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Green-preneurs Make a Difference

Green-preneurs Make a Difference

Siyabonga Ndlela in the veggie garden at Insika Secondary School.

Sustaining the future through green desks, food gardens, and old clothes. The Wildlands Conservation Trust Green Desks initiative is turning out some green-reneurs…

The Wildlands Conservation Trust is a game-changing NGO whose mission is to conserve biodiversity while simultaneously creating ways to achieve a sustainable future for all, not least the poorest members of society.

Through a number of interconnected programmes running in seven provinces, Wildlands operates a ‘green’ economy that functions on a barter system. In this system, ‘green-preneurs’ exchange their services for goods like bicycles, food parcels, clothing, water tanks, and building materials, or for education support such as school and university fees, uniforms and stationery.

There are two categories of green-preneurs:

  • Tree-preneurs propagate and trade indigenous trees that are used to restore biodiversity and bring ‘green’ relief to needy areas.
  • Waste-preneurs collect recyclable rubbish in their neighbourhoods, their efforts resulting in the double benefit of a cleaner environment, and payment in the Wildlands currency of livelihood support.
Future Farmer graduate, Sandile Matenjwa is the inspiration behind many veggie gardens.
Samkelisiwe Ndlovu is part of a team that sorts the recycled clothes at the Nsika hub.
The Green Desks Initiative

Moira Potter – relationship manager of Wildlands’ Sustanable Schools Project.

The Green Desks Initiative uses recyclable plastic to create ‘wood’ blocks, which are then used to create heavy-duty school desks.

“There’s a shortage of at least 300 000 desks in South Africa,” says Dr Andrew Venter, CEO of Wildlands Trust.

The Green Desks project has so far delivered 2 500 desks with attached seats to schools, and each weighs 40kg.

The first recipient of Wildland’s Trust’s innovative Green Desks, Insika Secondary School in Sweetwaters near Pietermaritzburg, is a place where learners are not only taught their ABC’s but where sustainable living is high on the agenda.

And where better to start than with a veggie garden? “We’re encouraging schools to do vegetable gardening,” says Moira Potter, relationship manager of the Wildlands Sustainable Schools project.

The veggie garden at Insika is a gorgeous sight – lettuces, cabbages, spinach, herbs and even flowers growing in profusion and in line with the environmentally friendly farming system taught by the ebullient and inspiring Sandile Matenjwa, who trained at Future Farmers and is now part of the Wildlands team.

To be truly sustainable, veggie gardening needs to also be water wise. “Only grey water is used to irrigate the plants,” says Moira. Initially, seeds that were surplus to others’ needs were donated, but in future, the gardeners at Insika will be harvesting their own seeds for the next season. “Later, they might even barter seeds.” adds Moira.

Bartering is key to the Wildlands green economy in which ‘green-preneurs’ trade recycled waste or indigenous trees they’ve grown for livelihood support such as bicycles, food parcels, or water tanks.

Insika School is also a community hub where the bartering of clothes takes place. ‘Clothes-preneurs’ are responsible for exchanging indigenous trees for bundles of recycled, perfectly good clothes, which they then sell in their communities.

Learning to grow vegetables in an environmentally friendly way.

Words: Andrea Abbott
Pictures: Andrea Abbott and Kelvin Trautman


There’s goodness growing in your garden. Margaret Roberts shares plenty tips and tricks for growing your own veggies here

Team Recycling in Pennington is also making a positive difference. Read more here.


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