Image courtesy of Food and Trees For Africa
Food And Trees For Africa, started in 1990 by Jeunesse Park, was South Africa’s first social enterprise focussed on social upliftment, environmental restoration and carbon sequestration. The organisation, which develops, promotes and facilitates greening, food security, and carbon mitigation project has a prolific history, having scooped numerous local and environmental awards over the years. The awards are nothing more than recognition of the hard work of the group, however, and the real impact of their efforts are felt on the ground.
Three of their key programs- Trees For All, EduPlant and Food Gardens For Africa- have a long history of successes including distributing over 4 million trees, setting up hundreds of school gardens, and assisting tens of thousands of people in supporting themselves and their families.
The organisation continues to grow with the recent launch of two new initiatives which aim to target carbon sequestration, job creation and food security. One of these projects, just 2 years old, is Bamboo For Africa, a climate change response project which aims to assist in greening and enterprise development in low income communities.
Bamboo For Africa, the first internationally verified bamboo carbon offset program, mobilises Corporate Social Responsibility funding as well as Carbon offsetting opportunities to pay for the planting of bamboo crops in low income communities. The proceeds generated from the carbon offsets are used to support further community development initiatives, and the bamboo itself is used in a variety of ways, from natural fencing and an alternative heating source, to a high protein animal feed and soil stabiliser. Communities also have the opportunity to act as an out-grower or participant in the manufacturing process of various bamboo products.
Bamboo is an incredibly versatile, hardy, and fast growing crop that is used widely the world over, especially in the east.
There are over 1200 species of bamboo with a document 1500 uses, varying from building materials such as flooring and roofing products, to textile products, bio fuel feedstock, livestock feed and more. The species that the Bamboo For Africa uses, Bambusa Balcooa is well suited to the South African climate, being able to grow in relatively low rainfall areas, with poor soil conditions and with no additional fertilizer needed. It is a non-invasive species that does not pose a threat to local plant or animal populations, and in fact offers a variety of beneficial ecological functions to a system, from water filtration to heavy metal scrubbing and soil stabilisation.
Bamboo For Africa encourages capacity building in communities by assisting in the formation of cooperatives that learn to plant bamboo, cash crops and oil bearing trees in ‘bamboo bio energy plantations’. This combination allows for a cash income after only four months, and offers a diversity of income streams as the plants grow to maturity.
There are currently four projects underway throughout rural South Africa, with two more in the early phases of implementation. Members of participating communities plant 230 plants per hectare, sequestering 314 tons of carbon over a seven year period. The next phase in the process will be setting up processing plants in local communities and assisting with the processing and sales of the bamboo once it has reached market age.
For more information on Bamboo For Africa and how to get involved in Food and Trees For Africa visit their website here
For a video on Bamboo For Africa, folllow this link