Greening the Community is a collaborative project between Indalo Nursery, Community Conservation Fund Africa and the Wilderness Foundation Africa. It aims to bring nature back to the KwaNobhule township but also to encourage residents to green the space in which they live, their community and ultimately their country and planet. The pivot behind the project is John Witbooi.
John Witbooi, 57, founder of Indalo Nursery in KwaNobhule in the Eastern Cape, has the African soil and the plants and trees that grown in it, in his DNA. In addition to his love of nature, he benefitted from his grandpa’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. But sadly, most of the trees, the indigenous trees have gone. These days, young people overlook the earth’s potential.”
Witbooi (affectionately known as Blackie) works on a conservation estate next to KwaNobhule 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.
Witbooi says, “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,” says 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.
Unsurprisingly, Witbooi will also 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. This will be the start of the greening.
“We are hoping that this will encourage other community members to get involved and start planting their own trees,” says Luden.
The three top students will then 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 – so that 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,” explains Luden. “Hopefully this will draw attention to the project and additional funding.”
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 which is used to make the Xhosa hunting and fighting stick or Intonga, as well as the Umnquma, the traditional wild olive walking stick.
Spekboom will also be planted to help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by acting like a carbon sponge and producing oxygen, improving the quality of air we breathe.
The project’s objectives are to:
- Alleviate poverty
- Drive individual and social change
- Uplift the community
- Create a sustainable future
Witbooi says, “I am determined the make our collaboration with CCFA and Indalo Nursery work. People don’t have the knowledge about those plants and trees or understand their true value. I want to change that. 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. The land gives us so much. It’s our responsibility to look after it for future generations.”
You can help make Blackie’s vision and dream come true. Visit CCFA to find out how.