Tree-preneurs flourish in Indigenous Trees for Life programme

2009-04-14 00:00

THE Indigenous Trees for Life programme by the Wildlands Conservation Trust implemented at rural schools in Table Mountain two years ago, is going strong.

Management from The Witness, which has adopted the project as one of its corporate social responsibility programmes, recently visited these schools to see just how their contributions are adding to these communities.

A group of excited teens from Masijabule and Nhlanhlayabebhuza High Schools put their best foot forward as they gave their individual interpretation of nature preservation through engaging poems, dramas, song and dance during the visits, which coincided with the National Water Conservation week.

Paul Makhanya of Wildlands said the Eco Schools Project cultivates the importance of conservation of biodiversity.

At the same time, he said, the project is meant as an empowerment engine for these pupils, from underprivileged backgrounds, by encouraging entrepreneurial lifestyles.

The pupils, who are referred to as tree-preneurs, are introduced to the project by being given a starter kit.

This starter kit consists of easy growing seeds such as the Coral, Ankle Thorn and Umkhanyakude.

“We give seeds with a better survival rate to ensure that the children stay motivated in the first few months of the project,” he said.

The trees are then collected at ruler length or more and the pupils are compensated with school uniforms, bikes and other necessities like maize meal, sugar and washing powder, in exchange for trees.

“Wildlands does not pay tree-preneurs in cash but we use a credit note which is like a receipt for their trees. Depending on the number of trees they have, they can purchase a number of goods from the tree store which is taken to the communities.”

The project is gaining popularity with parents who use their credit notes to pay for their children’s school fees.

The Weekend Witness recently featured an article about a father from Waterloo, a township outside Umhlanga, who used his 2 000 trees to pay for his 17 year-old daughter’s studies in BComm Accounting at the University of Zululand.

“I have parents from other schools wanting for us to start the project in their schools … I have been promised by two tree-preneurs that they will be planting as many trees as they can so that Wildlands can support them in varsity next year.”

The Indigenous Trees for Life programme has a number of projects in the greater Durban and Pietermaritzburg areas, as well as in other parts of the province.

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