12 December 2022 – Earlier this year, South Africa’s largest car rental company, BLUU Car Rental (BCR) joined forces with Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) to stop climate change in its tracks. Since June, this Smart ESG partnership has aimed to green desertified, barren areas across the country, rehabilitate soils and landscapes, and contribute to food security, in aid of ecotourism.

BCR pledged funding and corporate volunteer days toward planting 5000 trees in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, shortly after the latter experienced devastating floods set in motion by a changing climate delivering extremely high rainfall. The trees were planted at a total of 69 beneficiaries including schools, non-profit organisations, subsistence farms, township homes and shared community spaces and comprised a mixture of indigenous and fruit trees. 

Four events took place to celebrate the planting of the trees and highlight important environmental days of action. Tree planting kicked off in Gauteng on 28 July for World Nature Conservation Day. Twenty-two BCR volunteers joined Skeen Primary School learners, educators and SGB members in Alexandra in planting 30 trees. FTFA facilitator Nunzi Moutembo commented that “the school was hugely appreciative to receive the trees and learn the correct method of planting and caring for them. The great teamwork and team spirit amongst the volunteers, school staff and learners was tangible.”

Following on from the Gauteng event, Woodside Special Care Centre in the Western Cape hosted 15 BCR volunteers on 2 September for Arbor Month. Clive Obery from the centre proudly thanked BCR and FTFA. “The trees being donated will provide much needed shade in the new garden for our residents and the fruit will provide residents with a healthy snack,” he says. Shortly after, BCR and FTFA began tree planting in the Eastern Cape for World Tourism Day at Emafini Primary School in KwaDesi. Angela Chappel facilitated the event which commenced with a tributary heritage dance by the learners, celebrating South Africa’s natural heritage and forests.

The final tree-planting event for the year commemorated International Day of Climate action just three weeks ahead of the Conference of the Parties (COP) 27 in Sharm El-Sheikh. Planting trees in Kwa-Zulu Natal was particularly momentous owing to the province’s first hand experience of the impacts of climate change in April. Reggie Pather, FTFA facilitator, assisted volunteers and learners at S Dass School, Phoenix in planting 40 trees. 

One thousand of the trees donated by BCR also went toward FTFA’s reforestation programme which focuses on the afromontane forests of the Knysna-Amatole region. This unique biome is home to an incredible biodiversity of fauna and flora including a number of critically endangered bird species. The planting methodology used is unique to FTFA and geared towards maximising biomass and in the shortest time-frame for carbon offsetting. The initiative utilises next-generation technologies to map and monitor the progress of trees. FTFA trains and employs local community members to plant and care for the trees.

“Tree planting is known to be one of the best proactive actions to slow down climate change. BCR’s donation of 5000 trees is an excellent example of how corporate South Africa can be a part of the solution,” says Susan Evans, Events and Tree Distribution Manager at FTFA. 

Furthermore, 100 garden-in-a-bucket (GinB) kits were incorporated in the initiative to address food security during World Food Month as part of BCR’s sponsorship portfolio. GinBs are designed to assist people in some of the most vulnerable communities by providing them with the resources they require to start homestead gardens. These homestead gardens have enabled many families to grow their own food and at times, donate or sell surplus produce to their neighbours. Each recipient has begun tending to their new garden which is to be visited for monitoring in January 2023, three months post-distribution. 

The partnership between BCR and FTFA is a unique example of how industry-specific integrated ESG strategies work for the maximum benefit of the entire human-environment ‘ecosystem’. Besides sequestering 1845 tonnes of carbon dioxide, BCR has also contributed to establishing the possibility of long-term food security and self-sustainability in under-resourced communities who will also reap the benefits of additional trees.

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