Tree-a-thon by Wildlands. From Left: Lydia van Rooyen, Nomzi Guzu, Heidi Newton-King, Conrad Sidego, Louise Duys.
Tree-a-thon by Wildlands. From Left: Lydia van Rooyen, Nomzi Guzu, Heidi Newton-King, Conrad Sidego, Louise Duys.

Progress of Stellenbosch environmental projects celebrated ahead of Arbor Week

By Kristin Engel Time of article published Aug 19, 2021

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Cape Town - With Arbor Week around the corner, Wildlands Conservation Trust’s projects in Stellenbosch celebrated eight years of planting trees and other environmental initiatives to green communities and restore ecosystems, especially catchments and rivers in the area that were affected by the severe drought experienced in the province.

Wildlands, a programme of the Wildtrust, launched and participated in a number of environmental projects in Stellenbosch from 2014 up until 2021, a few of these include Leaf-a-Legacy, the Commemorative Trees Project, Trees-For-Life and the ecological restoration of five major rivers, two conservancies and a nature reserve, as well as a dozen yearly environmental education outreach activities by the Wildlands’ Ubuntu Earth Ambassadors Programmes.

Wildlands project manager Lydia van Rooyen said these projects would not have been able to achieve success without their key partners Stellenbosch Trail Fund; Stellenbosch River; Stellenbosch Municipality; Stellenbosch Stewardship Action; the Stellenbosch River Collaborative (SRC), and Trees-SA.

“Having planted many large trees over the past 20 years all over South Africa, we are overjoyed to be able to come back to our roots in Stellenbosch and provide a growing legacy to these families of the town,” said Trees-SA managing director Kalika Redelinghuys.

Van Rooyen said these projects faced tremendous challenges over the years, especially with the drought that had a negative effect on their Trees-for-Life project, the “tree-preneurs” were unable to grow their indigenous seedlings during the worst of the drought.

“We could not water the small trees at our nursery and lost about half of our stock. Rehabilitation in the riparian zones with small indigenous trees also suffered, but the small trees planted between 2014 and 2016 were hardy enough to survive against all odds,” said Van Rooyan.

Plaque for Wildlands and Trees SA’s Commemorative Tree Plaque.

Van Rooyan said Stellenbosch University’s Conservation and Entomology Department post-doctoral researcher Dr Alanna Rebelo shared positive observations after a research study on the Socio-Economic Benefits of Ecological Infrastructure in the Dwars River, where they have been actively clearing invasive alien trees and rehabilitating the river since 2018.

Van Rooyan said the 12 000 indigenous Western Cape species planted into river rehabilitation and the removal of alien invasive trees from rivers, bore testament to the collective, collaborative effort in building resilience into rivers, restoring the ecology and removing problem plants.

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