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Great Labyrinth of Africa growing
An example of a labyrinth.
Four of the “treepreneurs” with Peter Shrimpton in front of some spekboom trees. From left is Derek Zingela, Loyiso Rosha, Peter Shrimpton, Rekai Mapenda and Valentine Mapenda.
Terry de Vries, designer of the Great Labyrinth.

Construction on the biggest labyrinth in the world consisting of about 120 000 spekboom trees, will start in January 2020.

The Great Labyrinth of Africa is a project initiated by Stellenbosch-based NPO, Heart Capital and will be located at the Stellenbosch Bridge Smart City close to Klapmuts and Elsenburg Agricultural College.

The project will cost about R9 million.

Labyrinth expert, Terry de Vries, is the designer of the Great Labyrinth.

“A labyrinth is not like a maze. If you go into a maze, you get lost,” explains Peter Shrimpton, CEO of Heart Capital.”

“A labyrinth has only one way in where you walk around and round until you get to the centre. When you get out again, you go back the same way. Labyrinths promote mindfulness because you are walking in a circle. It forces you to be introspective and almost puts you into a state of hypnoses.”

According to Shrimpton the project started about three years ago through Heart Capital’s Wonder Plant initiative. They bought 300 spekboom trees, snipped off the cuttings and provided this and other necessary material to about 100 residents in various townships including Kayamandi.

The residents then grew the trees at their homes until about one year ago when Heart Capital started buying the trees back from the growers. What started with 300 trees, has now turned into about 164 000 trees. “One tree can produce about 15 trees. Some people were growing the trees behind their shacks in a space as big as a door. That is enough space for about 100 trees. They grew it until about 10 cm then we would buy it back from them and put them in a central hub in the township.”

In Kayamandi for example this central hub was at Makupula Secondary School where they had about 10 000 trees. There the trees grew until about 20 cm. “Then we took them and put them in our nursery in Simondium where we grow them to about 30-40 cm when they are ready to go into the ground.”

There are about 86 000 trees at the nursery in Simondium and they have started moving them to the site where the labyrinth will be situated.

Also at the nursery the organisation has identified five previously disadvantaged young men for their “tree-preneur” programme where they are trained how to be entrepreneurs. Each “tree-preneur” is responsible for 25 000 trees.

“We have set them up in their own nurseries. It’s their trees and then we buy those trees from them to put into our great labyrinth project.”

The labyrinth will be 230 m x 230 m, the same size as The Great Pyramid of Giza which can be seen from space. “According to my research it will be the biggest labyrinth in the world.”

Shrimpton says spekboom trees take 10 times more CO² out of the atmosphere than an ordinary tree and they only need about 250 ml of water a year to survive.

“If everybody started to grow spekboom, that will go a long way in helping us to fight climate change. It is the number one carbon gulper on the planet.”

Climate change is the whole reason for the Great Labyrinth of Africa according to Shrimpton who describes it as “the biggest issue of our time”.

“Last month 11 000 scientists published an article saying unless we regress carbon emissions by 2025, humanity can go extinct within the next 50 to 100 years. That’s a fact. The world is in a climate emergency. All our lives are on the line.”

Shrimpton says South Africa produce about 511 million tons of CO² every year. “We have to do something to reduce our carbon footprint or we are going to kill our children.”

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