful batteries should not be allowed to be thrown away and to land on non-recyclable heaps. Every household in the community would have to know how to make compost and realise the benefits thereof for the soil. For every 1000 tons of compost, nearly 1000 tons of CO2 is not set free into the atmosphere (Strydom 2008:5). In the eighth place, it should be part of the culture to produce vegetables and fruit for own use and to keep chickens for fresh eggs. There are already some households in Orania that are almost self-sufficient in this respect. The community would also have to learn to do without food that is not in season and to grow more vegetables that are indigenous to Africa.
In the ninth place, certain practices should be encouraged and others opposed. Residents should learn to use ecologically friendly methods instead of using harmful chemicals. Safe bicycle lanes could be developed to save carbon emissions. Tenthly, the community would have to focus consciously on the development of green technology. This commodity will be in demand and can promote job creation. Residents must consciously cultivate a pride in the achievement of sustainable practices (Strydom 2008:6). The message conveyed was that Orania wanted to stand out as a leader in finding solutions to challenges that can create problems in the future and to be proud as pioneers in SLED. The next sub-section examines some successes in SLED in Orania.
Copyright by Ronald Mears