The V&A Waterfront opens urban food garden built using plastic waste.  The project is set to support sustainable food programmes including Ladles of Love and The Homestead.  The garden will also create jobs and contribute to the aesthetics of the V&A’s open spaces.

Utilising Permaculture principles, the freshly grown and harvested produce will be sent to two beneficiaries, both of which run projects to feed people who are living in poverty. Ladles of Love gives people the opportunity to provide fresh, wholesome meals, with love, to people who have lost their way. The Homestead works with homeless children to assist their personal growth, development and education into a future off the streets.

The initiation of the urban food garden project was based on the responses of a survey conducted with staff members. The answers received found that the main concerns were around skills development, waste reduction, marine protection and food security which became the three focus areas of this unique community programme.

“It aligned with The V&A’s shared values ecosystem,” says Programme Manager of Social Inclusion and Space-making at the Waterfront, Henry Mathys, “…in that it supports sustainable urban food programmes, creates jobs, responds to the interests of our staff, and beautifies the open spaces of The V&A Waterfront.”

Urban Food Garden’s shape inspired by the Octopus

The urban food garden’s landscape layout was based on the structure of an octopus as a way of creating awareness around marine protection and plastic pollution. With that in mind, some of the vegetable and herb beds have been built from over 1,076 eco-bricks which were filled with a total of 269 000 plastic packets, which has contributed significantly to reducing unrecyclable plastics. That’s just under half a tonne of plastic waste repurposed into only one garden. The recyclable wall designs were innovated by Felix Holmes from the Maker Station in such a way that the EcoBricks can be reused should the garden be relocated in the future.

The octopus tentacles are entwined by pathways which wind through the plant-beds that have been sized to arms-length to avoid walking on any soil. The plants occupy 260-square meters and have been placed into companion zones with one predominant vegetable type and other produce assisting that species growth or to repel pests. Olla ceramic watering pots have been placed into the beds and to save even more water, and our Head Office building’s greywater is used to irrigate the crops as well.


ell. The plants receive additional nutrition from fertiliser created through the worm farms that operate using the building’s food waste.

The Octopus Garden was initially an under utilised lawn before it was made into a functional, sustainable, communal and beneficial growing space. In addition to this, the urban food garden is a recreational area where Merchant House staff can enjoy their lunch breaks in a natural environment. The benches built from ecobricks are placed in the shaded dome that makes up the octopus’s head and further contribute towards the V&A’s waste reduction efforts.

Urban Farming Apprenticeships

Candidates were chosen from SEED, a public benefit organisation based in Mitchell’s Plain that runs permacultural and urban resilience courses, to participate in the Urban Farming Apprenticeship programme that was run by Ian Dommisse, founder of EcoBrick Exchange. “The students that joined us have graduated from their SEED course and are receiving much-needed experience and income-generating opportunities.” One of the attendees, Mike Panashe Mberi commented: “Food gardening is a part of our culture. I have realised that growing organic, healthy produce is a way to improve peoples living conditions and lifespan. This programme has enabled me to put into action my skills so that people can benefit and I can give back to the community.” The ripple effect of providing these individuals from underprivileged backgrounds with a real-life opportunity to test their knowledge and learn skills is vital in providing an opportunity for future job opportunities.

Exciting, meaningful and relevant initiatives such as this start with action from a group of committed and forward-thinking stakeholders and we’d like to wholeheartedly thank our partners the Maker Station, Eco-Brick Exchange, and Musgrave Spirits.

The Octopus Food Garden addresses not only globally talked about issues but tends to the needs of the V&A employees themselves, who it is hoped will enjoy their new food garden, learn about growing food and building with eco-bricks.

[Source: www.waterfront.co.za]