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Mamma Evelyn is helping to grow an entire forest, one tree at a time

By Wild Bird Trust

A single seed in the overworked hands of Nozibele Mphothulo can be the beginning of a forest. Affectionately known as “Mamma Evelyn”, she is one of the tree growers of Siyazama Nursery, an initiative established in 2017, to re-establish forests. The trees grown by the nursery are planted to restore the Cape Parrot’s habitat.

The Wild Bird Trust’s Cape Parrot Project is a registered non-profit, public benefit environmental organization. Since 2009, the Cape Parrot Project has taken action to protect South Africa’s only endemic parrot. Based in Hogsback, a village at the heart of the Amathole-Katberg Mountain Key Biodiversity Area in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, the Cape Parrot Project strives to link conservation with economic benefits by uplifting small, rural communities surrounding Cape Parrot forest habitat.

To increase on-the-ground forest protection, the project encourages local people to become forest custodians through the development of local livelihoods that derive benefit from healthy Afro-montane forest.

Mamma Evelyn is in her 70’s and she has lived in Sompondo community her whole life, and the neighbouring forest is home to her. Along with other growers, she collects indigenous seeds from trees in the community and forest edge, germinates the seeds and grows healthy seedlings.

Cape Parrot Project purchases the seedlings when they reach planting height. For most growers, this is their primary source of income. Mamma Evelyn has been a true pioneer of this nursery, and along with her passion for growing trees and dedication to this initiative, she supports the other growers in every way she can. The income she receives from the tree sales has allowed her to purchase rainwater tanks for water security, fence off her food garden and support her large family.

Although Mamma Evelyn grows a diversity of tree species, Afrocarpus falcatus is her signature species and over several years, thousands of these trees have been planted in and around forest habitat, creating a future food source for the Cape Parrot. She would like to pass her knowledge on to the next generation when she eventually retires from Siyazama Nursery. She truly represents the meaning of Siyazama, “working together”.

Listed as Critically Endangered, there are fewer than 2,000 Cape Parrots (Poicephalus robustus) left in the wild, limited to forest patches in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Limpopo Province.

The parrots nest in existing tree hollows in old Yellowwood trees - South Africa’s national tree - and rely on the fruit of these trees for nutrition and survival. However, there is currently a shortage of natural nesting sites due to the scarcity of old Yellowwood trees, largely attributed to habitat degradation caused mainly by historical logging practices.

“Our goal is to achieve sustained growth in the population of this rare parrot species, and together with strategic partnerships we are working towards a total wild population of 2,500 birds within the next 10 years,” says Dr Kirsten Wimberger, Director of the Cape Parrot Project and Trustee of the Wild Bird Trust.

“The Cape Parrot’s limited habitat is under threat because of numerous human-induced factors, including over-exploitation of natural resources, the proliferation of exotic plants, including commercial forestry, and depleted groundwater supplies, which all contribute to habitat degradation and ultimately a lack of nesting sites and food for the species.

“The plan is to protect and improve Cape Parrot forest habitats, thereby halting the habitat degradation driving their decline, and providing conservation actions needed to improve population numbers.”

For more information please contact the Cape Parrot Project at

Alternatively, you can read more on the Wild Bird Trust Website


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