Original Research

Everyday hazards and vulnerabilities amongst backyard dwellers: A case study of Vredendal North, Matzikama Municipality, South Africa

Patricia J. Zweig
Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies | Vol 7, No 1 | a210 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jamba.v7i1.210 | © 2015 Patricia J. Zweig | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 June 2015 | Published: 30 November 2015

About the author(s)

Patricia J. Zweig, Department of Geography & Environmental Studies, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


The populations of many small towns in South Africa continue to expand unmatched by parallel economic growth, entrenching high levels of poverty. The town of Vredendal, located close to the national route between Namibia and Cape Town in South Africa, is a West Coast development node and an emergent industrial and processing area that continues to attract an influx of people seeking economic opportunities. This is challenging the capacity of the local municipality, which has a waiting list for state-provided low-cost housing units, whilst the provision of adequate infrastructure to meet growing local need is also a developmental concern. In the suburb of Vredendal North this has resulted in the proliferation of unplanned informal dwellings in the backyards of formalised low-cost housing areas. Largely overlooked by urban researchers, little is known or understood about small town backyard populations. This prompted a brief study of Vredendal North backyard dwellers commissioned by the local municipality to identify their everyday hazards and livelihood vulnerabilities to inform future development planning. A community workshop identified critical development needs and suggested that backyard dwellers in small towns experience similar living conditions and hazards to those in the cities, although underlain by some unique differences.


Vredendal North; Backyard Dwellers; Everyday Hazards; Vulnerability


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