A Green 175th Birthday Celebration for Pietermaritzburg
On Tuesday the 28th of May several VIP guests, including the First Lady, Dr May Mkhize and Deputy Mayor Councillor, Thobani Zuma, assisted in the planting of the first of 17 500 indigenous trees by the Wildlands Conservation Trust in Willowfontein.
The planting of 17 500 trees was launched in support of the 175th anniversary celebration of the Msunduzi Municipality. Wildlands has committed to planting them ALL within the 4 days leading up to the Comrades Marathon on the 2nd of June.
The event was co-ordinated by the environmental NPO – Wildlands Conservation Trust, in partnership with the Msunduzi Municipality, Comrades Marathon and Bonitas Medical Fund, as part of their “Releaf Campaign.”
Wildlands has been one of the official Comrades Marathon charities (Amabeadibeadi Charities) for more than 12 years and funds raised go towards supporting a range of community conservation projects around South Africa.
“Wildlands and the work they do as one of our Amabeadibeadi charities, is very close to Comrades heart,” said Chairman of the Comrades Association, Dave Dixon. “Our relationship with Wildlands is very important to us as it ensures the community can use the Comrades Marathon to their advantage. Sponsors aren’t cash cows – they are partners and without their support these amazing initiatives would not be possible,” said Dixon.
“This mass tree planting campaign has been activated for the past 4 years and has already seen the planting of 98 000 trees between 2009 and 2012,” said Wildlands CEO, Dr Andrew Venter. “All these trees were grown by Wildlands’ Tree-preneurs, who are community members in rural areas who grow trees and then barter them with Wildlands for livelihood support items such as food, clothing, educational support or bicycles,” explained Venter. “500 of these Tree and Waste-preneurs are here today,” said Venter, “and I would like you all to stand so we can applaud you!” At this point in the programme Venter turned to the Deputy Mayor, pointed to all the community members upstanding and said, “These are your diamonds – look after them.”
“This is an important day to all of us,” said Deputy Mayor Councillor Thobani Zuma. “Pietermaritzburg is celebrating 175 years of important history, but we must remember that history will judge us on what we are doing NOW,” said Mayor Councillor Zuma. “Let us be counted as people who have contributed positively to Msunduzi – the city of choice.”
The launch also represented the start of the “Willowfontein Stream Restoration Project” which forms part of the Integrated Greening Programme (IGP), and involves the cleaning of the stream by local Waste-preneurs (who collect recyclable waste for barter) and a team of 6 full-time community members.
Over the past 2 years the Integrated Greening Programme (IGP) has created work opportunities for 3856 community members, enabled the propagation of 1 071 468 trees by local Tree-preneurs (half of which have been planted as part of community based restoration projects) and enabled the collection of 3 291 269 kg’s of recycling by local Waste-preneurs.
Several Wildlands partners supported the event, including Dr Ramasia, Principal Executive Officer of Bonitas Medical Fund. “Wildlands is the embodiment of what Bonitas stands for,” said Dr Ramasia. “An unhealthy environment leads to unhealthy individuals. Running the Comrades Marathon means you have a healthy body, and means it saves our country costs on medical expenses, which is ultimately good for the economy,” announced Ramasia. Bonitas donated very generously towards the costs associated with the event, as well as towards reforestation activities.
Msunduzi Speaker, Babu Bijoo, concluded the proceedings by saying, “I think it is a good day to say thank you! Let’s say thank you for this partnership because together we can do more! We have a city of choice second to none.”