Hello! We are the Spekboom Team from Imagine Scholar South Africa! Imagine Scholar is an after-school program that allows high school students to acquire extraordinary skills like planning, problem-solving, and more. Part of being an Imagine Scholar is being inspired to take up leadership roles and pursue experiential learning opportunities. [Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]We came to learn about ISNAD’s Environmental Education Program through Imagine Scholar. We are all very passionate about the environment, and before this opportunity, we were a part of the ‘Green Team’, an environmental club at Imagine Scholar. Through this club, we did many environmentally friendly activities such as trash pickups, gardening, eco brick/plastic recycling, discussions, and more to help fight against climate change. When we saw the EEP opportunity online last year, we were very excited and eager to join since it was a fantastic way to contribute to the long-term solution against climate change in our local community.
In South Africa, there is an indigenous plant called spekboom. It’s drought-resistant, so it can grow well in climates like ours, where we can go a while without rain. A BBC article titled “How Shrubs Can Help Solve Climate Change” describes more of the benefits of spekboom:
“Because of spekboom’s remarkable growth rate, its rate of carbon capture can rival that of tropical forests,” Sarah-Jane Paviour writes in her 2014 thesis on these properties of spekboom, also called the dwarf jade plant or porkbush. It doesn’t need to be cultivated in a nursery before planting, which takes times and money. The result is that one tonne of CO2 can be captured for less than a tenth of the cost of sinking the equivalent carbon by planting trees in temperate or tropical forests. To plant spekboom, all you need to do is to take a cutting from an older plant
Our team was surprised to learn this about a plant that we all pass by daily! So when the opportunity came to pitch ideas for the EEP, we already had something in mind.
At the beginning of February, we were invited to pitch our project idea (to propagate spekboom plants and distribute them for free to community members) and had the opportunity to learn about other students’ projects across Africa through an online webinar. A few weeks later, we received the fantastic news that we were awarded USD 405 to start our project. Upon that news, we started right away. With the funding, we were able to purchase compost, pruning shears, and garden gloves. Additionally, we had initially budgeted to buy grow pots for our new plants, but two of our team members had the brilliant idea to collect 2-liter plastic bottles from litter piles and re-purpose them as grow pots.
Since we started, we have met once a week to plant anywhere from 50-80 plants per session every Tuesday. By the end of March, we had planted 260 plants and reused 130 plastic bottles! Additionally, we had our first virtual call with our project advisor, Kristin Kaye, an author of the book “Tree Dreams.” She taught us how to effectively advertise our plants in our community by announcing our projects in community gatherings or on the local streets. She also made us realize the importance of spreading the word about our project before showing up in people’s houses with the plant.
This first week of April, we have planted another 50 plants and plan to do another 50 next week. This will conclude the end of planting and allow us to transition to distribution. The plan is to start advertising and distributing the plants in the last two weeks of April and close out the project by May 15th. To make the distribution of all the plants possible, we are excited to offer volunteer opportunities to our peers at Imagine Scholar and our government schools to get involved. Training our volunteers will also help us spread the word and valuable information on the benefits of the spekboom plants!
Part II of Project
By the second week of April, we managed to plant 340 plants since our initial goal was to produce 300 to 400 plants in total. This meant that we had recycled 170 plastic bottles during this project. We then decided to ask our school friends and Imagine Scholar classmates to help us fasten the process during the distribution of plants. After we got 15 volunteers, we organised mentorship sessions with them so that they’d be able to sell our project to other people. We had our volunteers spread the word about our undertaking so that people would have a clear picture of what our project was before we went out in our community.
In the last two weeks of April, we started with the distribution of plants. We met twice a week to go around our community doing distribution with the help of our volunteers. After 1-2 days of distribution each week for 3-4 weeks, we finally had given out 340 plants to the community members. This distribution involved going house to house in our larger community and giving 1-3 plants for the family or friends of the family. We also encouraged Imagine Scholars and students from our schools to take plants for themselves, friends, family, and community members. We even gave a few out on the streets as we walked around! It was an excellent way to spread delight and joy to people’s days.
In May, we joined a “final presentations” webinar hosted by EEP. We got to explain the work we all did and got a lot of inspiration from all the work they did with their projects. But this is not the end of the project for us! We are already planning to continue the spekboom project as part of our environmental club here at Imagine Scholar. It was a huge inspiration and a great opportunity to learn about project mangagment, leadership, and decision making. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity and all the growth we experienced because of it. Thank you to all who made this possible!