Veggie patch in Hillbrow


Residents of Towerhill Mansions in Hillbrow will soon have a garden right on their roofResidents of Towerhill Mansions in Hillbrow will soon have a garden right on their roof

ANOTHER rooftop garden is on the cards. This time, a little Eden will be planted on top of Towerhill Mansions in the centre of the high-density flatland of Hillbrow.

Rooftop gardens are fast becoming a trend in the inner city where they have proved to be a cost efficient method of small scale vegetable production in an urban environment. By definition, it is an area where space for agricultural purposes is limited.

This initiative, made possible by a partnership between the Johannesburg Housing Company subsidiary, Makhulong A Matala, and Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), will be launched on Thursday, 10 May.

The JDA has donated money towards the project, as part of its mandate for corporate social responsibility in areas in which it does business.

"As the JDA we are proud to be associated with an initiative that supports and promotes the sustainable use of the environment, in particular in the inner city of Johannesburg," says Thandoxulo Mendrew, the acting chief executive.

In 2011, the agency partnered with the Affordable Housing Company, Afhco, to establish the first vegetable garden in the Joburg CBD, on the roof of Africa Diamond Building on the corner of Goud and Kerk streets.

Earlier in the year, it helped Johannesburg Housing Company launch a similar project in Douglas Village building in Troyeville. The Hillbrow rooftop garden will be the third in the inner city.

Rooftop gardens are at aimed at empowering communities by giving the space and facilities to grow their own vegetables, and in the process, stop the circle of poverty. The project also helps the government's drive to reduce carbon footprints by 42 percent by 2014.

The technology employed in planting the gardens is cost efficient, embracing the culture of reduce, re-use and recycle. Most of the materials used are environmentally friendly – planters are made out of old car tyres.

The plants are grown inside a greenhouse structure, made of a tough plastic that helps to regulate the temperature and ripen the vegetables.

To ensure sustainability of the gardens, tenants – as the direct beneficiaries – are trained to manage organic food gardens.

They are taught cost efficient ways of small scale farming, which include cultivating their own seeds as opposed to having to buy new seeds and seedlings. Harvesting rain water for irrigation is encouraged, as a water saving measure.

The use of waste water generated from domestic activities such as dishwashing, bathing and laundry is also recommended in what is known as greywater recycling.

Elize Stroebel, the chief executive officer of the housing company, said during the initial stages, help will come from Food Gardens Foundation to manage the project, until tenants are ready to take over completely.