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History of The Village

History - Pre 1997

Activity in the area is dated back to 1652, when Khoi pastoralists utilised the land for cattle grazing. Over the next 300 years the area together with the OM property located in the Liesbeeck Valley became the wheat producing area providing food for the Castle and citizens in the region. In 1693 the Dutch East India Company built the first mill in South Africa on the property. In the 1920’s the government built what became a psychiatric institution, part of which was built on the current site. In the early 1990’s, the East Wing of the institute was closed, abandoned and thereafter vandalised


Oude Molen History After 1997

The Oude Molen Eco Village was initiated in 1997 by a small group of proactive social entrepreneurs who, together with the local community and international volunteers, transformed the abandoned and vandalised hospital complex into a micro-enterprise village.The motivation was to alleviate poverty by pioneering a new and innovative way of maximising the potential of an underutilised public asset by; providing affordable space to emerging small enterprises to create employment opportunities, empower youth, promote urban agriculture and offer a variety of social and recreational activities to surrounding communities and local and international visitors while producing revenue for Provincial Government.

The initial micro-enterprise village concept was based on the sites’ inherent potential to contribute towards:

  • Micro-enterprise development, job creation & youth development

  • Social enterprise management distributing profits for additional socio-economic development in the region

  • Local and International tourism development

  • Healthy social and recreational activities for surrounding communities

  • Food security in the form of organic permaculture / urban agriculture

  • Arts and craft development and weekend craft & food markets

  • Promoting recycling and eco-friendly renewable energy technology


A number of redevelopment proposals in 2003 to develop the site as a private office park were successfully opposed and prevented from becoming a reality. In 2009 an attempt was made to transfer the land over to a new national Housing Development Agency, which was successfully challenged by Premier Helen Zille.

In November 2010 the Oude Molen Eco Village Tenants Association submitted a draft proposal outlining a long-term vision for the property to Premier Helen Zille and in 2011 the property was incorporated into the Provincial City Regeneration programme.


The Village currently hosts 42 small business enterprises that collectively employ approximately 200 people. Enterprises range from; backpacker accommodation to music studios, equestrian activities, a sports & jazz foundation, frail care services, metal, wood, art and craft workshops, public pool and braai facilities, urban agriculture, a restaurant and a waldorf school. They include educational, cultural, social and recreational amenities and Non-Profit services for youth all benefiting local communities.

World Design Capital 2014

The Oude Molen Eco Village Future Development Proposal has been selected as a World Design Capital (WDC) 2014 project. This exciting accolade affirms the proactive, innovative and socially relevant nature of the Village, and provides a platform for public participation in the design and future development of the Village as a “people’s legacy project.”
The ultimate aim is to establish an economically sustainable micro-enterprise eco-village that is able to showcase how government, community and key stakeholders are able to collaboratively address national priorities such as unemployment, youth skills development, micro-enterprise development, food security and the demonstration of renewable energy technology, all based on proven international best practices.

“You never change the existing reality by fighting it. Instead, create a new model that makes the old one obsolete.”

– Buckminster Fuller

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