Nelson Mandela would have turned 101 this year. In celebration of his life and legacy, Konica Minolta South Africa (KMSA) planted 101 trees on Robben Island. This initiative tied together Arbor Month and Mandela Day.

After all, “Arbor Month is also Heritage Month,” said Morongoa Ramaboa, communications specialist at Robben Island Museum (RIM). Fittingly, the island is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a conservation institution. There couldn’t be a more apt tribute than bringing trees for shade, greenery and carbon sequestration to the place where Nelson Mandela and other leaders sowed the seeds of hope and change in South Africa. 

Committed to conservation

“This is the first step on a long journey towards sustainable conservation on the island.”  

Dr Pascal Taruvinga, Chief Heritage Officer, Robben Island

Indigenous trees such as milkwood, sand olive, water berry, dune crow berry, wild peach and Kei apple were planted. The RIM team specifically requested these species in a bid to reintroduce trees that once naturally grew on the island. Planting these trees is part of the RIM’s long-term plan to rehabilitate the island’s natural vegetation.

“By clearing invasive aliens and planting more than 10 000 indigenous trees over the next five years, we aim to create a sustainable habitat that can be home to seabirds, especially endangered African penguins, and the many other unique species that form part of the island’s landscape.”         

Morongoa Ramaboa, Communications Specialist, Robben Island Museum

Transforming cultural and historical spaces

KMSA, RIM and Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) representatives attended the tree-planting ceremony on 18 September. Robben Island’s chief heritage officer, Dr Pascal Taruvinga, reflected on the opportunity this tree-planting presented. He spoke about the way in which this project demonstrates how environmental conservation and restoration can be a part of cultural heritage work. By clearing invasive species, and planting trees in keeping with historical records, the RIM team aims to restore the island to a sustainable and self-sufficient terrestrial ecosystem. This will preserve further areas of the Cape Flats Dune Strandveld – an endangered vegetation type.

“We’re proud to contribute to South Africa’s natural and historical heritage.”        

Marc Pillay, CEO, Konica Minolta South Africa

Together with FTFA, KMSA have planted 46 001 trees since 2008. This has offset 16 974 tons of carbon dioxide (equal to taking 3 690 vehicles off the road for a year), helped to green schools and enriched community spaces such as the Mandela Route, Madiba’s birthplace at Mvezo and other historical landmarks. 

“With all that’s going on in our country, it’s incredible to be part of something so positive. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same’. Anyone can choose to be the light in a time of darkness.”       

Mpho Mahanyele, Chairperson, Food & Trees for Africa

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