Friday, July 12, 2024

The Runner with A Tree On His Back


To mark World Cities Day, we profile Siyabulela Sokomani, a young South African committed to greening his township. The environmental issues he raises awareness about are at the heart of UNEP’s work on forest conservation and restoration, including the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 and UN-REDD, the UN partnership on climate and forests, which has mobilized US $1 billion to help forested developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation.

For those who were spectating during the 2019 Cape Town marathon, watching a pack of 20 runners with trees on their backs snake through the crowd of competitors was probably a highlight of the race. That was Siyabulela Sokomani and his friends, who through his initiative, Shoots and Roots Agriculture, are trying to bring trees and greens to the Khayelitsha township on South Africa’s Western Cape.

Growing up in Khayelitsha, Sokomani barely saw trees. Environmental protection was not a top priority for a community where every day was a struggle to survive.

It wasn’t until secondary school, when a geography teacher set up an environmental club and began to teach the students about native flora, that he realized that he was living in a manmade desert.

“I learned about trees in the books I used to study,” Sokomani said. “But I would only see them for real in the rich areas of Cape Town. There was not a tree to be seen in our townships.” Read more…

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