Meet some of the incredible women making a difference in communities alongside Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) – from project leaders, to FTFA facilitators and sponsors, these women are dedicated to making our world a better place.
Jeminah Mkhize – Facilitator & Trees Assistant
For Women’s Month, Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) is profiling passionate and dedicated women involved in our tree planting programmes, like Jeminah Mkhize. Jeminah is thriving in her role as Trees Programme Assistant and Senior Facilitator for FTFA. “My work is important; it has a great positive impact on the community. Our projects are growing and as people plant trees they generate income for their families and clean the local area,” she says. “The work helps to boost my personality and provides me with sufficient opportunities to leverage most of my acquired skill sets – professionally as well as personally.”
When Jeminah joined the FTFA team in 2009, she joined a mostly male team. The mentality was still that the work was for men only: “This is one of the greatest obstacles I’ve overcome – taking on the challenge to make myself part of the team and be the best in the field.”
The opportunity to challenge herself in her job excites Jeminah. “It is great to have the chance to grow, like when I gave a very successful presentation to a large community for the first time, and beat our yearly tree planting donation target. It is also always fulfilling to get amazing feedback from tree events I organise,” she enthuses.
Mookho Letshokgohla – Facilitator
Mookho Letshokgohla is one of the many powerful and nurturing women associated with Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA). In 2008, she joined the organisation as Administrative Assistant for the Trees for Homes (TFH) project. Since then, she has developed her skills and knowledge to set herself up as a FTFA Facilitator.
“When I started, I was given the opportunity to attend and then run TFH’s monthly tree planting with HSBC. In 2009, I became a TFH Community Forester. I learned how to form partnerships with stakeholders, identify potential TFH projects, train Community Educators (CEs), organise and run tree planting and distribution events, and conduct tree evaluations with CEs,” says Letshokgohla.
As projects develop, Letshokgohla monitors and evaluates their progress. She explains that Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) is critical for many projects: “ESG support initiatives ensure that NGOs like FTFA have enough resources to implement successful community projects.”
In 2012, Letshokgohla relocated to Bloemfontein to become a FTFA Facilitator, implementing projects by training, developing, and empowering communities. She relishes the chance to transfer her knowledge to others. “Education and awareness are very important to ensure trees are planted in the right place. You must also have passion and love what you do. I am extremely proud of the work I have done with Relebeletse Primary School in Bloemfontein, for example” she says.
Bianca Gilbert – Shoprite Partner
Bianca Gilbert, CSI Specialist at the Shoprite Group, has been involved in a number of tree planting programmes with Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA). “We realise the impact climate change has on the environment, our customers, and the communities in which we operate. This motivates us to support the tree planting and home gardening campaigns,” she says.
Shoprite Group supports community food gardens and recently donated 500 trees benefitting 250 homes linked to The Thoughtful Path’s community food garden project in Gauteng. “In this way we are able to create greener environments, develop skills in communities, and mitigate the effects of climate change. The initiative also offers short-term employment for community members,” Gilbert reveals.
Gilbert first found her passion for community and social development whilst working in the public sector, and since 2018 has been an integral part of Shoprite Group’s CSI team. “I have had first-hand experience of the important role women play in their communities. Just like trees are a symbol of life, these women are the lifeblood of their communities. Planting trees creates a safer and healthier environment, mirroring what these women want for their community,” she emphasises.
Gilbert says powerful female role models in leadership positions are crucial: “Seeing a woman succeeding in her career, sometimes in male-dominated fields, is arguably the best motivation. It helps to dispel any doubts young women may have and inspires confidence that women can be successful leaders.”
Tsholofelo Molatlou – Project Leader
Social impact practitioner Tsholofelo Molatlou founded Sgangala Community Food Gardens in 2020 as a food security response during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We started working with Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) in 2021, when they supplied seedlings for the food garden. Our relationship has now expanded to our school food gardens. FTFA is also playing a key role in the construction of our nursery at a school in Orlando West,” says Molatlou.
This partnership has blossomed into a tree planting initiative, as Sgangala celebrates Arbor Week and Heritage Month. “FTFA has donated 290 trees to plant in September, forming part of our plan to turn Soweto Green and provide spaces for young people to learn while playing,” she explains.
Molatlou believes that women have a major role to play in shaping society. “I consider myself to have great responsibility to my community,” she asserts. “I have recently been elected as Ward Committee Representative for the Environment Portfolio. I intend to use this opportunity to transform the environment we live in and set an example for other young women in my community.”
Part of this process, she says, has been learning about the importance of trees and the impact they have on our environment. “Initially I was not aware of how trees relate to each other, or how this can hinder their growth, but I have learnt how and where to plant trees, with great results!”