The future of Northern Farm, bordering the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy, hangs in the balance.
Joburg Water has given notice that all farming activities must be terminated within the next few months. That involves selling the 2 000-strong herd of Bovelder cattle, all the farm equipment, including nine centre pivots and other irrigation systems which presently irrigate 350 hectares of grazing, mealies and other crops. Some 70 contract staff are being laid off.
The reason given is that farming is not part of Joburg Water's core business. Joburg Municipality is touted to take over but it is unclear how Northern Farm will be utilised in future. About 20 megalitres of water from Northern Works' sewage treatment plant are presently circulated through the farm's dams before flowing into the Jukskei River. A major issue is what happens to these dams, wetlands, water courses and extensive irrigation systems through which this water flows, without regular upkeep.
Apart from agriculture the farm's open spaces and trails are enjoyed over weekends by thousands of mountain bikers, birdwatchers, hikers and horse riders. About 300 birds have been identified on the reserve which is part of SA Birdlife's birding route. A full Olympic standard equestrian course is used for annual shows.