Food & Trees For Africa - cause & effect
- Jan 28, 2013
Returning from self imposed exile, guest blogger Jeunesse Park decided to start Food and Trees For Africa (FTFA), the first environmental social enterprise in South Africa - here she talks about how she began the project and working alongside Virgin Unite...
We are a strange species. We have tried to tame nature and we have destroyed our home, this earth, in the process. Our cities are dead. We have chased away all the natural biodiversity we need for life, and replaced it with concrete heat islands. We rush around in cars that spew out toxins, polluting our air, and carbon dioxide, one of the major greenhouse gases. We have polluted most of our rivers and now have to fly water around the planet in plastic bottles so that we can drink and survive. We produce and use far more items than we need, all in too much packaging.
This becomes mountains of waste that we don’t know what to do with. So we burn, bury and hope it will go away. We ship waste to other poorer countries that we pay to destroy it. We simply throw waste into the sea as if it was a garbage disposal, polluting the seas and oceans of the world and killing the plant and fish life that we need to survive. We have chopped down most of the forests of the world in our greed, causing landslides, soil erosion, the death of even more diversity and the loss of valuable plants that may contain the medicines we need, before we have the chance to know they exist.
23 years ago, as one of my heroes, Nelson Mandela, was about to be released from 29 years in jail, so I decided to return to the land of my birth, South Africa, from which I had gone into self imposed exile during the dark days of apartheid. Over many years travelling all over the planet I have seen some of the most beautiful places in the world, and over the years I have also seen the terrible environmental devastation we have caused to destroy them, usually forever.
When I returned to South Africa I wanted to do something positive for my country, to put down roots and contribute in a unique way to the earth and to the people, especially those living in the barren, dusty and inhumane townships of South Africa.
So in 1990, I started Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA), the first environmental social enterprise in South Africa. We contribute to a better quality of life for all and a healthier planet, through greening and organic food gardening, for climate change and to promote environmental awareness.
We have been working with Virgin Unite (the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group) and one of their partner projects Pride n’ Purpose since 2008. They have brought in volunteers on a continuous basis to assist us in creating a greener future for all. I spoke to Daniel Chitungo, who is a FTFA Ecopreneur, and he commented that he “cannot find the words to explain how enriching these experiences are for me, the visitors and the beneficiaries. Besides the Permaculture food gardening and tree planting activities at orphan homes, schools, crèches and community centres, the visitors have been involved in many other activities including construction, establishing play centers for children, arts and crafts and social activities. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing the visitors play with the orphans and bring smiles to their little faces”.
FTFA has been a long and most times difficult and lonely road full of hard work - lobbying politicians, addressing corporate leaders in boardrooms, writing endless proposals, press releases, and reports, running workshops for thousands of disadvantaged communities and schools. All this has now been rewarded.
The social enterprise has grown from the seed of my idea, sprouted, blossomed and is now flourishing, with 4.2 million trees planted, 140 hectares of bamboo plantations and thousands of organic food gardens developed, where previously there were none.
I realized that it is up to each and every one of us to do what we can to ensure the health and sustainability of our fragile planet and all who live on it.
FATF are currently working alongside Virgin Unite