Ranging in age from 5 to 93, Tree-preneurs are taught how to care for indigenous trees and plants. They are given seedlings to nurture; once these have reached 15cm, they can be exchanged for vouchers for food, clothing, agricultural goods, tools, bicycles and educational support.
FROM SEEDS TO A FOREST
The Tree-preneurs project was originally established in KwaZulu-Natal by Wildlands, an NGO; it is now operational in more than 24 communities countrywide. Spier has worked with Wildlands since 2009 to implement the project into the Western Cape. The partnership is based at Spier and has facilitated the establishment of a local network of Tree-preneurs in nine communities including Blikkiesdorp, Kalkfontein, Lynedoch, Meerlust, Heather Park, Tafelsig, Nagenoeg and Klapmuts.
Tree-preneurs have grown 25,000 trees since the project began in this province. Almost 10,000 of these have been donated to the Stellenbosch municipality's Million Trees greening initiative. The Tree-preneurs project also supports the Stellenbosch River Collaborative (a multi-stakeholder partnership which aims to restore health to the Eerste River catchment) through the establishment of a team that is currently rehabilitating the Plankenbrug.
The driving force behind Tree-preneurs is Lesley Joemat, a Spier employee who has built a personal relationship with growers, visiting them on a weekly basis to distribute seeds, containers, soil and compost, and to offer advice on growing trees.
Joemat is based at the Tree-prenuers nursery on the farm, which is home to 11 different indigenous plant species as well as various other indigenous succulents, fruit trees and shrubs.
“I love educating both myself and the communities I work with about the different types of trees,” says Joemat. “I also love how this project is making a positive social impact in communities.”
The social impact this project makes on the lives of ordinary people is heartwarming — people like 49-year-old Tannie Babs Visagie from Heather Park who runs a food kitchen, using the vouchers earned from her trees to buy food for orphans in her community. Since she joined the project in 2011, she has bartered 7500 trees. She has grown more than 2000 spekboom plants that are currently showcased on the verandahs at Spier Hotel.
Should you wish to get involved, donations of used containers like plastic milk or yoghurt cartons (which are used as pots) or old poles and netting are welcome. These can be dropped off at our hotel reception.