Communitree planting better futures

Communitree intern Bukiwe Tshetsha and co-founder, Frances Taylor.

An urban greening organisation’s dreams of creating stepping-stone corridors for birds and insects, is starting to bear fruit – with the concept being extended to seven sites.

Communitree is an urban greening NPO, involved in the planting of indigenous plants; weeding and tree planting; and gardening activities. The organisation launched its experimental bird and insect corridor at a public open space in Rosebank last year and has since launched similar sites at public spaces in Mowbray, Rondebosch and other parts of Rosebank.

Communitree co-founder Frances Taylor said while studying urban ecology at UCT with co-founder Paul Hoekman, they found that there were many local “greenies” who were doing work in their public open spaces but they did not have ecological plans in place. After engaging with these residents and organisations, they put a plan together to provide a more structured workflow.

“We met with residents and organisations and listened to their plans for their public open spaces. We didn’t want to come in and take over but rather work with the existing role players to maximise the impact of their efforts,” she said.

Ms Taylor said they extended the bird and insect corridors concept, strategically aligning their sites to create a stepping-stone corridor from Table Mountain to Rondebosch Common.

“We wanted to provide sufficient food and shelter for birds and insects and in this way they can make their way from one site to the next,” she said.

Ms Taylor said the project had a ripple effect, as it was not only providing food and shelter for birds and insects, but contributed to the aesthetics of the area. She said these spaces also provided a platform where communities could come together.

Communitree plans to extend the project to Athlone, Langa and Bonteheuwel to help birds and insects move all the way across the city.

Intern Bukiwe Tshetsha, who studied environmental management, said she had learnt a lot working with the organisation and had enjoyed working with the locals. “It has been a great learning experience thus far. I have found that people are willing to help, some just don’t know where to start,” she said.

The NPO also set up a home nursery system where 70 volunteers grow plants for the organisation to be used for its various projects.

Ms Taylor said they provided training and starter kits to volunteers. In honour of Nelson Mandela’s birthday on July 18, they held a week-long programme from Monday July 16 to Saturday July 21, during which they cleaned and planted at various parks including Ryan Road, Cecil and Paradise. They also held a river clean-up at Liesbeek River and held a volunteer workshop and training session.