In our different contexts, we face challenges on a daily basis that are socio-economic and environmental. The urban spaces we live in in Cape Town have been designed through a very particular socio-economic agenda, with little concern for our natural resource base.
The Cape Flats area was created in the era of resettling people along racially divided lines. In addition urban migration has also placed huge strain on physical and environmental resources. People still live huge distances from their workplaces and broader urban design is very much based on cars and fossil fuel driven transport systems (Although the horse-driven carts are still alive and a somewhat underutilized resource). Access to land is limited and all home spaces are intensely utilized and secured.
Malls, spaza shops and small shopping centres import products for consumption, and by and large the urban spaces consume rather than produce. The nearby Philipi Agricultural area, which produces significant amounts of fresh produce for Cape Town was recently facing being developed for housing.
In Permaculture, we try to create “a marriage between landscape and local culture” through responsible and appropriate design interventions that support the needs and growth of all life. We don’t always get a blank canvas or undeveloped site to work with – so retrofitting existing situations is a key skill for us to learn. More people than have ever now live in cities. This component of designing and implementing urban retrofits is a crucial skill for our group of permaculturalists.
Participants have been tasked with designing three sites within Mitchell’s Plain.
The first site is the St. James In-Take Centre in Mitchells Plain: a rehabilitation centre created and supported by a wonderful woman called Roslyn who works with recovering addicts from her home. Her permablitz team is designing the gardens systems so that it will assist in providing the medicinal and nutritional requirements of the household and those under the care of the centre. The space will also serve as an educational resource to community members who are interested in learning how to implement and maintain productive permaculture systems in local homes.
The second site is owned by a community member, Rosie, who has tasked the participants with designing a retrofit for an urban homestead. The participants are required to design food production systems in a space surrounded by masonry and concrete. It is a situation and site that many in South Africa are challenged by.
The third site is the SEED post-carbon homestead. The homestead has been developed as an educational model that serves to provide all visitors with an opportunity to view and experience a site-specific permaculture based design intervention for the Cape Flats region. The students have been tasked with designing garden systems that will expand into staple food production.
Watch this space as we retrofit and implement these designs.
Written by Calvin Dias and Alex Kruger: Lead facilitators of the Accredited Permaculture Training and Internship Programme.
Photographs by Joana Marques.