Necessity is the mother of all invention. That’s what lead to the world’s largest man-made forest to add vegetation to the iconic Johannesburg skyline. Districts within the City of Johannesburg have been utilising the space on their rooftops by building planters for fruit and veg to feed the inner city. The majority of these projects are run by developers who are catering to those living in these neighbourhoods. The projects are community driven are used to develop skills among local residents.
Rooftop gardens do not make use of conventional agricultural methods, such as the use of soil, but instead rely on two systems: hydroponics and aquaponics. Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture, which is the growing of plants in a soilless medium, such as an open-root system. Hydroponic growing uses mineral nutrient solutions to feed the plants in water, without soil. Aquaponics works along the same principle but with a combination of aquaculture (raising fish). The fish waste is used to feed the plants as it contains the all the nutrients needed to grow strong and healthy fruits and vegetables. Aquaponics is prized internationally as a symbiotic system which uses 80% less water than ground farming which is a plus seeing as, at the time of writing, we are headed for another dry summer. Both these methods can be used in vertical farming, which increases the planting space and ultimately leads to a much bigger food yield.
The Johannesburg Housing Company (JHC) is running four rooftop gardening projects on top of their buildings in and around the Central Business District. The JHC also runs two ground gardens. These ground and roof gardens can be found in Hillbrow, Joubert Park, Troyeville, Newtown, and Fordsburg. Crops are grown according to season, sustainability and feeding value. These include spinach, beetroot, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, beans and rosemary among others.
The plan going forward is to roll these rooftop gardens out across the City of Johannesburg and to create a food bank for those in need. This method of food farming is much easier, sustainable and adaptable to the surroundings that it should become a standard method for farming across the country.
By Shawn Greyling
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