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One of ECHO's purposes is to help people grow food under difficult conditions. You are not likely to encounter a soil worse for gardening than a cement slab. Neither will you find such large areas of unused growing space in full sun and near prime markets as on cement rooftops in Third World cities.

The most expensive agricultural land is always that located near large markets. If there were large areas of unused flat land right in the middle of huge population centers, the potential value for producing vegetables would be obvious. How many acres of unused flat rooftops do you suppose there are in the cities in your country?

For the past eight years ECHO has been working on methods for gardening on rooftops. It turns out that cement slabs are not nearly as difficult a challenge for gardening as one might think. In fact, they have become one of my favorite gardening spots. They offer an enormous and almost untapped opportunity for ministry to urban populations. (There are also applications in certain rural settings as well).

Many church-related groups are looking for practical ways to help the people they minister to spiritually. There do not seem to be many options (medical help, community organization, and development of small businesses seem to be the major areas). Urban gardening has a reputation of not being very successful overall. I think the rooftop gardening methods outlined in this issue of EDN will not be limited by some of the factors that have caused other urban gardening projects to fail.

This issue of EDN is being devoted to the subject of rooftop gardening. Its purpose is to (1) help you evaluate its potential for your area, (2) give sufficient technical details to get started, and (3) set up an informal network among those of you who decide to try rooftop gardening so we can learn from each other's experience. Even if you never use the technique, I think this discussion will give you a new understanding of how plants grow and of their adaptability to different conditions.