Lesley Joemat has worked at Spier since 1998 and is the project leader for Tree-preneurs, that gives more than 100 people from some of the Cape’s poorest communities the opportunity to change their lives.
Lesley teaches Tree-preneurs how to care for indigenous trees and plants. She gives them seedlings to nurture and once these have reached 15cm, they can be exchanged for vouchers for food, clothing, agricultural goods, tools, bicycles and educational support. She takes the environment as seriously off duty as she does at work, having installed various water-saving and reusing devices at home.
What’s the best thing about Spier?
Nature and its beauty, both flora and fauna.
What makes Spier different to other companies?
Sustainability initiatives and care around the social, economics and the environment.
How did you get into your line of work?
My way of life is very much influenced by my rural background and upbringing. My extended family practised the Golden Rule of respect for all – especially Mother Nature. My studies included Geography and Social Ethics. I got involved with the sustainability side of Spier as assistant to the Sustainability Director and from there never looked back supporting all do-able positive initiatives to lighten my footprint.
What is your greatest strength?
How do you make a positive difference to the environment?
I installed water-saving, grey water and rain water harvesting devices at my home and place of work. I also make compost, worm tea and organic pesticides so that I don’t have to use harmful manmade fertilizer and pesticides. I’m busy building nursery structures using materials such as plastic bottles, poles from alien trees and bamboo. I re-use old materials as such as pallets, wood bits, tins, cans, bags and shoes to make vertical plant hangers.
How do you make a positive difference to your community?
As the social responsibility coordinator in my church, I help make a difference in the lives of many underprivileged and vulnerable people. We run soup kitchens, distribute food parcels and clothing, and provide pastoral care in the communities of Klapmuts, Eersterivier, Faure, Macassar and elsewhere. Tree-preneurs allows me to engage with schools and among the general broader Tree-preneurs community, enabling me to canvas and educate around recycling, care for plants and rainwater harvesting.
What’s the most valuable advice you’ve ever received?
You can only achieve big once you start to appreciate the smaller things. The Golden Rule is do unto others what you want to be done to yourself.
What do you get up to when you’re not at work?
Gardening, knitting, embroidery crafting and reading. I also recently took up cycling.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would that be?
I think the current population growth rate is way too high especially in developing countries including SA. If it continues at this pace we are doomed, as we’ll face shortages of food and water and a lack of jobs. The only way to keep a balance is to reduce the birth rate – I think we should start mass campaigning around this.
Where is your favourite part of the farm, and why is it your favourite?
I like various parts of the farm. On the North Bank definitely everywhere you find trees to harvest the seeds and cuttings for Tree-preneurs. But I also love the South Bank for its wide variety of wild animals. I love the Tree-preneurs nursery because it’s designed according to the 4-Rs: recycle, re-use, reduce, remake.
What’s the key to being happy in life?
Be thankful and seize the day irrespective of your surroundings. Surround yourself with honest, happy people, avoid negative people, loafers and “empty vessels”.
What are you proudest of having achieved?
I’m currently studying part-time for a second degree.
What do you love most about your career?
What career? Feels more like a full time hobby!