Tracing the inspiration behind urban agriculture in Cape Town.
I have tried to trace back the origin of my passion for urban agriculture, and there are two moments that come to mind. The most obvious is watching the documentary Food Inc. I was instantly shocked by the facts and images the film illustrated and over the months that followed it all sank in and my lifestyle began to change. On a more positive and inspiring note I came across this picture on The Selby’s site around the same time.
Annie Novak is a gorgeous rooftop farmer in Brooklyn, New York. Farming is not something one would see as glamorous or trendy, but between The Selby’s photographic skills, Annie’s beauty and the majestic backdrop of Manhattan, I fell in love with the idea of urban farming. Two years have passed, and throughout those years I had my heart fixed on being an urban farmer, preferably on a rooftop in Cape Town. I went to visit Annie a few months ago, as well as another rooftop farm in Brooklyn and discovered how much food one can produce in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world.
I did some research and came across a couple of rooftop farms in South Africa, and came to the obvious realisation that Cape Town has no need for rooftop farms. I did however come across projects in Johannesburg, and one in Durban. I can see the need for rooftop farms in Johannesburg. It’s a large city, your typical concrete jungle – quite grey and polluted. The Tlhago Primary Agriculture Cooperative (two rooftop farms) project has a strong focus on skill sharing, traditional food and medicine and sustainable and organic methods of farming. AFHCO instigated another rooftop farm in Johannesburg. Both of these projects have made use of ‘upcycled’ containers in which to grow vegetables – a completely different method from the soil covered rooftops I saw in NYC. But they seem to be producing a substantial amount of vegetables while eliminating waste from landfills.
The Durban farm on the other hand seems to be a showcase piece created to impress the delegates of the 2011 COP 17. There is a large amount of paving, not to mention grass! Despite the for-show design and large amount of green space in and around Durban, the project is on the right path. It provides jobs, creates awareness and best of all – some of the food is donated to orphanages and other organizations. Oh and they have a bee hive – something I hope we will eventually get at OZCF!