“It’s so rewarding to see a tree you’ve planted grow and flower. It gives me a smile on my face and in my heart.”
These are the words of John Witbooi from KwaNobuhle, the founder of Indalo Nursery and the visionary behind the Greening the Community project – a collaboration between the Nursery, Community Conservation Fund Africa (CCFA) and the Wilderness Foundation Africa.
The aim of the project is to bring nature back to the township and to encourage residents to green the space in which they live.
Also to learn the values of planting indigenous trees for future generations and protecting earth.
Witbooi has the African soil and the plants and trees that grow in it, in his DNA. In addition to his love of nature, he benefited from his grandfather’s teaching when he was young.
“I was so lucky to grow up with my granddad. He would tell us all those old stories of Africa and taught us about plants and the environment. We lived off the land. It gave us everything we needed,” said Witbooi, affectionately known as Blackie.)
“But, sadly, most of the trees - our indigenous trees - have gone. These days, young people overlook the earth’s potential.”
He works on a conservation estate next to KwaNobuhle and whenever he walked home, he couldn’t help compare the green and luscious estate with the dry and dusty neighbouring township. He was determined to change that and so Indalo Nursery was founded as a co-operative business.
Di Luden, executive director of CCFA, met Witbooi when she was visiting the property to install beehives and said he knew so much about the hives, down to which bushes would enable their livelihood.
While chatting to him she learned of his vision to green the community. To have a green sanctuary in the township where people can meet, learn about indigenous plants, get coffee and reconnect with the earth and plants.
Greening the community project
“The value of planting indigenous trees is for our future generation, our kids. Research has shown that trees are the most powerful carbon-capturing technology in the world. Planting more trees can help us in the fight against climate change but they also give us so much more.”
However, he was struggling to secure a location in the township, CCFA decided to help him achieve his dream.
“We started working on a business plan which included education, to ensure the project is sustainable and have come up with introducing the Indalo Nursery in phases,” said Di Luden.
The first phase will be an intake of 20 students to a Siyazenzela’s Life and Employability Skills course, aimed specifically at learning about horticulture. The courses will be run by Wilderness Foundation Africa and be tailored specifically for the Greening the Community project.
Witbooi will be giving lectures to the students and, as part of their practical, they will plant trees in the homes and schools that they have access to.
Giving back to Mother Earth
“We are hoping that this will encourage other community members to get involved and start planting their own trees,” said Luden.
The three top students will be sent on to a formal horticultural training course after which they work for Indalo and receive a stipend from CCFA. Initially they will continue planting trees throughout the community as well as help the building and set up of the actual nursery as the entire existing Indalo Team have full time jobs.
This first part of this project has already begun, with Indalo growing succulents and making pots which are placed in the Mantis hotel rooms.
“Guests visiting the Mantis hotels and lodges, can purchase these plants, with proceeds going to the project. The pots for the succulents are handmade by the Indalo team,” said Luden.
As part of the Siyazenzela training and tree planting, the students will plant fruit trees to “put something on the table””and give the nursery financial independence.
The nursery will also focus on the traditional Wild Olive or Umnquma and Spekboom.
Witbooi said, “People don’t have the knowledge about plants and trees or understand their true value. I want to change that. The land gives us so much. It’s our responsibility to look after it for future generations.”
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