On The Ground in The Sky

Stephen Lamb, the founder of Touching the Earth Lightly (TEL), was appointed to construct a rooftop garden on the 44 Wale Street government building. We had anticipated that this garden would be a source for concrete data, such as production levels and effects of uncontrollable variables. Once we were on the ground in Cape Town, we realised that the project was not as far along as we had thought. This rooftop garden was meant to be a showcase, rather than a test bed for micro greens and oyster mushrooms.

Our sponsors’ goal for the project was to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life for the poor in Cape Town while promoting resource efficiency. They were looking for us to provide them with hard statistical data they were lacking, such as how much rooftop space is available in the CBD and the economic viability of the project.
After initial meetings with our sponsors, our reflections left us with some major questions regarding the feasibility and sustainability of the programme.

  • Since job creation is the purpose for the programme: How much rooftop gardening space and associated revenues from food production do you need to sustain one job? Where can we find workers and how will they be selected? How will the workers be trained?
  • In regards to the management hierarchy of the programme: What positions are required for a sustainable programme? Who will supervise the workers? Who will manage the gardens once they are operational? What scale must the programme be started at to ensure the hierarchy can be sustained?
  • From a financial standpoint: How much money is required to startup the programme? How long will it be until the gardens generate revenue? Will this revenue be enough to cover costs? Can revenues support the expansion of the programme?

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