2013 Small Towns Symposium, UFS, Bloemfontein

Why are small towns important? Small towns underpin rural development and service delivery. They support rural services, and they host important development agencies in several sectors.

Definition of small towns: We combine four criteria: (a) a definition regarding population (say less than 30 000 population, although this is an arbitrary figure); (b) the stand-alone status of small towns (i.e. not part of a metropolitan region); and (c) small towns have a significant rural hinterland, and (d) they perform important services to the local and rural population, such as agricultural extension, road maintenance, tourism, police, justice, home affairs and health services.

Small towns have been neglected in South Africa. Policies either focus on larger cities, or on remote rural areas. The “in-between” position of small towns, as linkages within a hierarchy of settlements, remains poorly understood. Small towns are neither purely agricultural nor purely commercial; they have linkages with their rural hinterlands, and they offer urban services to rural residents.

The key question: What are the assets and strengths of small towns, and how can these be developed effectively?

Why our Symposium? The Centre for Development Support at the University of the Free State, in partnership with the Central University of Technology, has built up a wide range of expertise related to small towns. This Symposium is a showcase of our past and present work. We invite other researchers in Central South Africa to join our discussion, to meet potential partners, and to identify cutting-edge research topics. We also invite practitioners – Municipalities, Government Departments, consultants, NGOs, CBOS – to critically engage with our work, and identify potential partners in future projects.

Key themes include:

1. Local Economic Development, business and commerce

2. Social networks, social conflict and social protest

3. Mining

4. Environmental management

5. Tourism, heritage and language

6. Transport and infrastructure

7. Agriculture, food production and nutrition

8. Health services

9. Education and youth

10. Municipal governance.

Download Program here

Download a list of Small town geographies books and papers


Guest speaker:  Prof David Turkon, Ithaca College, USA 
The social underpinnings of community development

Guest speaker: Prof Etienne Nel, University of Otago, New Zealand:
Comparing small towns in South Africa and New Zealand:  How do they build social and economic resilience?”

Guest speaker: Ms Saskia Haardt, CSTR.
Dynamics of Small Towns in Namibia. Observations made during the pilot training on small towns regeneration

The small town newspaper and social capital: Smithfield’s Smiffie
Dr Mark Ingle: Centre for Development Support, UFS

Changing demographic and population trends in Botshabelo: Policy implications
Dr Lejone Ntema:  Centre for Development Support, UFS

Social protests and the social fabric
Dr Sethulego Matebesi:  Department of Sociology, UFS

Appropriate building technology as a catalyst for social change in upgrading informal settlements
Ms Anita Venter, Centre for Development Support, UFS;  Mr Tjaart van der Walt, Department of Town and Regional Planning, UFS

Heritage resources, tourism and land use in Phuthaditjhaba : Critical reflections from a community development perspective
Dr Wisemen Chingombe and Dr Philip Taru: Department of Geography, UFS

An approach towards measuring sustainable community development in small towns
Ms Bernice van Schalkwyk and Prof Carel Schoeman: Subject Group for Urban and Regional Planning, North West University

Water use strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change on small towns in South Africa
Dr Francois Fourie, Institute for Groundwater Studies, UFS; Mrs Anita Venter, Centre for Development Support, UFS

Considering small towns research and local economic development in South Africa
Dr Jennifer Houghton, Ms Bakhetsile Dlamini and Ms Nolwazi Mthembu: Department of Geography, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Enterprise dynamics in South African church towns
Dr Daan Toerien: Centre for Development Support, UFS

Transforming LED partnerships in South Africa 
Dr Deidre van Rooyen: Centre for Development Support, UFS

Migration patterns:  Implications for small towns
Prof Lochner Marais, Centre for Development Support, UFS

From surviving to thriving: Planning for sustainable livelihoods in urban transition zones and rural spaces
Ms Menini Gibbens and Prof Carel Schoeman, Subject Group for Urban and Regional Planning, North West University

International success stories of cross-border tourism development
Mr Johan Hattingh: Department of Tourism and Event Management, Central University of Technology, Free State

A regional planning framework for sustainable rural livelihoods: the case of Maluti A Phofung
Prof Maléne Campbell and Mnr Mthethelezi Dubazane: Department of Urban and Regional Planning, UFS

An aviation strategy for Beaufort West and the Karoo region: Implications for small towns
Prof Doreen Atkinson: Centre for Development Support, UFS

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