HERBS IN THE ’HOOD

In­ner City Gar­dens Are Crop­ping Up Ev­ery­where

In Flight Magazine - - IN THIS ISSUE -

IN SOUTH AFRICA’S MA­JOR CITIES, ROOFTOP GAR­DENS AND CITY FARMS ARE SPROUT­ING EV­ERY­WHERE. AMONGST THE UR­BAN JUNGLES OF BRICK, CON­CRETE AND GLASS, A NUM­BER OF PEO­PLE HAVE TAKEN IT UPON THEM­SELVES TO GIVE A GREEN THUMBS-UP TO A PRO­LIF­ER­A­TION OF HERBS, VEG­ETA­BLES AND FLOW­ERS, THEREBY AID­ING JOB CRE­ATION AND BIO­DI­VER­SITY.

GREEN AND GOLD

Jo­han­nes­burg has long been touted as one of the world’s largest man-made forests, and these days it has a lot more to boast about in the green­ery de­part­ment. Over the past few years, gar­den­ing and farm­ing projects have popped up all over the city, most no­tice­ably in the CBD. Jou­bert Park’s Green­house Project is a prime ex­am­ple of a thriv­ing in­ner city gar­den. It demon­strates sus­tain­able liv­ing prac­tices in the form of per­ma­cul­ture land­scap­ing, the grow­ing of or­ganic food and herbs, as well as wa­ter har­vest­ing.

In an­other part of the city, basil grows on a bal­cony of the 93-year-old Cham­ber of Mines her­itage build­ing in Mar­shall Street. This ur­ban farm is part of the Ur­ban Agri­cul­tural ini­tia­tive, a project that will see an­other 100 small-scale farms rolled out in the in­ner city. The en­deav­our was launched by Wouldn’t It Be Cool (WIBC), an in­cu­ba­tion and men­tor­ship or­gan­i­sa­tion that helps en­trepreneurs launch their busi­nesses. The WIBC idea im­ple­menter, Michael Magondo, be­lieves that farms can flour­ish in va­cant build­ings, bal­conies, rooftops and even in un­used park­ing garages.

But it’s not all roses. Ur­ban farm­ing is not with­out its chal­lenges, ex­plains Robyn Hills of Food and Trees for Africa. Hills is the Food Gar­dens for Africa Pro­gramme Man­ager and has wit­nessed the cre­ation of a num­ber of ur­ban plant projects.“We need to en­sure that there is sus­tain­abil­ity over sea­sons, and we need to ac­count for grow­ing pat­terns. Lack of con­sis­tency is the great­est chal­lenge. In the ar­eas that we work in peo­ple come and go, they live there for a while and then leave, so the farms need to be fluid and ro­bust,” she says.

“We have to en­sure that the wa­ter tanks aren’t too heavy and that bio-waste goes into the earth­worm farms, be­cause pro­duc­ing soil is a big chal­lenge. Plants need a range of things to sur­vive.”

This said, nu­mer­ous farms within Jo­han­nes­burg and its out­skirts are thriv­ing thanks to mem­bers of the com­mu­nity who con­sis­tently weed, wa­ter and fer­tilise the veg­eta­bles and herbs.

IN THE ZONE

The key to a flour­ish­ing gar­den is a good gar­dener. In Dur­ban, just over the way from the Dur­ban In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­tre, is a rooftop gar­den called the Zone Project. It was cre­ated with re­cy­cled ma­te­rial and serves as a show­piece for how to grow food in small spa­ces. Ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing the wa­ter, is reused and re­cy­cled. Plants are grown in shoes, buck­ets, hand­bags and up walls in re­pur­posed two-litre plas­tic bot­tles.The wa­ter used comes from rain­wa­ter tanks that col­lect wa­ter run-off from var­i­ous neigh­bour­ing build­ings.

Marc Nel and his team have tended the gar­den for eight years and he de­scribes it as be­ing

“quite spec­tac­u­lar”. His pas­sion lies in run­ning with a project from start to fin­ish. “The Zone Project started as a blank con­crete area which was turned into a gar­den that since then has been vis­ited by pres­i­dents, bridal cou­ples and TV shows.” The gar­den has won awards, it was a show­piece for COP 14, and has be­come a fa­mous green space in Dur­ban’s city cen­tre.

THE MOTHER (CITY) OF FARMS

In Cape Town, a derelict bowl­ing green has been turned into a vil­lage cen­tre­piece.The seeds were sown by Kurt Ack­er­mann in 2012. It was a de­ci­sion that stemmed from him not want­ing his child to grow up think­ing that liv­ing be­hind walls and spikes was nor­mal. He looked around and found a ne­glected piece of land in Oran­jezicht. “Cre­at­ing the Oran­jezicht City Farm was about find­ing the vil­lage in the city that helps raise chil­dren.There were hun­dreds of peo­ple look­ing for this – a place and a rea­son to nur­ture the com­mu­nity,”Ack­er­mann says.

Ack­er­mann is not a farmer by train­ing but he wanted to make a dif­fer­ence in peo­ple’s lives and to cre­ate hu­man con­nec­tions. “There are a num­ber of res­i­dents in our com­mu­nity who are home­less, but they are still part of the com­mu­nity.The farm is a place where there can be con­nec­tions be­tween lives that are at odds.”

The story of the farm now in­cludes the OZCF Mar­ket Day which is held ev­ery Satur­day at the his­toric Granger Bay site of the V&A Wa­ter­front.The mar­ket is a com­mu­nity farm­ers’ mar­ket for in­de­pen­dent lo­cal farm­ers and artisanal food pro­duc­ers. It has cre­ated 200 jobs and put R40 mil­lion into the lo­cal econ­omy.

City farm­ing is grow­ing and is part of the so­lu­tion to the big­ger prob­lem of en­sur­ing food se­cu­rity. It is also a way of keep­ing hu­mans con­nected to na­ture, the turn­ing of the sea­sons and the cy­cle of life – el­e­ments that are dis­carded for the on-de­mand im­me­di­acy of the vir­tual world that has blurred with or­ganic re­al­ity.

Open­ing Spread: Cape Town’s Oran­jezicht City Farm is ev­i­dence that even a derelict bowl­ing green can be turned into a vil­lage cen­tre­piece. This Page Top: The Zone Project gar­den in Dur­ban be­gan as a blank con­crete can­vas... now, look at it! This Page...

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