Food and Trees for Africa (FTFA) has a rich history of creating and fostering relationships with communities. Tree planting projects create a lasting legacy – tangible proof of the benefits created by these relationships. More than two decades after running one of our first tree planting events, we revisited Nomini Primary School to see how things have progressed.
Isaac Tete is currently principal of Imbali Primary in Orange Farm, a settlement about 45 km outside Johannesburg. The school is also a recent recipient of trees funded by Konica Minolta South Africa. In the 1990s, Tete worked at Nomini Primary, when it was one of the first schools in Orange Farm to receive trees from FTFA (then Trees for Africa).
“Orange farm was a new informal settlement at the time. There were absolutely no trees in the whole community. So, we were delighted to get the donation of around 120 trees from Trees for Africa [as it was known back then],” says Tete.
The school planted 50 trees, sharing the remaining 70 trees with the community. This ended up creating something truly special. “After the tree planting event, other community members who didn’t receive trees saw what was happening… you could say they got a bit jealous!” jokes Tete. “People wanted to be a part of this change. They started to look for ways to get more trees. This one event ended up beautifying the whole community.”
The trees still stand proudly at Nomini Primary. To this day, they create a special atmosphere for learners. “It’s been over 20 years, so as you can see the trees are now very, very big!” Tete smiles. One of the biggest boons these huge trees provide is a wealth of shade, creating a green sanctuary in the blazing Highveld.
“The trees give so much shade. It is really wonderful for the children when they are playing, or just sitting outside in the heat of the day. It also means the school can hold functions outside, safe from the heat,” Tete enthuses.
“One thing that we have experienced clearly is the big difference between the shade we get from the trees and the shade from solid structures like walls and buildings,” he continues. “Tree shade is far more refreshing and relaxing; it is something very special.”
The trees also provide a valuable learning experience for students. Tete notes that there are still issues with the way Natural Sciences are taught in schools. Trees offer a chance for beneficial first-hand experiences.
“Trees provide a real educational experience. They help learners to understand the important role plants play – providing oxygen and helping to keep the air clean,” he says. “They gain knowledge about all the benefits trees can provide. These are things the whole community has seen with their own eyes: cooling shade, protection from strong winds, food for people, and shelter for animals. With this knowledge comes a desire to preserve the natural environment for future generations.”
FTFA is pleased that Nomini Primary and the wider Orange Farm community continue to benefit from this donation, which stretches all the way back to the dawn of the new democracy. It is a true testament to the sustainability and longevity of projects like this, and of FTFA’s lasting impact in our communities as we move towards a greener South Africa.