Supporting Asset Based Community Development in Maitland Garden Village

Prologue- How can the history of a project site contribute to the project work?

Maitland Garden Village (MGV) is a close knit community on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. Similar to many urban communities around the world, MGV faces obstacles of low income and high unemployment (South Africa, 2001). While poverty and high unemployment rates cripple some communities that experience them, MGV is fortunate in that there are low crime rates, high social capital, and the village is filled with hundreds of exciting and interesting people (Galant).  This combination of low crime and high unemployment is uncommon.

MGV’s history is rich and it is significant to understanding the people who live there.  The village, founded in 1922, was known for having lush gardens for many years.  Each home took pride in their individual gardens and the village had competitions over who had the best garden.  The population today has risen to an estimated 1,600 people, including backyard tenants (Galant).  A backyard tenant is a person who builds a temporary structure or shack to live in, often illegally.  Since it is illegal, authorities often try to force these people out. Most of the residents in MGV have allowed people to build shacks in their backyards.  These shacks typically belong to family members or friends, who live there without having to pay rent or having fear of relocation by authorities; although this has not always been the case in MGV as a whole.

The history of MGV is not devoid of struggle and difficulty.  During apartheid, the South African government tried to relocate the villagers.  MGV, like many other places, resisted.  However, they were successful. The people have continued to live in the same homes first built in 1922. Despite the relocation struggle, some villagers hold the opinion that conditions were better during apartheid.  The lush gardens sweeping across the village have long faded away.

It was in this environment that the group entered the Garden Village with the intention of doing an Asset Based Community Development project.  As the work evolved, the primary objective became to form a youth and community group called the Green Light Project.  The big success stories of this venture were the creation of the Green Light Project with its nine specialized committees, and the completion of repairs and restoration at the crèche.

This is our story.



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