Food gardens take off in Durban’s inner city

Submitted by: Amanda Botes, Tuesday, August 20, 2013

In October 2009, eThekwini Municipality initiated a food garden in front of the Durban City Hall to inspire citizens and organisations to grow their own food and promote food security in the city. Almost four years later a number of food gardens have developed in the Durban inner city area. 

The Durban City Hall food garden

The Durban City Hall food garden is situated on former flower beds in front of the City Hall on the Dr Pixley KaSeme Street side (Image Source: Amanda Botes)

Inspired by a food garden initiated by the City of Vancouver on their own City Hall lawns Sogen Moodley, an eThekwini Municipality official working for the Imagine Durban project at the time, suggested the City Hall food garden project to the eThekwini Municipality City Council and the conversion of flower beds to food gardens went ahead in 2009. eThekwini Municipality’s Parks Department manages the garden and harvests the produce which is donated to a nearby charity.

Umthombo vegetable garden

The Umthombo vegetable garden on the corner of Shepstone and Pickering Street in Durban’s Point area provides food for children at the Umthombo shelter (Image Source: Amanda Botes)

In 2010 Cyril Nhliziyo an eThekwini Municipality Parks Department horticulturalist noticed an unkempt verge on the corner of Shepstone and Pickering Road that was used as a dumping site. Inspired by the Durban City Hall food garden Nhliziyo initiated a food garden at the site. Umthombo, an organisation for street children in Durban, looks onto the garden and Nhliziyo decided to approach Umthombo to partner on the Umthombo vegetable garden project. The garden was designed and maintained by the Parks Department up until April 2011 when Umthombo took over the management of the garden. The produce is used to prepare nutritional meals for street children at the shelter and to teach the children about gardening.

Food gardens that have developed from the Priority Zone Project

The Priority Zone Project is an initiative by the eThekwini Municipality’s Architecture Department and managed by Drake and Scull Facilities Management to improve the conditions of the Durban inner city.

A number of food gardens have been established as part of the project. “When the Priority Zone Project was established at the Monty Naicker Street Offices staff were inundated with requests for money and food by people in the area and so the food gardens were a way to give back to the community,”says Nonhlanhla Nyandeni, Public Relations Officer at the Priority Zone.

Nkululeko Ngcobo, Quality Controller at the Priority Zone adds that the food gardens promote food security and serve as an example for Durban citizens to plant their own vegetables, improve their health and save money.  Ngcobo adds “The Priority Zone’s role is to look after the assets of the city and the food gardening has been the cherry on top.” 

40% of the Priority Zone’s produce grown in Durban’s inner city is sold on to restaurants and shops such as the Corner Café in Glenwood and Fruit and Veg City in Cowey Road, Berea and Windermere. This money is used to maintain the gardens. 60% is donated to charities including TAFTA, Natal Settlers Home, Durban Children’s Home and the Nest Shelter explains Ngcobo.

Priority Zone rooftop garden

A rooftop garden has been developed on the Priority Zone building in Monty Naicker Street. A mixture of food and succulent plants are grown on the roof. The fresh produce is donated to charity (Image Source: Amanda Botes).

The Priority Zone rooftop garden was developed on the roof of the Priority Zone Project’s offices. The aim of the rooftop garden was to provide food to those in need, educate the public on food security and sustainability, and inspire other companies in the Durban inner city to garden despite limited space. A wide range of organic vegetables and herbs are grown in tunnels as well as in 44 gallon drums and used tyres on the roof of this building.

Nyandeni says that the garden has attracted international and local visitors alike as well as many gardening organisations and schools who promote food gardening as part of their education programmes.  Many office workers in the area also have their lunch breaks on the roof.

Road side vegetable garden at the Monty Naicker Road taxi rank

The street side gardens at the taxi rank on Monty Naicker Street now feature vegetables which are donated not only to nearby charities but to taxi drivers and local cookers (Image Source: Amanda Botes)

The Priority Zone offices are in Monty Naicker Road across from a busy taxi rank. The street side gardens caught the eye of Wendy Gibson-Taylor, Drake and Scull Senior Facilities Manager, as they were not that well maintained.  Gibson-Taylor decided to transform the gardens into food gardens and donate the produce to local charities and local cookers that sell food to passers-by and taxi drivers at the rank, explains Nyandeni.

Food garden outside the eThekwini Municipality Water Department 

The food garden in front of eThekwini Water Department. This food garden has replaced a raised grassed area (Image Source: Amanda Botes)

The food garden at the front of the eThekwini Water Department was initiated at the end of 2012 by the Priority Zone. Previously a raised grass area, the Municipality only had budget to cut the grass three times a year says Ngcobo. Now the Priority Zone contracts the work out to a garden service company who manages the garden and harvests the produce.  The raised bed is part of a roof over an underground car park and therefore had to be inspected by an engineer to ensure the roof could bear the load of the extra weight before planting could take place. The garden is situated on a popular walking route that connects eThekwini Municipal offices in KE Masinga Road with the Workshop Shopping Centre and has increased the visual appeal of the area.

Paw paw trees at the Monty Naicker Road bus rank opposite the Workshop

Paw-Paw trees at the bus taxi rank opposite the Workshop Shopping Centre (Image Source: Amanda Botes)

In September 2012 the Priority Zone planted paw-paw trees on a neglected shady verge at the bus rank across the road from the Workshop Shopping Centre on the corner of Samora Machel and Dr AB Xuma Street.

KwaMuhle Museum vegetable garden

The food garden bed at the KwaMuhle Museum is now managed by staff based at the  Museum (Image Source: Amanda Botes)

The Priority Zone project also assisted the KwaMuhle Museum to convert an existing flower bed into a food garden. The Priority Zone designed the garden and supplied seedlings and labour for two months. The garden is doing well and maintenance of the garden has now been taken over by the KwaMuhle Museum explains Ngcobo.

Mr Price rooftop garden

The rooftop garden at the Mr Price offices on the Durban Station has an assortment of vegetables and herbs for salads that are used in the canteen (Image Source: Amanda Botes)

Inspired by a visit to the Priority Zone rooftop garden, the Mr Price Group converted a derelict rooftop courtyard at their Durban Station premises into a rooftop garden. The garden was designed and is maintained by a garden service company and the produce used in the Mr Price canteen. The space serves as an area where staff can relax and be inspired. 

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Amanda Botes