City Farms
Earthworks, October- November 2014 Francini van Staden

Food security is a far reaching issue linked to rapid urbanisation. Urban farming is a response to the challenges of feeding a growing urban population, while also greening a city.

Urban farming includes the production, processing, marketing and distribution of crops, livestock and other agricultural products within an urban environment, while relying on resources that are readily available in the urban context. Linked to food security, urban farming becomes a social issue, which extends to city sustainability.

“We believe urban farming is extremely important for so many reasons: local community resilience; making people less vulnerable to energy, food and fuel price hikes; social cohesion; and so on'” says Leigh Brown, founding member and director of SEED in Cape Town.

South African urban land use planning over the last two decades has started to incorporate urban farming strategies in response to booming urban populations and associated socio-economic challenges.

The city of Cape Town introduced its first urban agricultural policy in 2007. According to the policy, urban agriculture will form an integral part of future development planning.

Durban also boasts a pro-urban agriculture policy carried out by the regeneration of public spaces within the city as food gardens.

The city of Johannesburg is implementing its first urban agriculture policy, in accordance with the city’s larger food security initiative. “The city of Johannesburg is in the process of rolling out regional Agri Resource Centres that aim to provide information for any farmer (including help in registering their food garden),” says Angus Campbell of the University of Johannesburg’s Department of Design. “This will provide one-on-one information for potential farmers from experts.” Campbell is a coordinator of Izindaba Zokudla, a Design Society Development (DSD) project under the guidance of the university’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture.

Urban farming in South Africa
Cape Town has many well-established urban farms. The Abalimi Bezekhaya (farmers of Hope) project has over 3000 women farmers. Local NGO Soil for Life has been advocating urban agricultural projects in Cape Town for over a decade. SEED, located in Mitchell’s Plan on the Cape Flats, was established 12 years ago, and continues to pioneer community based food production. Then there are the Philippi urban farmers, and the prominent Oranjezicht City Farm (OZCF). Described as a community garden, OZCF produces over 25 varieties of vegetables and fruit, many of them heirloom and heritage varieties, on roughly 700m. The OZCF “is an important way that we can come to understand and deal with a multitude of urban issues that is constructive, collaborative and sustainable,” says Sheryl Ozinsky of the farm’s management team.

Johannesburg and surrounds include the Bertrams Inner City Farm where organic vegetables, fruits and herbs are cultivated. In the Bezuidenhout Valley Park one finds the Siyakhana Food garden Project. The Izindaba Zokudla (Conversations about Food) – Innovation in the Soweto Food System project is working with about 30 farming sites within Soweto, located on school premises and community grounds. “Some of these farms are up to a hectare, located on the outskirts of Soweto, whilst others are about the size of a tennis court. Their produce varies between spinach, morogo beans and tomatoes, even coriander in some regions,” says Campbell.

Durban has urban farming initiatives that extend over the last two decades. A 1992 survey by Smith and others, published in Urban Agriculture Magazine, recorded that 25% of households in the expanded eThekwini municipal region were actively participating in farming at urban household level. Today, urban farming has taken root in Durban’s city centre as part of corporate, social and community projects.

Durban’s Urban Management Zone (UZM) includes the UZM Roof Top farm, which was showcased at COP17. A small piece of public open space adjacent to the busy Mynah bus rank now boasts an established pawpaw farm. Durban’s City Parks department initiated a food garden adjacent to the City hall. Known as the City hall Vegetable garden, conventional inner city landscaping has been transformed into a food producing garden, encouraging citizens to start their own. Corporate groups are catching on as well – the Mr Price Group in Durban has taken inspiration from the UZM Roof Top Farm and has transformed the unused roof of the Durban Station into a functional food garden.