Greening Urban Spaces: January 2017
By Ivy Pepin
We had just one planting day this month, on January 25th, and it was an energizing way to kick off a fresh new year of urban greening! The sun was already hot on our backs as we loaded up the bakkie to head to St. Augustine’s RC Primary. We were joined by 18 fantastic and hard-working volunteers from Propel Africa, coming all the way from Sweden! As we move into a greener 2017, here’s an inside look into what a Greenpop Planting Day is like.
The students at St Augustine’s welcomed their visitors with a beautiful onstage performance. One group recited a perfectly fitting poem by Joyce Kilmer: “I think that I shall never see/ a poem lovely as a tree.” They were followed by a choir of students, who sang a moving rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” as the audience clapped and swayed along. We were so grateful to be treated to such a thoughtful gift. Thank you so much, St. Augustine’s!
Next up was a environmental workshop led by Bhongo, Greenpop’s Planting & Monitoring Coordinator. Students and donors worked together to act out each benefit that trees have for us — creating oxygen, offering shade, bearing fruit, and more. We also talked about our power as individuals, even in the frightening face of climate change. Next, Greenpop’s Urban Greening Manager Farrah showed us all how to plant a tree, and the planting process could begin!
Working in teams, donors and students planted 30 indigenous trees of various species: yellowwood, forest elder, red elder, Port Jackson fig, water berry, and wild olive. After laying down some newspaper to hold in moisture, the planters placed each tree in the ground and covered it with a mixture of mulch and compost. To be sure that the tree was planted at the right depth, they measured with a spade. Storm, a 10-year-old student, said this was his favorite part of planting!
Because of South Africa’s current water crisis, Greenpop is working hard to conserve water, especially at our planting days. We used a new technique this time: burying a recycled bottle filled with grey water along with each tree. Small holes in the bottles allow water to slowly feed the roots of each tree, which cuts back on the water that is wasted in evaporation. Using grey water (household waste water, such as the water left over from doing dishes) also fights the drought, and luckily the students had saved more than enough to hydrate the freshly planted saplings!
“They give us oxygen, they give us fruit, they give us things to eat, they give us shade, they give us everything.”
As they finished up the planting process, the students talked about their own reasons for loving trees. “They give us oxygen, they give us fruit, they give us things to eat, they give us shade, they give us everything,” said Matthew, 10. “And I love how they smell!” he added. Tyler, an 11-year-old student, was happy to be bringing some more green to St. Augustine’s. “I would love to be in nature all the time,” she said. “If I had the opportunity, I would stay there!”
Once everyone had brushed the dirt from their hands, we closed the day with a ceremony. “We promise to water and care for our trees as long as we are here. Before we leave, we promise to teach others so they will follow in our green footsteps,” read Bhongo, a pledge which the students repeated, holding up their green thumbs. We know that these students will tend their trees with love for years into the future.
We are so grateful to St Augustine’s, Propel Africa, and our always-amazing sponsors: BOS Ice Tea, Reliance Compost, Bulk SMS, Probio, Just Trees, and The Pole Yard. Thank you for making days like this possible!
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Greenpop Foundation NPC is a registered non-profit organisation. Registration Number (NPO): 151-411 NPO.