Wildlands Conservation Trust
The winter landscape around Luphisi is dry and dusty with bleached winter grass interrupted by koppies and grey thorn trees, so it’s refreshing to stand among a splash of bright green ‘treepreneur’ seedlings.
Lungelo Mazibuko (15) has been a ‘treepreneur’ since she was 12 years old. Initially a bit shy on meeting us, she soon warmed up and started talking about her project. “I’ve learnt about nature and the environment, about how to look after the atmosphere. I’ve never been one to go out on the streets like the other children, so I take my project as my playtime. When I come home from school, I like to irrigate my trees, weed them and talk to them. My friends used to think I’m wasting my time, but when they saw my new bicycle they were jealous and wanted to ride it.”
Lungelo takes us to her nursery of about 400 seedling trees. She points out a leafy young coral tree, a quintessential part of the African bushveld with its bursts of flame-red flowers. She is very aware of her natural environment and clear-minded about completing her tertiary studies. She wants to become a geologist.
“I’ve learnt about nature and the environment, about how to look after the atmosphere.”
The Old Mutual Foundation has invested R1 760 000 over a three-year period into the Wildlands Conservation Trust. In Mpumalanga, there are about 100 – 150 active treepreneurs in the Luphisi community. Earlier in 2011 the Wildlands Conservation Trust greening team assisted the community to plant 16 000 trees grown by local treepreneurs.
The Old Mutual Foundation has supported the Wildlands Conservation Trust since 2008. The Indigenous Trees for Life Project provides youngsters with packs of indigenous tree seeds, such as sausage, marula, coral, Natal mahogany, acacia and fig tree.
The young treepreneurs are trained on how to propagate the seeds and nurture the seedlings until they are 30 cm high. This takes about three to six months, depending on season and tree type. Once a batch of trees is tall enough, they can be traded back to the Wildlands Conservation Trust, who plant them into selected areas as part of their reforestation programme.
A treepreneur can exchange tree seedlings for foodstuff, building materials, bicycles, even laptops. It’s a creative way of raising environmental awareness among young people, securing their active participation in greening their communities while giving them the opportunity to “earn” tree currency.
- 10kg flour = 22 trees
- 5kg sugar = 7 trees
- one packet cement = 45 trees
- bicycle = 100 trees
- computer laptop = 2 300 trees