‘She is the frame of the unexpected. A young girl with no rank and no title, just two small hands that carry her entire community. There are no facilities here; there are no green bins that line the streets, just her understanding.’
On Saturday, 5 November these profound words of poet Mbali Vilakazi came to life in the dusty community of Kanana, Klerksdorp.
With a heart bigger than her tiny hands, two year old Mamelo Machobo from Vaal Park captured the hearts and minds of the Climate Train team.
Barefoot across the thorny fields
Barefooted, she trotted across the thorny field to meet the Climate Train team, who were offloading trees from the back of the bakkie at the Kanana Community Arts Centre. Amazed by the amount of plants and people around her, her curious brown eyes lit up with excitement.
Without anyone asking her to help, she picked up a plant and carried it over the gravel path. With great pride, she cautiously placed the tree alongside the others. Linzi Lewis and Wayword Sun, from AMbush Gardening Collective, were preparing the ground for planting.
At first she tried to lift the heavy water bucket, then realized it was too heavy for her frail arms. To and from she walked between the tap and the plants to fill her cooldrink bottle with water.
Pouring water into a new life
This young girl not only brought life to the poem, but to her community. Every drop of water she poured onto the plants was a deposit to a new life.
AMbush, with the help of the dedicated team of the Abogazi cultural group, quickly transformed the dry and polluted ground. Where asbestos lay across the field, there was now a beautiful garden, boasting with Imphepho, wild olive, aloe and crassula trees.
‘People who live in this community have very small yards. Even if we wanted to plant trees, we are not able to because of the lack of space. I am so glad that the plants are being planted here at the Community Centre, where everyone has access to it and can appreciate it,’ said Thandi Webb, who was also intrigued by AMbush’s visit to Kanana.
One person who particularly enjoyed the afternoon was environmentalist Laurence Nokonyana, member of the Abogazi Cultural Group.
‘Today is one of the greatest days of my life. I feel like a child who has just received a new toy. It might not seem like a big project to many, but what happened here today was the beginning of something new. I am overjoyed by everything that we learnt over these past few days that we spent in the company of the Climate Train team.’
AMbush also revived the existing vegetable garden and enhanced it with a variety of indigenous medicinal plants.
Creating meaningful and functional spaces
Linzi, who has an MSc in sustainable tropical forestry, specialising in urban agriculture and biodiversity said the idea behind their project is to create more functional and meaningful spaces for people to use.
‘We usually go into wasted, neglected spaces and beautify them to uplift both public and accessible land. We had a great time gardening in Kanana. It’s important to touch base with communities, especially those that are trying to do something. The reaction we get from the people is always rewarding. It’s all about contributing to a better environment for all and learning from one another,’ she said.
On the last day at Klerksdorp Prince Pheko bid the train goodbye, sharing his hope for this community:
‘If only the government can be as passionate about climate change as they are about HIV and Aids, because to me it’s just as serious and scary. Prevention is better than cure. Thank you for the great work you guys are doing in educating so many people about this important cause.’
By Sonia Koopman