“The two pilot Backyarder projects proved to be successful and Council is continuing with this approach in areas where the community is willing to accept these improvements.”Hein

Exclusive interview with Hein Boshoff, Head: Electricity Distribution Area North at the City of Cape Town.  During the African Utility Week conference, he will address the Smart Grids session on the “CoCT Backyarder Electrification: a successful case study”. He will be joined by Phillip Jacobs of Gibb Consulting. Delegates will also be able to experience a technical site visit to the Backyarder programme in Factreton on 14 May.

1. What is the background to the backyarder project, when did it start?
Due to the wide spread occurrence of informal dwellings in the backyards of houses in formal townships, the mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, saw the need to improve the circumstances of the many backyarders living on Council property, CRU (council rental units). In October 2011, Council gave the green light to continue with three pilot sites, namely Factreton, Hanover Park and Langa. The latter was later withdrawn due to consumer resistance.

2. What services are you providing now? Who pays for these services?
The services provided by Council are electricity, water and sanitation and waste removal. All Backyarder projects are funded through the Urban Settlement Development Grant (USDG).

3. What infrastructure did you have to put in place?
In Factreton we had to move the midblock supply to street front. A new design was necessary to account for the increased demand in supplying up to three Backyarder dwellings per CRU with electricity. This resulted in the strengthening of the backbone of the network and substations. New street lighting was also installed.

4. How many people are receiving municipal services now?
In Factreton a total of 188 Backyarder dwellings were provided with electricity. In Hanover Park we ended up with 984 dwellings connected.

5. Is this an on-going project?

The two pilot Backyarder projects, each with their own challenges, proved to be successful and Council is continuing with this approach in areas where the community is willing to accept these improvements. The Electricity department will be attending to two other areas for Backyarder supply: Parkwood and Bonteheuwel.

6. How have these initiatives changed people’s lives?

  1. Safety around their homes (no more dangerous wiring from the main dwelling).
  2. Social upliftment – the EPWP (Expanded Public Works Programme) allowed work opportunities.
  3. Improved living conditions – alleviating poverty through subsidised electricity connections.
  4. No more exploitation by the main occupants.

7. What has surprised you about working on this project?

The support and positive acceptance of the project by the consumers in the areas. How people organise themselves in their collective state of poverty prior to the services supplied.

8. What will delegates learn during the African Utility Week site visit?
The delegates will see how we configured the Backyarder supply from our network, and during my presentation at the conference we will discuss the design parameters that we used. And on-site they will learn how we had to overcome certain access problems and that the community really enjoyed the whole process and supported us in this whole venture to uplift the social environment for them.