Shaping the future - The Tree-preneuer model, on-site research, and reforestation hub

EThekwini Municipality adopted an innovative forest restoration approach termed the ‘Indigenous Trees for Life’ concept that was developed and pioneered by the Wildlands Conservation Trust. The concept involves the training of Tree-preneurs within beneficiary communities. Facilitators teach the Tree-preneurs how to grow and care for indigenous tree seedlings in ‘home nurseries’ until these reach a suitable height. Initial training is done within the community area, and ensures transfer of knowledge about where to collect seeds and how to grow them. Ongoing support and mentoring continues through-out the project. Trees are traded for credit notes, which can be used to purchase groceries, bicycles, building materials, or to pay for school fees or vehicle driving lessons. In addition, a “sustainable livelihoods” approach aims to develop livelihood generation through training community entrepreneurs in local food production techniques. To further enhance and bolster these benefits, a Reforestation Centre of Excellence was established at the Buffelsdraai Reforestation project site. This centre will showcase the innovative reforestation techniques, on-site research by local students, and use of sustainable technologies in the building itself.

  • The Wildlands Conservation Trust as the appointed implementing partner who oversees all tree growing and tree planting operations through the application of their ‘Indigenous Trees for Life’ model.
  • The construction process of the Reforestation Hub Centre has already generated many local job opportunities.
  • A partnership with the local university that encourages research into a range of relevant topics, including ecological restoration, climate change adaptation and socio-economic development.
  • The project ensures local job creation and active upskilling of community members, including development of entrepreneurial skills and transfer of knowledge about how to manage climate-related risks.
  • Tree-Preneurs who produce large quantities of trees are rewarded with additional training courses and experiential learning opportunities.
  • The Indigenous Trees for Life model was extended to other environmental sectors; providing opportunities to implement a range of transformative programmes in vulnerable communities. Such opportunities, if sensitive to local ecosystem threats and needs, could benefit cities throughout Africa with the potential to better align their development path with the SDGs.
  • The project could fail if long-term management commitments from local government are not forthcoming. There is a clear need for a systematic risk management approach that highlights positive interdependencies and evaluates and exposes problematic trends over time.

(Douwes et al. 2016).