THE fourth rooftop garden has been planted in the inner city; this time at the top of Towerhill Mansions in the dense flatlands of Hillbrow.
At sunrise on Thursday, 10 May, employees of the Johannesburg Development Agency joined their colleagues from the Johannesburg Housing Company’s subsidiary, Makhulong A Matala, on the roof, where they spent the greater part of the morning putting the finishing touches to the garden.
Other partners in the venture include the Food Gardens Foundation, which provided the technical expertise needed to plant a garden of such nature. Rooftop gardens are ideal for growing vegetables in an urban environment, where there is limited space for agriculture.
And it is green in more ways than one: resources used to set it up were recycled material, which made this model more cost efficient and environment friendly.
The planters are made out of recycled car tyres cut on the sides to make more room for planting. Leaves of other crops, including maize were used for dressing the soil as green manure. Green manure helps to improve the soil nutrients; any crop can used for this purpose but the most common one are legumes.
The rooftop gardens project resonates with the government’s strategy to reduce carbon footprints by 42 percent by 2014.
Speaking on site, the chief executive officer of the Johannesburg Housing Company, Elize Stroebel, said her company not only provided housing, but also strove to create sustainable communities.
“We saw the need to implement a long-lasting strategy to help our tenants out of the circle of poverty. The rooftop gardens provide the inner city community with skills to produce their own food so they can be self-reliant; they are can put food on their tables.”
She said the initiative was part of the company’s endeavours towards urban regeneration.
Fuelling Stroebel’s sentiments was the JDA’s executive manager, Sharon Lewis. She pointed out that the rooftop gardens initiative complemented the City’s call to promote food security, as pronounced by the mayor earlier in the year.
“Rooftop gardens play a vital part in inner city development and as the JDA we are proud to be associated with this kind of development.”
She encouraged all partners involved to continue working together to advance urban regeneration. “Everyone has a role to play in this regard, including the community.”
The JDA has donated a small fee towards the initiative as part of its yearly social corporate mandate in places in which it does business.
There are four similar gardens in the inner city; three of those are planted at Johannesburg Housing Company buildings – Douglas Village, Brickfields and Towerhill Mansions; the fourth one is at the Africa Diamond Building in the CBD.
Hilda Pheto, the general manager of the Food Gardens Foundations, an NGO, said the rooftop gardens initiative would restore a sense of independence for tenants. “I grew up in the inner city and I know the situation. In most households, you will find that only one person is working. It can be difficult at times for some to provide for their families.”
She encourage unemployed youth in buildings where rooftop gardens had been planted to help maintain them.