Like many other developing countries, South Africa is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and in an effort to save the plant, Capetonians are using spekboom to fight against this global problem.
The indigenous tree absorbs huge amounts of carbon dioxide, the main gas which is causing the world to become warmer each year.
Three years ago, Peter Shrimpton, founder of Heart Capital recognized the potential of the spekboom to fight climate change and create income for disadvantaged members of society. Shrimpton read an academic paper on the amazing ability spekboom has to absorb carbon, so he decided to plant a few trees. When he discovered that the tree was very easy to grow, he saw an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged people around Cape Town through an initiative called Wonder Plant.
“I thought it would be an incredible way to lift people out of poverty. I went into townships and enabled disadvantaged people to start growing spekboom for me by giving them the grow bags, compost, mother stock and training on how to plant and grow spekboom,” he said.
Wonder Plant has employed ‘treepreneurs’ who grow the spekbooms and sell them to members of the public and organizations. Each of the ‘treepreneurs’ manages around 25 000 trees. The proceeds are then used to provide an income for the growers. Shrimpton started with 300 trees and they now have 164 000 spekbooms in stock.
The social enterprise has also partnered with schools to enable poor parents to grow Trees for Fees. “We’ll provide them with the materials and then purchase the trees from them, so they can have money to pay for their kids’ education,” said Shrimpton.
All the ‘treepreneurs’ are residents of Chic Shanty Town, a residency funded by Heart Capital to provide homes for disadvantaged community members. Before coming to Chic Shanty Town, ‘treepreneur’ Ashwell Musonza was working on a grape farm in the area but said he was not earning enough.“I enjoy caring for the spekboom trees as they provide individuality and a sustainable income,” he said.