Trees for Africa (TFA) history began with the founding as a Voluntary Association by Jeunesse Park in November 1990.
Recognising a need for action in the face of (what was then called) global warming, Ms Park began fundraising to plant trees in schools in Johannesburg. In a pre-democratic South Africa, tree planting was not recognised as an important issue but with vision and tenacity, Ms Park started our mission with the following core objectives:
- To contribute to food security, greening, natural resource management and sustainable business.
- Education and training of learners, teachers and communities within historically disadvantaged communities of Southern Africa.
- Promotion of environmental activities, within all sectors of society.
- Promotion of sustainable economic development, improved environments, and enhanced livelihoods.
- Building capacity and skills within agriculture, urban forestry and climate change adaptation.
And so the journey began…
Nelson Mandela launches Alexander Township Greening Project.
In the spring of 1992, Nelson Mandela officially opened FTFA’s first township greening programme. This was the first project of its kind and sought to redress components of the inequitable land and housing policies created under Apartheid. These trees were planted at homes and schools. Many of them are still alive today.
“We must support organisations like Trees for Africa in their work on environmental issues”
— Nelson Mandela
In February 1995, Trees for Africa launched the EduPlant Programme, a national schools food gardening and greening programme focusing on the following objectives:
- To promote permaculture;
- To raise environmental awareness at school;
- To green schools and provide food; and
- To develop skills around the sustainable use of resources.
The programme was initiated in response to a growing demand from teachers for environmental education. Originally called ‘EduPlant Competition: Growing the RDP’, the EduPlant Programme has undergone numerous iterations and now finds focus on producing healthy food than in planting trees. The project encourages environmental education and awareness, and focuses on the sustainable use of natural resources, while developing skills and building capacity. In addition, many of the projects result in improved nutrition and health — and even allow some schools to generate income.
“Permaculture presents common sense ideas for permanent agriculture and culture through the application of real life skills; it is the conscious design of our environment to sustainably support our basic needs” — Jeunesse Park, Founder of Trees for Africa.
The Board of Directors took the decision to change the organisation’s name from Trees for Africa (TFA) to Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) in 2000. This was to reflect the increased focus on food security and the adaption to an increasing demand for sustainable environmental development.
In the same year, FTFA contributed to the development of national policy with many national, provincial, and local governments now recognising the value of incorporating greening into development. FTFA played a vital role in:
- The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry’s national urban greening strategy;
- The Department of Agriculture’s national LandCare programme;
- The Department of Housing’s environmentally sound housing forum;
- The Presidential land project for Urban Renewal in Alexandra; and
- The city of Johannesburg’s announcement of a greening of Soweto strategy.
In 2006, FTFA registered as a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO), allowing donors to receive tax rebates.
FTFA was instrumental in establishing the groundbreaking Carbon Calculator in conjunction with Interactive Africa and Edward Nathan Sonnenberg. The Carbon Calculator provides everyone with the tool to measure carbon emissions, over a wide range of human activities, and calculate how to offset the carbon footprint. Go to FTFA Carbon Calculator to calculate your carbon footprint now.
FTFA formed an independent advocacy group, the Carbon Protocol, which replaced the Carbon Standard.
FTFA received a special commendation for the first South African carbon calculator in the Mail & Guardian ‘Greening The Future’ awards. The carbon calculator gained ever more use by vast numbers of people worldwide to measure their carbon footprint.
The first Permaculture Starter Pack (PSP) for food gardening was introduced.
FEED Africa was launched in October 2011. Through the Farmer Eco-Enterprise Development programme, FTFA moved into eco-agribusiness by introducing communities to organic farming.
FTFA was one of 30 global winners in the UN-supported SEED award.
The comprehensive Growing Green book was produced from FTFA’s original booklets.
2014 was a year of growth and change in leadership for FTFA as founder, Ms Jeunesse Park, retired and Chris Wild stepped up as the Executive Director.
The African Climate Reality Project (ACRP) formed as the African branch of the international Climate Reality Programme initiated by Al Gore, as well as Food & Trees for Africa’s chief climate change advocacy campaign.
As the world continued to grapple with the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Food & Trees for Africa underwent many transformations and innovations.
In 2021 FTFA celebrated its 30th birthday and 30 years in social development. The organisation held an online celebration, taking a trip down memory lane by talking to Jeunesse Park, the founding member, reminiscing about tree plating with Madiba, and highlighting women in agriculture, staff well-ness and the launch of FTFA’s innovative platforms.
While much of the world stood still, FTFA, well-equipped to implement a new work-from-home culture, developed two new platforms that change how we think about social development.
The idea of the Inclusive Carbon Standard (ICS) was sparked when, in 2000, FTFA launched the Trees for Homes (TFH) programme under the Voluntary Carbon Standard methodology in which 200,000 trees were planted. However, the challenge of high audit costs resulted in no credits being issued. Subsequently, the ICS, a new open-source carbon standard to help local communities access global carbon markets was developed. An accessible carbon registry, such as the ICS, it is hoped, will encourage more businesses and individuals to earn carbon credits, without the cost and administrative burden of existing standards.
FTFA also launched FootPrint, an online social investment platform that assists corporate partners in identifying suitable beneficiaries and tangibly measuring their impact. The system feeds in 33 years of experience and tracks over 150 data points, simplifying the intervention process through guided selection and aided decision-making.
Sadly, FTFA also bid farewell to Board Member Joshua Mahlangu who passed away in June 2021. Joshua was always passionate about air quality and environmental sustainability, having been the Director of the Soweto Department of Health before moving on to be Director General of (what is now) the South African Department of Environmental Affairs. He lent wisdom to our board meetings that will be sorely missed.