Greening Urban Spaces: February 2017

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FEBRUARY, 2017

By Ivy Pepin

Well, the earth certainly felt our affection in this month of love! The weeks here at Greenpop have been brimming with four planting days, three different workshops, many days of monitoring, and more. It’s all added up to 160 new trees planted this month alone! They make up all sorts of species: wild olive, false olive, waterberry, stinkwood, forest alder, and B. saligna.

First, our beneficiary workshop on 10th February, “Greening the Classroom,” was an enormous success. It was hosted at our Greenpop Nursery in Woodstock right beside the N3 highway, which – as our Cape Town Project Manager Farrah notes – is a perfect example of how any space can be made lush and green! Educational workshops throughout the day showed teachers how to align their curriculum with environmental advocacy, with information on everything from tree care to climate change.

Family at the Hogsback Festival of Trees

At our nursery in Woodstock, Greenpop volunteer Joan leads beneficiaries in an earth warrior workshop.

Photograph by Misha Teasdale

The planting department team Farrah and Bhongo, along with interns Joan, Tracy, and Katie, did a beautiful job hosting workshops. Visitors made their own water filters, learned about germinating seeds, and discussed trading your carbon footprint for a legacy footprint. “Greening the Classroom is about translating environmental stewardship to the course curriculum,” says Bhongo. “After all, these trees are going to stay around for hundreds of years.”

Above all, it was so valuable to hear from the beneficiaries who were at the event. Neesa, a research assistant at UCT, spoke about her efforts to start an urban greening programme at her son’s high school, Garlendale High. “It’s basically being open-minded and starting small,” is the advice she offers to others hoping to do the same. “That’s the main thing… Start small and then grow from there.” Ultimately, things are looking bright; at the end of the workshop debriefing, teachers at St. Augustine’s said, “We are inspired to start an eco-group at school now!”

We’re so grateful to the workshop sponsors, who made this amazing day possible: BOS Ice Tea, Just Trees, The Pole Yard, Bulk SMS, Reliance, ProBio, MonkeyBiz, and Struik Nature!

“If you take care of the environment, the environment in itself takes care of you.”

Planting days were also productive this month. First, Propel Africa joined us at Mitchell’s Plain Skills School on 15th February, where we planted 50 trees together. African Impact planted 30 trees at Sophumelela High on the 16th, and we had an exciting plant day with our partners on the 21st at Zonnebloem Girls’ School. As always, we are deeply grateful to our in-kind donors (BOS, Reliance, The Pole Yard, ProBio, Bulk SMS, and Just Trees) for supplying our plant days with trees, compost, refreshing ice tea, and more!

17th February was a special extended plant day at Vulamasango Orphan Project in Philippi. Along with the teachers at ReUnion Yoga, we were able to plant 60 trees (and we even tossed some yoga and meditation into the mix!). We also launched a new “forest pattern” planting technique at this site. By staggering the trees’ positions and planting nitrogen-fixing Virgilia trees in between them, we mimic the growth pattern of a forest. This allows the trees to help each other along. After all, Mother Nature knows best!

At the end of the day, we shared a beautiful moment of song with the Vulamasango family. We followed the music with a circle gathering to hear one another’s thoughts and feelings about the day. “It’s not just to start a culture, but to bring the culture back of taking care of the environment… I’m hoping that it can rejuvenate that part of everyone, especially in the townships,” said Lusanda, one of the project’s facilitators. “Hopefully this can now make tree planting cool, make taking care of the environment cool, and in that way develop the understanding that if you take care of the environment, the environment in itself takes care of you.” Check out this blog post for a closer look into the #TrekForTrees campaign that made this day possible!

People with their hands in the air.
Poem hanging from a tree.

On February 22nd, we held our first POP-up workshops of the year, at Norma Road Primary and Factreton Primary schools! Bhongo and Farrah gave demonstrations on general tree care and caring for trees in a drought. Our tricks for saving water are 1) using mulch on trees, which keeps water from evaporating, 2) planting beneficial vygies, which also protect and benefit the trees with nutrients, and 3) placing a punctured plastic bottle in the ground with each tree so that its roots can be watered directly and efficiently.

It was also exciting to see the vegetable gardens at Norma Road, planted by Samporele Community Farmers. The Samporele NGO (the name means “umbrella” in Sesotho) suggests new planting sites for us, as well as helping us care for the trees we have planted. Dominique Tomlinson and Roger Isaacs cultivated Norma Road’s abundant garden from an empty piece of land. They work with the school to help feed the students and teach them how to grow food. Plus, their extra produce is available for purchase at the Oranjezicht City Farm Market!

Roger and Dominique were kind enough to give us some of their gorgeous veggies as gifts – aubergine, okra, green peppers, spring onions, chilis, and some fragrant lemongrass. It all made for a deliciously fresh vegan lunch for our office on Friday!

Mural at Zonnebloem Girls’ School.

Photographs by Misha Teasdale, Ivy Pepin & Zoe Gauld

Finally, many thanks to the members of the public who came to lend a hand at our Open Nursery Day on February 21st. A massive amount of recycling was sorted and loaded into the trailer, 10 bags of two litre bottles were punctured for future plant days, and 150 rubber bands were cut to stake trees. The path was mulched, the garden beds were weeded, radishes and sunflower seeds were planted, the acacia tree was pruned, and everything got a healthy dose of water! The space is looking even lovelier than usual.

And, of course — thank you to our donors, who made this month of urban greening possible!

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