March 21 holds a special place in the hearts of everyone at Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA). This day encapsulates what we strive for as an organisation – empowerment, sustainability, and the right to a clean and healthy environment. As the next phase of the EduPlant Programme kicks off, this is an opportune time to reflect on what the day means to us.
In South Africa, we commemorate Human Rights Day – a reminder of the discrimination and hardships that millions of our people suffered under Apartheid. March 21 provides a lens through which we can focus our hopes and aspirations as a nation.
Around the world, March 21 is also International Day of Forests and World Planting Day. The crossover between human rights and the vital role played by gardens, forests and trees raises an important point: our environment is crucial to our well-being. Too many people in this country still lack access to basic human rights regarding their surroundings.
The right to a clean and healthy environment
Section 24 of South Africa’s Constitution states that every person has the right to a healthy environment, and to have that environment protected from pollution and ecological degradation. This is a view, unsurprisingly, that is also shared by the United Nations.
The lack of a healthy, clean, and safe environment restricts our ability to enjoy basic human rights like water, food, and sanitation. It creates a situation where it is impossible to fulfil our true potential. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our country’s schools, and nowhere is there more capacity for positive change.
FTFA’s EduPlant Programme was founded at the dawn of our democracy in 1994. It is South Africa’s longest-running and most impactful school greening and gardening programme. Planting and improving school food gardens across the country, the programme has provided children at thousands of South African schools with access to nutritious and healthy meals. By combatting malnutrition, which affects more than one in every four school-aged children in South Africa, the EduPlant Programme fosters an environment within which the next generation can prosper.
Fostering social development
This is not just about nutrition, though. Social development and education are powerful ways to bring about positive change in both schools and the wider community. The EduPlant Programme has empowered hundreds of communities across our country with the knowledge and skills to be more self-reliant. This helps to change attitudes towards the importance of the natural environment and provide sustainable sources of food and income, giving communities control over their own basic human rights.
Education is crucial to this process. Integrating a sustainable food garden into the school curriculum gives children the chance to experience sustainable food production in action. Free cluster workshops focus on topics like permaculture, responsible water use, and healthy food choices. This provides school students, teachers, and community members with a wide range of beneficial knowledge and skills to improve their own lives.
The EduPlant Programme is all about providing people with a way to take ownership of their lives and their future prospects. So on this day, let’s take stock of our own surroundings, and spread awareness about everyone’s right to a clean and healthy environment. Let us reflect on what we can do for the environment, and what it can do for us.
There is no better day for tree-planting and food gardens to support basic human rights. Donate to FTFA and help to ensure a greener, more food secure nation!