Home-grown micro-eco-sanctuaries: Where people and wildlife thrive together

Frances Taylor
Published: 09 February 2021
Last edited: 09 February 2021
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Communitree works with many enthusiastic volunteer gardeners across Cape Town, South Africa, to grow, plant and maintain public wildlife sanctuaries in their local parks, schools and along roadside verges. These overlooked spaces can harbour rich biodiversity and greatly enhance ecological connectivity between fragments of habitat patches hosting indigenous plants and animals that would otherwise be isolated within the urban matrix. Through the act of urban greening, Communitrees helps to transform unsightly spaces used for rubbish-dumping and drug-use into attractive spaces suitable for picnicking, dancing, fun-in-the-sun eco-education, relaxation, and socialising. Our sites form green chains linking high- and low-income neighbourhoods, while practical gardening allows for cross-community relationships to grow and bridge social divides.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Connective infrastructure, networks and corridors
Green spaces (parks, gardens, urban forests)
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Access and benefit sharing
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Local actors
Land and Forest degradation
Ecosystem loss
Changes in socio-cultural context
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 16 – Peace, justice and strong institutions
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 13: Safeguarding genetic diversity
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge


Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa


Impacts are social and environmental


Conversion of neglected and polluted public spaces deters harmful social activity such as public-drug use and is encourages healthier activities such as recreation and learning. In these spaces, women can be seen and heard expressing themselves through gardening, conversation, dance and song. Women connect with one another, and form the beginnings of resilience through a social network, so vital when a crisis hits and we are in need. Simply being visible in public is a feat in violence spaces, and this visibility can lead to becoming respected as positive community contributors fostering civic pride and responsibility.


When native plant species return, they reconnect with the soil and its starts to recover, and the insects emerge and start to fill the space with activity and life. After a few years of thriving soil, plants and insect life, and the birds catch wind of this and they return too. When an insect or bird connects with the flower of a plant, they are doing the work of connecting plants from all over the city with one another. Our 18 gardens in Cape Town form a support network to each other, and to remaining parts of fragile ecosystems, made vulnerable by being so shrunken and isolated from one another. Each new garden gives hope for the future.

Contributed by

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Matthew Koehorst Greenpop, IUCN Urban Alliance

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