A rise in community food gardens sparks an increasing in demand for compost

Community gardens are fast becoming the preferred land-use for many public open spaces. South Africa has seen a significant increase in the number of community food gardens in many major metros as well as rural townships, and schools. While this sustainable land use model brings many benefits to the surrounding communities and environment, organisations that manage these public community gardens are often faced with the challenge of resource shortages, especially a reliable and cost-effective supply of compost.

BiobiN South Africa has identified the urgent need to redirect food and organic waste streams, coming from retail and hospitality businesses to public community gardens. The best model for implementing this is through centralised in-vessel composting systems.

When converting a public space into a garden, usually the first phase is to treat the soil to increase its fertility to be able to grow food. As these demarcated public spaces are often very big and unmaintained, the costs associated with treating the soil, or buying enough compost to start the operation, is usually very high. “What is interesting to see, is that often these community gardens are surrounded by businesses that generate large volumes of food and organic waste; all of which can be converted into compost and ultimately donated. “This highlights a promising model where these businesses, especially restaurants and retail outlets, can divert their food waste by using on-site composting units and donating the compost to community gardens. By doing so, business will also be able to curb the rising costs of landfilling organic waste,” says Brian Küsel, director of BiobiN South Africa.

Community food gardens pave a great way forward in creating more sustainable cities. Gabriel Road Area Project Association (GRAPA), a civic organisation formed by local business owners and residents in Plumstead, Cape Town, are in the process of converting a previously run-down public space into a thriving community garden. Once up and running, GRAPA reports that the garden will contribute to food security for the less  fortunate, increase biodiversity, and promote social cohesion by offering a space for interaction and connection.

“The best way to support these organisations like GRAPA, is for the surrounding businesses to invest in a composting solution. It can cost thousands of Rands per month on compost alone to keep the soil healthy, especially in the early stages of development,” says Küsel. “As we see more of the public spaces converted into food gardens, the demand for compost will increase and we are urging businesses to set up an agreement with other businesses in the community to start a joint composting centre. This will not only benefit the food garden but will also save costs as stricter organic waste regulations are resulting in higher waste tariffs for organic waste.”

As GRAPA is a registered Public Benefit Organisation (PBO), they can issue tax certificates for the purpose of tax deductions for donations. GRAPA also reports that in its current phase, compost is the most crucial resource that is required to maintain the community garden. To find out more, visit www.biobin.co.za

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