By Greenpop Foundation
Image: Alicedale - Photo Creds: Deon Louw/Jessie Leverzencie
In 2010, Greenpop started with a simple goal: to plant 1,000 trees during Arbor Month in
under-greened urban areas of Cape Town. Since then, their urban greening work has spread across South Africa and Zambia and expanded from trees to also include indigenous gardens. This month, they are launching their latest urban greening project in Cape Town, Gardens for Good.
URBAN GREENING IS TRENDING
In order to soften the impacts of both climate change and urbanisation, urban greening projects are gaining traction around the globe; from ancient cities in Vietnam to coastal towns in Belgium to school rooftops in Serbia. These projects are varied in their goals and may include activities which:
● Create visually striking green walls and roofs within urban centres,
● Increase nature access in public spaces such as hospitals, schools and parks
● Redevelop brownfield sites
● Make cities more walkable or suited for safe outdoor recreation,
● Increase urban ecosystem services such as air filtration, carbon sequestration and
reductions in urban temperatures
In the words of Greenpop’s Head of Programmes, Zoe Gauld-Angelucci:
“Although urban greening projects may look different around the world, they all really have one simple aim: to add more trees and plants to cities for the benefit of their inhabitants and the broader environment.”
Here on the African continent, we are seeing the most rapid urbanisation in the world. Between 2000 and 2030 the urban population in African cities will more than double and urban space will increase by more than 700%. As this happens, ecosystems and the essential natural assets they provide will come under threat. During this time of expansion and innovation, it is imperative that safe and accessible green spaces are incorporated into African urban landscapes.
THE BENEFITS OF URBAN GREEN SPACE
Green urban spaces are an essential part of ecological and social well-being with many benefits. To name a few:
● They regulate urban temperatures
● Improve air quality
● Reduce storm-water runoff
● Improve water and soil quality
● Reduce noise pollution
● Provide habitats for urban wildlife; help combat climate change
● Improve mental and physical health
● Provide spaces for recreation and spirituality
● Increase urban residents’ sense of pride of place, community, and home
However, in spite of these numerous benefits, many urban landscapes (particularly those in
under-resourced communities) lack safe and beautiful green spaces. Zoe Gauld-Angelucci explains:
“In South Africa, as in many other places in the world, urban green space, or the lack thereof,
tends to be a visual marker of social and economic inequality. People who live in wealthier
neighbourhoods tend to have access to shady parks, greenbelts and tree-lined streets, and all of the benefits that they provide, while people in less wealthy neighbourhoods do not. Within under-greened communities, planting trees and gardens is not only an environmentally responsible activity but also one which has the power to reduce environmental inequality and improve social justice.”
Image: West Riding - Photo Creds: Deon Louw/Jessie Leverzencie
13 YEARS OF URBAN GREENING, AND COUNTING...
Since its inception, Greenpop has been on a mission to inspire an urban future where abundant green spaces are both accessible and co-managed by active and inspired citizens. In the last 13 years, they have planted 23,083 trees and 12,112 indigenous plants in urban areas, built 10 outdoor classrooms, and worked with over 30,000 community members to improve environmental literacy and stewardship. In the words of Greenpop’s Urban Greening Project Manager, Deon Louw:
“it is incredible to see what we’ve been able to achieve with the help of countless learners,
teachers, sponsors, and volunteers. All these trees, plants and engagements have made a huge impact, not just in the minds of all the individuals who we had the privilege of working with, but also on the landscape itself. Not only have we expanded habitats and provided forage for a myriad of creatures, but we also planted many different types of endangered plants, which will help ensure the survival of these species a little further into the future than would otherwise have been the case.”
GARDENS FOR GOOD
Bringing together the most successful interventions from their previous Trees for Cape Town
(2010-2017) and Fynbos for the Future (2018-2022) projects, Greenpop's newest urban greening project, Gardens for Good, contributes towards their vision of Cape Town in which urban green space is equally distributed and valued in all communities.
Through Gardens for Good, they will work with schools, hospitals, and other community organisations to plant gardens including both indigenous trees and plants. We will also run engaging gardening days for corporates and communities, support teachers, and build the capacity of groundskeepers. Through these activities, they aim to increase green space and the ecosystem services it provides, improve green space maintenance and management, and increase nature appreciation and stewardship in urban areas.
Deon Louw shares what he is most looking forward to:
“Through all the lessons we’ve learnt in our urban greening work over the past 13 years, we’ve come to realise how important it is to build strong, personal relationships with the people you are working with and to maintain a long-term presence at the sites you are planting at. Therefore, Gardens for Good aims to be woven into the very fabric of school life and culture, from school assemblies to workshops for ground staff to sessions with teachers to increased contact time with learners. This increased human-centred approach is something I’m particularly excited about! Happy people = happy environment.”
Photo Creds: Deon Louw
Greenpop offers Garden Days for corporate teams, travel groups or school groups to get their hands dirty and help plant or maintain (prune, mulch, weed and water) a water-wise garden at an under-greened school in Cape Town.
Find out more at https://greenpop.org/come-planting/