Preparation Phase

This section of the website includes the preparation work the team completed before arriving in Cape Town.


The goal of this project is to develop a sustainable rooftop gardening program that grows organic produce to be strategically marketed to benefit local consumers and low income gardeners. Providing training and support for these low income workers will develop their skill set and further their abilities as entrepreneurs. This project is in the preliminary stages; the team has spent seven weeks researching and preparing. The project will be implemented in October 2012 upon the team’s arrival in Cape Town. This project is sponsored by Touching the Earth Lightly, with support from the City of Cape Town’s Office of Sustainable Livelihoods.

Project Overview


The end of apartheid meant the beginning of a new South Africa and a dynamic time in South Africa’s history. Opportunities arose within the City of Cape Town for black and coloured citizens causing a rapid influx of people. The city could not support this increase in population, leading to displaced citizens, high rates of unemployment, and food security issues. Poverty and food security remain issues for many citizens of Cape Town and the surrounding informal settlements. The marriage of rooftop gardening with urban agriculture could stimulate social development through job creation while addressing food security issues.

Cape Town, like most cities, imports its produce, which requires a lot of energy for transportation and reduces the overall quality of goods. Money that could be fed into the local economy is pumped out as the produce is brought in.  There is room for urban agriculture in the city if dead urban space on building rooftops is properly utilized.  Rooftop gardens also provide an avenue for job creation since the rooftops will need to be maintained and the produce will need to be marketed and sold.

Urban agriculture has proven to be an effective way to provide low income workers with food security (RUAF Foundation, 2012). Workers farm the land, cultivate the crops, and earn their salaries from the produce they sell. The cycle is self-sustaining since the workers generate their own income. Examples of urban agriculture can be seen throughout the world with varying levels of success. Abalimi Bezekhaya has had great success with their vegetable box scheme in South Africa. By providing technical and business marketing support for low income farmers, they have given the farmers the opportunity to not only provide quality food for their families but also take in additional income (Harvest of Hope, 2012). Through careful planning and organization Abalimi Bezekhaya became one of the few success stories in urban agriculture. In order for urban agriculture to be sustainable and profitable there has to be good communication between all stakeholders, a good training programme, and dedicated workers. Without one of these critical components, the system fails. The RUAF Foundation had an issue with one of their initiatives because of poor communication with landowners, forcing them to relocate (RUAF Foundation, 2012).

Touching the Earth Lightly has begun a rooftop gardening initiative in the Central Business District of Cape Town, South Africa. With one rooftop already underway, Touching the Earth Lightly’s goal is to continue work on the current rooftop and build additional rooftop gardens throughout the city. The produce generated from these gardens is to be sold locally with the hope of creating employment opportunities for low income workers. In order for these efforts to be a success, several changes must be made. Currently Stephen Lamb is developing and maintaining the garden on his own. Expansion and sustainability are not feasible unless other people are trained to perform these tasks too. Expansion is critical to the marketability of the produce in order to increase volume and variety.  Issues may arise in regards to the workers trained to maintain the gardens. A social gap exists between the potential low income workers and the other stakeholders in the city, leading to the discomfort of both parties as well as potential issues with the workers gaining access to the buildings.  In addition, the low income workers will require a great deal of support and training in order to become successful gardeners, marketers, and entrepreneurs.

The goal of this project is to develop a sustainable rooftop gardening programme stemming from Touching the Earth Lightly’s current garden. At the end of the seven weeks of work on site, it is the team’s goal that other rooftop sites have been identified, a suitable market has been identified, and a guide for training workers is in place. Through GIS mapping and interaction with the building owners, potential rooftops will be identified. Interaction and interviews with potential markets, in addition to background research, will help the team to identify the best market for the produce. Supporting the low income workers may be an innovative selling point in the project’s marketing strategy. The low income workers will be provided with training and support necessary to develop their skill set and further their marketability as an entrepreneur. The team will leave Touching the Earth Lightly with an action plan to continue the development of the rooftop gardening programme.

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