Today I wanted to share with you a link to a project in Cape Town, South Africa, that recently caught my eye for a few important reasons. A collection of residents in Oranjezicht, a suburb in the Cape Town city bowl, have managed to rally their community around the usage of some highly visible, under-utilized public space. They call it the Oranjezicht City Farm.
The significance of the project goes beyond the obvious.
It is situated on a portion of what used to be the largest farm in the 18th Century upper Table Valley. This was a time when the settlers in this valley used to acquire their water (and therefore their food and security) from the abundant springs feeding off table mountain. Present times in the city bowl are a stark contrast from this image, and historical significance in this case has caught the imagination of locals and hopefully many visitors still to come. They are successfully leveraging the positive points of the site, marketing it expertly (as can easily be seen on their website) and thus ensuring a solid, diverse base for a sustainable project. They’re riding on a wave of relocalization and resilience culture, while planting seeds in the imaginations of those who come into contact with it: Education and inspiration, through design.
Unfortunately, I personally have not been able to visit the site as yet, as I live in Durban myself, but it only stokes my motivation to see such sites emerge right here where I live. Rather than wait for a visit before writing this article, I choose to expose its existence for those who might want to check it out for themselves.
Another reason this particular project interests me, is for the fact that it’s currently in a phase of exponential growth — a potential watershed moment — due mostly to the direct support of the community around it, but also due in part to their use of an online platform for social investment call Thundafund. This is one local version of a crowdfunding trend that seems to be taking hold internationally, most recognizable in versions such as Kickstarter and the new permaculture crowd-funding platform, WeTheTrees. Through Thundafund, OZCF managed to raise (almost all) the required funds to reach their first stated investment milestone.
I personally dream of a day where we might see an abundance of competing online investment platforms of a high quality, channelling local funds towards effectively designed local projects. I would like to see reward for those with authentic ideas, receiving the support of those who will ultimately benefit the most from their fruition. I am one of the hopeful many who can see the immense need for a transition from the disconnected investment culture of the present to one less skewed towards mindless monetary return.
It’s in this transition that I see an obvious gap for online crowdfunding and I’m excited to see what floods in to fill it.