‘Tree of life’ keeps giving

2019-02-12 06:01
Magda Campbell and Jean-Tey Heubner with some of the plants. PHOTO: SAMANTHA LEE

Magda Campbell and Jean-Tey Heubner with some of the plants. PHOTO: SAMANTHA LEE

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The Beacon Organic Garden has benefited from 400 plants donated from mining company Anglo American, following one of their recent sustainability initiatives at a recent mining indaba.

On Friday last week, the 400 plants, including vegetables, shrubs and fruit tree seedlings were delivered to the garden based at the Beacon School for LSEN in Westridge.

As Anglo American aspires to be a global leader in sustainable mining, the company built a “stand that grows”, which was a living tree that showcased the company’s sustainability strategy.

The company has been part of the mining indaba for several years and annually look to develop a stand that speaks to their sustainability strategy, says Sibusiso Tshabalala, an Anglo American spokesperson.

“We have a strategy that we launched last year and it is that business must be a force for good with in society. Everything we do has to have a positive impact. By this we mean that other people around us must have a sense that we exist not only to harm the environment - as most people presume mining does - but also to make it better,” he says.

The school was identified as a suitable beneficiary by Soil for Life, a non-profit organisation in Constantia that teaches people how to grow healthy, organic vegetables.

The idea also came about as they constantly innovate their stands to serve a specific need or charity.

“Around 7000 people from all over the world come to this indaba and companies set up stands. The problem with these stands is that they cost a lot of money and there is a lot of wastage. You put up the stand for four days, then take it down and put it into storage or you are sensible and recycle it. This year we decided to build a stand that grows,” says Tshabalala.

Last year, the company made use of a shipping container as their stand which was then remodelled to become a library for a primary school.

Pranill Ramchander, Anglo American South Africa’s head of corporate communication, said in a statement that this initiative is rooted in the company’s purpose, which was also its theme for the Mining Indaba held between Monday 4 and Thursday 7 February at the CTICC. “We’ve brought our purpose to life by showcasing our Sustainability Strategy. The stand design resembles a tree, which is traditionally known to be a meeting place in some communities in South Africa. The tree is also a metaphor for sustainable growth and a symbol of a healthy environment. We hope that our contribution will inspire the people of Mitchell’s Plain to continue to find new ways of building their community,” he said.

Magda Campbell of the Beacon Organic Garden says: “The donation that Anglo has made will make a significant difference because, not only are the plants edible, they will help grow the garden that exists at Beacon School and continue to sustain the Mitchell’s Plain community.”

The plants have since been replanted in the garden, Campbell confirms.

“We are so grateful for this donation. There are strawberries, orange trees and cabbage and lettuce seedlings,” she says.

“Everything in this garden is for the children. (Today) you could see their excitement to be part of a project and this garden. Having a huge organisation like Anglo American spending the day with them in the garden is so amazing. I am so overwhelmed,” says Campbell.

The company also brought goodie bags for the children, coffee and cake for the teachers to enjoy.

The company representatives also spent time with the children in the garden.

“Everything we do here is cost effective. We do not get financial funding and all the money coming in is the money generated from the garden. The garden now sustains itself,” says Campbell.

The garden initiative has also been used to teach the children gardening skills and to be environmentally aware.

Jean-Tey Heubner, one of the learners who started in the garden when he was still a learner at the school, now works at the school full time and has helped Campbell sustain and grow the garden initiative.

“He was one of the first learners that have been part of the garden for so long. He is like a plant that is in the garden somewhere. Many learners came back and then left, but he has stayed,” says Campbell.

The garden was founded in 2014 and Heubner joined in 2015.

“Gardening is so nice and I am enjoying myself. I have learnt so much from aunty Maggie (Campbell). She is my favourite person to turn to because I know she will teach me properly,” he says. “I feel so proud when I plant something and it grows.”

He says cabbage is one of his biggest challenges to grow but also one of his favourites as there is a lot of work that goes into it, especially because of pests.

The garden retails organic produce and also make their own compost for sale to the public.

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