To celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Msunduzi Municipality in South Africa, the Wildlands Conservation Trust has undertaken to plant 17 500 indigenous trees within the 4 days leading up to the Comrades Marathon on the 2nd of June. The first of the trees were planted this week at an event co-ordinated by the Wildlands Conservation Trust, in partnership with the Msunduzi Municipality, Comrades Marathon and Bonitas Medical Fund, as part of their “Releaf Campaign.”
The event was attended by several VIP guests including the First Lady of the Kwa-Zulu Natal Province, Dr May Mkhize, and Deputy Mayor, Councillor Thobani Zuma, who took part in tree planting activities.
“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!”
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 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.
According to the Wildlands Conservation Trust, 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.