Edible Gardens Help Fight HIV in South Africa

edible gardens

keyhole gardens are a representation of typical permaculture forms.

The country of Lesotho in South Africa is using edible gardens to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Lesotho is known to have a huge problem with HIV/AIDS infections. It is rated the third highest HIV prevalent country globally. The nation’s population is around two million, and almost a quarter of working-age adults are infected with  HIV. Non-governmental organizations and international agencies have helped out Lesotho’s government fight the epidemic by providing resources to stop poverty, food insecurities, and medical emergencies such as Tuberculosis, which has one of the highest infection rates in the world. Lesotho is the first in the region to implement the World Health Organization’s 2015 guidelines on the provision of antiretroviral therapy.

For antiretroviral therapy to work, patients need to have good nutrition. International agencies and organizations have helped out Lesotho in promoting crop diversity in subsistence farming and recycling household waste. This has helped Lesotho create keyhole gardens. These gardens are made by pouring organic waste, ash, and greywater into central composting bins, from which it filters into the surrounding soil.A cutaway provides easy access to the bin and gives the gardens the distinctive shape from which they take their name.  The result is a small plot of extremely fertile soil in which owners grow vitamin-rich vegetables such as spinach, beetroot, and carrots to complement a diet that is heavily based on corn and wheat. The edible gardens usually generate two harvests each year. According to Ian McKay, program director at Send a Cow, the organization has witnessed major improvements in the quality of diets in communities where it has worked over the past decade. The crops that are planted from the keyhole gardens have also been used for trade in meats and other vegetables such as corn. These gardens have aided in fighting off the HIV/AIDS epidemic and have found ways to help fight off poverty and food scarcity for this country. Source: MUNCHIES

From Architecture to Urban Farming

A Brief Story of a Vision of Urban Farming


“While doing research on solutions for sustainable mixed-use urban corridors, I came to foresee the value of incorporating urban farming into the common space of  habitats.”

In a brief story of her vision, Ruth brings us the case of urban farming as a growing movement to tackle problems that the world faces in the 21st century. Her story is personal.

She tells us how her vision evolved from childhood experiences in the Romanian countryside to her life in Rome. She had the mentorships of Professors, Zevi and Pellegrin, who introduced to her, Wright’s thinking and works. Later in her practice as an architect, her discovery of Permaculture, became a new passion for urban farming and local edible gardens.
She posed to herself some critical questions:

  • How can urban farming contribute to making the world a better place?
  • What is the connection between architecture, planning and urban farming?
  • What can each of us do to become self-reliable on the food we put on our table?
  • How can edible gardens become a design component integrated to urban development?
  • How can urban farming provide a stage for social interaction?


Some facts may help to put a global problem into perspective:

  1. The First Agriculture Revolution started about 10,000 years ago. As nomads settled, cities were born. The cities were surrounded by farms, which supplied its population with fresh food.

    San Gimignano, Photo: Pablo Charin, Rick Meghiddo, urban farming

    San Gimigniano surrounded by farms – Photo: Pablo Charin / Minube

  2. As the world’s population grew from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7.5 billion today, the agriculture  transformed radically. Industrialized farming brought us ecological degradation.  Aggravated by the massive use of toxic chemicals, the path of food from the farm to the city became dependent on carbon-based fuel for transportation.
  3. Climate change is likely to expand the areas of drought, hurricanes and floods, diminishing the existing cultivable areas.
    Nwesweek 10/30/2015

    Newsweek 10/30/2015

    Milano EXPO 2015: Feeding the World, Rick Meghiddo

    Milano EXPO 2015: Feeding the World

  4. Today’s global population growth is about 75 million a year. We are likely to reach ten billion around by 2050. Too far away? Not really! That is just “around the corner.” By 2050, children born today will be in their thirties.

    World Population-1800-2050

    World Population-1800-2050

  5. One acre of land is needed to feed one person for one year. By 2050 we will need additional not-yet-existing cultivable land of about 10 million km2, equal to the size of the United States.

How shall we continue to feed the planet?

How shall we invent the future while we free cultivable land from the voracious appetite of urban sprawl?  If we want to create a decent living environment, the action is needed NOW. Here are some possibilities:

  • Increase mixed-use urban density along urban corridors.
  • Create cultivable areas within residential multi-family buildings, office buildings, schools, factories, hotels, etc.
  • Design common edible gardens as places for social interaction.
  • Design workspaces that provide edible gardens to its tenants.
  • Plan neighborhoods that include common cultivable areas.
  • Build multi-story farms.
  • Vertical Farming - Rendering: Blake Kurasek

    Vertical Farming – Rendering: Blake Kurasek

    Vertical Farming

    Vertical Farming


No single solution can fit all needs. The use of eco-friendly lightweight hydroponic systems that consume 90% less water than traditional farming can be incorporated into the built environment.

On the other hand, permaculture, first developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, brings a holistic approach that combines agricultural and social design principles. By increasing our awareness of “thinking globally and acting locally,” each of us can contribute to making the world a better place to inhabit.


Jean Phillipe Pargade Technical and Scientific School, Paris. Photo: Sergio Grazia

Jean Phillipe Pargade Technical and Scientific School, Paris. Photo: Sergio Grazia


“In Defense of Food,” Advice for Health


Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food, offers advice on how to eat to achieve maximum health.

In Defense of Food

“Where does your food really come from, and what should you have for dinner? Chances are that your food traveled hundreds of miles before it landed on your plate. But some experts say eating local might make us healthier, and better stewards of the environment.”

Read an Excerpt (bottom half of post)

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
That’s the advice journalist and author Michael Pollan offers in his new book, In Defense of Food.
“That’s it. That is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy,” Pollan told Steve Inskeep on NPR.

    ‘Eat Food’

“We are eating a lot of edible food-like substances, which is to say highly processed things that might be called yogurt, might be called cereals, whatever, but in fact are very intricate products of food science that are really imitations of foods.” – Pollan

Pollan acknowledges that distinguishing between food and “food products” takes work. His tip: “Don’t eat anything that your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
Take, for example, the portable tubes of yogurt known as Go-Gurt, Pollan says. “Imagine your grandmother or your great-grandmother picking up this tube, holding it up to the light, trying to figure out how to administer it to her body — if indeed it is something that goes in your body — and then imagine her reading the ingredients,” he says. “Yogurt is a very simple food. It’s milk inoculated with a bacterial culture. But Go-Gurt has dozens of ingredients.”

    ‘Not Too Much’

A large part of the conversation about food — like debating low-fat and low-carb diets — serves as a way of avoiding the idea that maybe we’re just eating too much, Pollan says. He says his advice about how to limit consumption is based less on science, which he says “has failed us when it comes to food, by and large,” and more on culture. “Cultures have various devices to help people moderate their appetite,” he says. “Once upon a time, there was scarcity. We don’t have that anymore; we have abundance. But if you go around the world, you find very interesting tricks and devices.”

“The French manage to eat extravagantly rich food, but they don’t get fat, and the reason is that they eat it on small plates, they don’t have seconds, they don’t snack.”
– Pollan on French culture and small portion sizes

“You do know when you are full, and the idea of stopping eating before you reach that moment [when you’re 80% full]… if you do that, you will actually reduce your caloric intake quite a bit.” – Pollan on Japanese culture and “Hara Hachi Bu”

    ‘Mostly Plants’

“There is incontrovertible but boring evidence that eating your fruits and vegetables is probably the best thing you can do for preventing cancer, for weight control, for diabetes, for all the different, all the Western diseases that now afflict us.” – Pollan

But can you follow Pollan’s advice and avoid processed foods without spending a ton of time and money?
“You’re going to have to spend either more time or more money, and perhaps a little bit of both,” Pollan says. “And I think that’s just the reality. It’s really a question of priorities, and we have, in effect, devalued food. And what I’m arguing is to move it a little closer to the center of our lives, and that we are going to have to put more into it, but that it will be very rewarding if we do.
“And if we don’t, by the way, we are going to suffer from this — you know, we hear this phrase so many times — this epidemic of chronic disease. But the fact is, we are at a fork in the road. We’re either going to get used to chronic disease, and be … in the age of Lipitor and dialysis centers on every corner in the city, or we’re going to change the way we eat. I mean, it’s really that simple. Most of the things that are killing us these days — whether it’s heart disease, diabetes, obesity, many, many cancers — are directly attributed to the way we’re eating.”

    Excerpt: ‘In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto’


Food Science’s Golden Age
In the years following the 1977 Dietary Goals and the 1982 National Academy of Sciences report on diet and cancer, the food industry, armed with its regulatory absolution, set about reengineering thousands of popular food products to contain more of the nutrients that science and government had deemed the good ones and fewer of the bad. A golden age for food science dawned. Hyphens sprouted like dandelions in the supermarket aisles: low-fat, no-cholesterol, high-fiber. Ingredients labels on formerly two- or three-ingredient foods such as mayonnaise and bread and yogurt ballooned with lengthy lists of new additives — what in a more benighted age would have been called adulterants. The Year of Eating Oat Bran — also known as 1988 — served as a kind of coming-out party for the food scientists, who succeeded in getting the material into nearly every processed food sold in America. Oat bran’s moment on the dietary stage didn’t last long, but the pattern now was set, and every few years since then, a new oat bran has taken its star turn under the marketing lights. (Here come omega-3s!)
You would not think that common food animals could themselves be rejiggered to fit nutritionist fashion, but in fact some of them could be, and were, in response to the 1977 and 1982 dietary guidelines as animal scientists figured out how to breed leaner pigs and select for leaner beef. With widespread lipophobia taking hold of the human population, countless cattle lost their marbling and lean pork was repositioned as “the new white meat” — tasteless and tough as running shoes, perhaps, but now even a pork chop could compete with chicken as a way for eaters to “reduce saturated fat intake.” In the years since then, egg producers figured out a clever way to redeem even the disreputable egg: By feeding flaxseed to hens, they could elevate levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the yolks.
Aiming to do the same thing for pork and beef fat, the animal scientists are now at work genetically engineering omega-3 fatty acids into pigs and persuading cattle to lunch on flaxseed in the hope of introducing the blessed fish fat where it had never gone before: into hot dogs and hamburgers.
But these whole foods are the exceptions. The typical whole food has much more trouble competing under the rules of nutritionism, if only because something like a banana or an avocado can’t quite as readily change its nutritional stripes. (Though rest assured the genetic engineers are hard at work on the problem.) To date, at least, they can’t put oat bran in a banana or omega-3s in a peach. So depending on the reigning nutritional orthodoxy, the avocado might either be a high-fat food to be assiduously avoided (Old Think) or a food high in monounsaturated fat to be embraced (New Think). The fate and supermarket sales of each whole food rises and falls with every change in the nutritional weather while the processed foods simply get reformulated and differently supplemented. That’s why when the Atkins diet storm hit the food industry in 2003, bread and pasta got a quick redesign (dialing back the carbs; boosting the proteins) while poor unreconstructed potatoes and carrots were left out in the carbohydrate cold. (The low-carb indignities visited on bread and pasta, two formerly “traditional foods that everyone knows,” would never have been possible had the imitation rule not been tossed out in 1973. Who would ever buy imitation spaghetti? But of course that is precisely what low-carb pasta is.)
A handful of lucky whole foods have recently gotten the “good nutrient” marketing treatment: The antioxidants in the pomegranate (a fruit formerly more trouble to eat than it was worth) now protect against cancer and erectile dysfunction, apparently, and the omega-3 fatty acids in the (formerly just fattening) walnut ward off heart disease. A whole subcategory of nutritional science — funded by industry and, according to one recent analysis,* remarkably reliable in its ability to find a health benefit in whatever food it has been commissioned to study — has sprung up to give a nutritionist sheen (and FDA-approved health claim) to all sorts of foods, including some not ordinarily thought of as healthy. The Mars Corporation recently endowed a chair in chocolate science at the University of California at Davis, where research on the antioxidant properties of cacao is making breakthroughs, so it shouldn’t be long before we see chocolate bars bearing FDA-approved health claims. (When we do, nutritionism will surely have entered its baroque phase.) Fortunately for everyone playing this game, scientists can find an antioxidant in just about any plant-based food they choose to study.
Yet as a general rule it’s a whole lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a raw potato or a carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over in Cereal the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming their newfound “whole-grain goodness” to the rafters. Watch out for those health claims.

*L. I. Lesser, C. B. Ebbeling, M. Goozner, D. Wypij, and D. S. Ludwig, “Relationship Between Funding Source and Conclusion Among Nutrition-Related Scientific Articles,” PLoS Medicine, Vol. 4, No. 1, e5 doi:10.1371/journal. pmed.0040005.

Excerpted from IN DEFENSE OF FOOD by Michael Pollan. Reprinted by arrangement with The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright (c) Michael Pollan, 2008.

Smoothie for Weight Loss & Better Complexion


This is a good way to lose weight, and get a glowing complexion. Green smoothies are rich in immune boosting nutrients, which provide the body with minerals and vitamins. Also, a green smoothie gets their vibrant color from chlorophyll, a nutrient-rich pigment found in leafy vegetables, which cleans the body of harmful toxins, oxygenates the blood and helps boost energy.


  • A bunch of Kale/or Spinach, fresh from Tower Garden
  • A bunch of Parsley/or Cilantro fresh fro Tower Garden
  • A few leaves of Mustard Green/or a piece of Ginger
  • 1 Cucumber, fresh from Tower Garden
  • 1 Green Apple
  • 1 Half Avocado
  • 1 Large Lemon juiced
  • Add water or ice

Blend the ingredients together and drink it immediately. ENJOY

sm pic for fu site

Different Ways of Producing and Providing Food


French Pavilion at the Expo Milan 2015: Different Ways of Producing and Providing Food

Let’s take a look at the french pavilion at the 2015 Expo Milano. It is an interesting lightweight wood structure that can be dismantled and reused at the end of the Expo.

How can we feed the world, today and tomorrow? How can we ensure adequate food for mankind that is of good quality and healthy in the long term? France is focusing on this central issue posed by Expo Milano 2015, with a commitment to participate fully in the discussion, providing answers based on its capabilities and points of excellence.

Its communication is based on four pillars: contributing to global food production, through the potential of France’s productive infrastructure; developing new food models, to address the need for better production; improving self-sufficiency in developing countries, with a policy of skills and technology transfer; and aligning quantity with quality in all areas, be they health-based, nutritional or culinary.

At the Universal Exposition, France will present a full array of its renowned and unique distinguishing features, ranging from its know-how in land management, to agriculture, which already allow its brands to be present in all markets of the world.

Rooftop Aquaponics

World’s First Commercial Rooftop Aquaponic Farm by David Thorpe

aquaponic farming in Swiss

Urban farming comes in many shapes and forms: from traditional farming, to permaculture, hydroponics, aeroponics, and aquaponics. These new farming systems will help develop more produce in urban environments and have more residents be engaged in providing food to their families and communities. David Thorpe focuses on aquaponics, and how it has grown commercially in Switzerland. This type of farming will show how to save land, water, and provide more food to overpopulated cities and countries.

Aquaponics – aquaculture (fish farming) + hydroponics (growing plants without soil) – could furnish 12% of a person’s diet per 3m2 of roofspace, according to a prototype study. From a small unit you can harvest both fish (usually tilapia) and vegetables, while using the waste from the fish to feed the plants and the plants to clean the water for the fish.

Lots of people are interested in aquaponics – more than hydroponics for example but there are few examples and data is hard to find. Basel, Switzerland hosts the only commercial example in Europe, situated on a rooftop of LokDepot.

It’s a brainchild of the Institute of Natural Resources Sciences. The Institute focuses on biological farming, ecological engineering, integrative ecology, landscape and urban greening and has pursued 20 years of development and research into fish species and a broad array of vegetables grown under different conditions.
According to Ranka Junge of Zhaw Zurich university, speaking at the International Conference on Vertical Farming and Urban Agriculture last week, the benefits are: nutrient utilization; low water consumption; edible plant production as well as fish. But the drawbacks are that you need to know about both fish and plant production; the complex system involves a lot of expertise.

“For this reason, doing it on a commercial scale is hard,” she said. “But the advantages are no use of pesticides or antibiotics, making food local, adding greenery in the city, nearly closed nutrient cycles, reduced energy input, perfect food safety control, around a 90% reduction in water use, and that vertical farming increases efficiency.”

Roman Gaus and Andreas Graber run the world’s first commercially successful aquaponics farm at LokDepot. Costing $900,000 to build, it occupies just 26 m² and has been operating since winter 2012. It is capable of producing 5000 kg of vegetables and 500 kg of fish per year. The numbers work as follows: the main input is the fish feed which is 1 kg for ta fish harvest of 700g and between 5 and 10kg of tomatoes. 300 L of water goes in and 290L is evapotranspired to be condensed and returned (cleaned thereby) to the fish. (Fish produce ammonia and their water needs to be continually refreshed or they die: the plants do this job.) This amount of fish produces 2 L of sludge, which gives nutrients to the plants and is vermicomposted. No artificial lighting is used. In a year, it has used 20.9MWh of electricity and 32.2MWH of heat plus 763m3 of water to produce 3401kg of veg and 706 kg of fish. 10kg fish was wasted and 577kg veg wasted. So the top line is it produces 2.7 kg fish and 13.1kg veg/acre.
There is no environmental pollution and the food is organic and healthy, produced with respect to animal welfare, fresh and sustainable. In the shop, the fish sell out quickly even though the price is slightly high.
Ranka Junge has calculated that on this basis 3m² of rooftop space could feed one person 12% of their diet.
“In Basel there is 2,000,000m² of vacant rooftop space. If 5% of this rooftop space were used for aquaponics, that is 100,000m², which could feed 34,000 people or contribute 8-20% of the fresh fish and vegetable consumption in Basel,” she concludes. There are many ways in which this system could be improved, she says, such as with improved water management, building integration, climate control and energy use, but she is convinced that it is a proof-of-concept and innovative model.

Back in Basel, after completing feasibility, Roman Gaus and Andreas Graber have secured the first EUR1.0m in project funding for a new development in the Netherlands. Watch the UF De Schilde Campaign Video here. The start of production for fish and vegetables on the roof is anticipated as early as March 2016. The team has also produced a Bolt-on System to enable the seamless integration of aquaculture systems into existing (hydroponics) production models for protected crops such as vegetables, fruits or flowers.

What is Unique About Aeroponics?

Farm Urbana 2014 - Ruth Meghiddo

Aeroponics is considered a closed hydroponic system. Therefore, nutrients and water are continually recycled, preserving our natural resources and the environment. This economical growing system is suitable for home growers and commercial growers alike, and can produce a wide variety of crops in a relatively small growing space.

Aeroponics is cutting edge in the world of hydroponics. Aeroponics is a hydroponic system in which plant roots are suspended in air and intermittently soaked with a nutrient-rich, mineral based solution. Similar to hydroponic growing the nutrient solution flows or drips onto the roots of the plants and then drips down into a reservoir or collection pipe, where it is used again. Research suggests that aeroponic systems maximize oxygen availability at the root zone, thus helping to maximize plant growth.

Aeroponic systems provide consistent phytochemistry from the herb roots because growers are able to precisely control the inputs into the plant. High quality medicinal roots can fetch a premium price in certain markets. This is an exciting technological breakthrough in the world of herbal root production, because medicinal herb plants are typically damaged when roots are harvested using conventional growing techniques.

Aeroponics is also commonly used in educational facilities, theme parks, and restaurants. It can create many variations of aeroponic systems.

Food & the City: Urban Agriculture

Farm Urbana 2014 - Ruth Meghiddo

Food and the City: Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution

Farm Urbana 2014 - Ruth Meghiddo

When you’re standing in the midst of a supermarket, it’s hard to imagine that you’re looking at a failing industrial food system. The abundance all around you looks impressive but is really a facade. In fact, there’s just a three-day supply of food available for any given city due to complex, just-in-time international supply chains. The system is not only vulnerable, given the reality of food scares, international crises, terrorist attacks, economic upheavals, and natural disasters, but it is also environmentally unsustainable for the long term. As the cold hard facts of peak oil and peak water begin to have an impact, how will we feed a world population of seven billion and growing, most of whom are now urban dwellers?

One answer is urban agriculture. Food and the City examines alternative food systems in cities around the globe that are shortening their food chains, growing food within their city limits, and taking their “food security” into their own hands. Award-winning food journalist Jennifer Cockrall-King sought out leaders in the urban-agriculture movement and visited cities successfully dealing with “food deserts.” What she found was not just a niche concern of activists but a global movement that cuts across the private and public spheres, economic classes, and cultures.

She describes a global movement happening from London and Paris to Vancouver and New York to establish alternatives to the monolithic globally integrated supermarket model. A cadre of forward-looking, innovative people has created growing spaces in cities: on rooftops, backyards, vacant lots, along roadways, and even in “vertical farms.” Whether it’s a community public orchard supplying the needs of local residents or an urban farm that has reclaimed a derelict inner city lot to grow and sell premium market veggies to restaurant chefs, the urban food revolution is clearly underway and working.

Food and the City is an exciting, fascinating chronicle of a game-changing movement, a rebellion against the industrial food behemoth, and a reclaiming of communities to grow, distribute, and eat locally.



Food and the City by Jennifer Cockrall-King

The Future of Urban Farming


The Future of Urban Farming

Transcript of AhaGarden Presents Urban Farming with Tower Garden featuring FarmUrbana.com
Your Road Map to a healthy life by cultivating your own food and making a difference with the Tower Garden System!
In the past we grew fresh food which was nutritious and grown naturally, next to people’s homes.
With the industrialization of farming we grow food but we are extensively using fertilizer, GMO’s, and pesticides which depletes the nutrients from our foods.

We can make Urban Farming a Reality Today

You grow fresh and nutritious foods without pesticides and GMO.
You lower your food costs and lower your carbon footprint.
We can create an economically viable urban farming enterprise and create a more sustainable living environment
We can do this with permaculture, aquaponic, and Tower Garden aeroponic system.
Urban Farming also helps stimulate a more cohesive community environment.

A Model for Urban Farming Enterprise

Currently food is shipped across the country and even from other counties.
With Urban Farming we can grow our own fresh foods and with more nutrients, locally.
We also create local jobs and increase our food security with the advantage of consuming fresher, more nutritious produce from local farmers without the current health hazards.
Urban Farming strengthens our local economies by keeping dollars circulating within the community.

Children’s Education

Preschool education about nutrition starts by teaching our children about growing food and how to eat healthier.
With the Tower Garden system you can start to affect change today!

The Tower Garden is a smarter way to feed your family, it is better for the environment and
uses less water….only 10% compared with traditional farming.
No dirt or fertilizer, no pesticides, no insecticides.

The Tower Garden Way is a compact vertical aeroponic system invented by Tim Blank.

TO LEARN more and buy your own tower visit:

CONTACT: Ruth@FarmUrbana.com
Fun and Affordable, Tower Garden is the Future!