Crimes in semi-rural areas have increased in recent years in line with the general upward trend in South Africa’s serious and violent crimes. (Institute for Security Studies)

So what can smallholders do to keep themselves, their families, workers, livestock and possessions safe?

There are some basics that all smallholders can apply.

  • Secure the perimeter. The most obvious physical barrier is a wall or fence around the property, and a good gate, which should be locked at night. Check fences regularly, both the outer and the internal ones. Reinforce vulnerable areas with “living” fences made of thorn bushes, cacti or thorny agave plants, which can form an impenetrable hedge.
  • Install basic burglar proofing. Security doors and burglar bars on all the windows, if not deterrents, at least slow down illegal entry.
  • Install ample lighting. Bright lights shining on to fields, outbuildings and access points are important. Some of them may be attached to motion sensors.
  • Be alert. Take notice of cars moving slowly or parked on the road leading to your property. Keep a special look-out on nights of new moon, which are particularly dark, or full moon which gives the criminals extra light. Be extra vigilant on weekends and nights leading up to special times such as the Christmas season or Easter.
  • Have an early warning system. Install beams or other motion sensors which can activate an alarm, cameras or security lights. Keep dogs and investigate when they bark.
  • Set up a buddy system. A WhatsApp group of your immediate neighbours means that you have extra numbers, eyes, ears and hands, to call on when you need each other. Let each other know when you are going to be away. You might also want to be part of your Neighbourhood Watch WhatsApp group.
  • Mark your stuff. The SAPS has indicated that you have a better chance of getting stolen livestock back if they have been marked (and probably zero chance if they’re not). In the same way your tractor, implements and other machinery should also have your name on them, so that you can identify them if they are found.
  • Vary your routine. Anyone watching your plot should not know when you are going to be leaving or returning.
  • Do not keep large sums of money at home.

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