South Africa: The GreenHouse Project – An Oasis in the City

serves as a gateway to the rest of the continent, and is one of the most violent cities in the world.

Its crime statistics are staggering, and with over 5,000 murders, twice as many rapes (documented ones, that is) serves as a gateway to the rest of the continent, and is one of the most violent cities in the world. and more than 12,000 carjackings annually, it has created a fearful reputation worldwide.

Driving from the airport to the city we could see high walls and electric fences surrounding residential houses and businesses alike, leaving us with the impression that a fortress-type decor is the norm in this city. The upper and middle classes, both black and white alike, live behind these walls, shuttling between offices and shops (also walled and guarded) in their cars. Walking is not advised here, and even in the rich neighborhoods you rarely see people on foot. Can you imagine having to drive just to get some milk or bread at the corner store?

We had stopped in Joburg to document the work of The GreenHouse Project, a project recommended by our friends at teh Berkana Institute. It’s situated in the heart of the Hillbrow neighborhood, an area that until the early 90’s was home to the city’s wealthy elite numerous corporate headquarters and the stock exchange. Following apartheid the neighborhood experienced mass exodus of teh rick to the new satellite towns of Sandton and Randburg, leaving houses, apartment buildings and large corporate towers abandoned. Hillbrow soon became the entry and hub and home to many immigrants seeking refuge from their war-torn regions, and has since become known as one of the most violent and crime-ridden areas of a city already known for such.

It was here, in a small urban park, that Dorah Lobclo founded the GreenHouse Project, a dynamic center that has grown to become a seedbed for organic farming, sustainable design, and community building. Accepting the city’s offer to use park space, Dorah took on teh challenge of working in this tough neighborhood with little or no resources. But what she has been able to do with so little showed us what having an attitude of ‘doing with less’ can accomplish.

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flickr image by Kicki

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