OnePlate’s first completed project is a roof-top garden in the heart of metropolitan Manila in the Philippines. It is on top of a four-storey building owned by a not-for-profit foundation that supports street children with a drop-in centre, accommodation and meals.
“The garden is amazing and the children love it,” says OnePlate Director and co-founder Thérèse Nichols.
‘Their faces light up when they are there. It has not only been therapeutic and healing for them but it has given them responsibility and a new vision for life. It’s so beautiful to witness this firsthand.
‘We raised the money for the garden in 2016 through our generous OnePlate tribe supporters and are so thrilled as it will help feed and educate many children. It’s the beginning of many sustainable food projects to come.’
The garden measures 45 square metres, the average size of an Australian one-bedroom apartment. Around 2.3 cubic metres of soil was used to create the garden beds. This and construction materials, such as metal screens, tubular steel, corrugated roofing sheets and garden net, were gradually carried up four flights of stairs to the roof by volunteers and the older boys who live there. The infrastructure took two weeks to complete.
The garden is planted with more than 20 varieties of fruit and vegetables, carefully selected by our horticulturist to ensure they will adapt well to the rooftop setting and produce high yields.
Crops include tomatoes, calamansi, eggplant, lady fingers, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, squash, bell and hot peppers, petchay, mustard, spring onions, papaya, string beans, sponge gourd, peppermint, ashitaba and stevia.
Thérèse says it is vital that the garden is a long-term, sustainable project, managed and worked in by the people who benefit from the produce.
‘Sustainable food programs empower local to be self-sufficient, giving them the dignity they deserve,’ she says.
To date (September 2017) the garden has produced three harvests – half a kilo of spring onions, a kilo of mustard, a handful of calamansi and two kilos of tomatoes. With the onset of the rainy season, eggplants, pepper, lady finger, honey dew, bottle and bitter gourd and some of the tomato plants will start to fruit.
In February 2017 our horticulturist and volunteers experimented with vermicomposting. A small vermi bed was created to cultivate 500 African night crawler worms. After three months, twice the number of worms were harvested and around four kilos of vermicast were gathered to use as fertiliser.
Who the Rooftop Farm Feeds
The garden has been designed to produce enough food to feed 100 street children. It was created by a leading horticulturalist to be high yield and to grow nutritious fruit and vegetables that the children will love.
This is a therapeutic space for the children, where they are given the experience of “getting their hands dirty” to grow something that is beautiful, healthy and beneficial. Before they start helping with planting and watering, they are taught basic gardening skills to gain an appreciation of how food is grown and the importance of healthy eating.
The garden not only provides for the foundation’s children and volunteer staff, it shows the wider community that it’s possible to be self-sufficient by growing food in an urban environment. The next step is to give them the skills and confidence to do the same for themselves.