Durban, ranked as the greenest city in the world in 2019, is a mainly rural and agricultural metropolis just like its region which is organized in communities producing vegetables, maize and meat. Durban metropolis must nevertheless import a large part of the products consumed locally in order to cope with a growing urban population (3.7 million inhabitants in 2016, + 6.8% between 2007 and 2016) due to an important rural-urban migration. Situations of extreme poverty and food insecurity are recurrent, causing serious public health problems: In South Africa, almost 70% of women and 30% of men are overweight in 2018. The municipality of eThekwini commits to strengthening the local food system by working with its local farmers, but also by bringing agriculture to the city.
In 2010, eThekwini Municipality was looking for a new building to extend its offices in the city center. They chose an old warehouse in poor condition, located near the beach, the main traffic lanes and the new convention center. Part of the municipality has moved into this new building. During the renovation, they discovered the large flat roof of this building and then wanted to make it a living space for the employees. This roof has been gradually transformed into a large garden open to all, aiming at producing food and raising awareness on agriculture in the city. The building is then renamed iTrump for “Inner eThekwini Regeneration and Urban Management Program”. This project is part of the city's greening strategy and support to local agriculture.
The objective of the garden is to show that it is possible to produce food in large quantities in the urban space. It also contributed to cool down the urban temperature, to provide places of relaxation and green entertainment in the city center, and to produce fresh food for a direct consumption. The 1,300 m2 garden is made of several spaces:
- On the one hand there are succulents, plants that do not need to be watered every day as well as aromatic herbs such as rosemary, thyme, lavender.
- On the other side, there are tunnels where vegetables are grown, in rotation, according to the seasons: onions, spinach, beets, carrots, salads, cabbage, tomatoes, red peppers ...
- A central space with of benches and tables makes it possible to organize festive events or to welcome groups of visitors.
All of the materials used are recycled. The goal is to show that it is possible to produce food in any container: shoe, tire, suitcase, barrel, etc. The entire roof has been certified by an engineer and waterproofed.
The garden thus welcomes many groups of children for day trips of discovery and introduction to agriculture. Children are required to plant, water, harvest ... They can sometimes even bring a pot home to show the benefits of urban agriculture to their families and to follow the growth process of a plant. Children from all over the country come to Durban to visit the garden.
All of the vegetables produced on the roof are distributed to retirement homes in the city center and to food banks managed by the municipality.
The creation of this garden has enabled the creation of 6 full-time jobs: 4 gardeners and 2 full-time staff to manage visits, the distribution of vegetables and the development of the garden.
The Little Extra
One of the objectives of this project is the replication of the initiative. By opening the roof to everyone, companies and schools showed their interest to replicate the initiative at home. For example, the clothes company “Mr Price”, very much present in Durban, has set up a similar garden on the roof of one of their department stores. They brought in the municipal garden team, who advised them on the design of their garden. The municipality also supports some schools which wished to create educational gardens.
The municipality has also implemented the “Adopt a spot” project. The idea is to identify suitable places for the creation of gardens in the city, and to bring together an active group of citizens for its design and maintenance in each district of the city.
A discussion is also underway with the municipal architecture department and the universities of architecture to integrate the design of a roof garden into university training and the construction process for new buildings in the city.
Last modification : 25 Apr 2020.
This roof garden project, carried by the municipality, is part of the city's greening strategy and support for local agriculture.