u-turn 25 birthday



Whose role is it to protect the beautiful and rich biodiversity South Africa possesses? The answer is, both the African continent and the globe at large have a vast role to play in protecting our country’s natural environment.

I am involving other continents because finance is at the centre of finding inclusive and permanent solutions to our environmental challenges.

The Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) adopted at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) recently put emphasis on mobilising biodiversity-related funding from the public and private sector. Of its 23 targets by 2030, the GBF includes the importance of raising international financial flows from developed to developing countries to at least $30 billion (about R556bn) a year.

At the tip of Africa, Cape Town is a biodiversity hot spot. Most of its incredibly rare fynbos plants cannot be found anywhere else. Home to 4.6 million people, however, our natural heritage is under huge pressure.

The foundational connections between people and nature are often for­feited in the name of progress, leaving large areas of the city unnecessarily dominated by a stark environment, hos­tile to the human spirit and life itself. Densely urbanised and fragmented, a city is also near impossible for wild­life, like birds and insects, to navigate.

Hence enterprises like Living Roots have added their efforts in curb­ing lack of education and awareness in preserving our environments.

I like how Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy is keeping all of us on our toes and making sure we all get our hands dirty in protecting nature. The landmark agreement she signed to guide global action on nature through to 2030 is a sign of how committed she is to conserving plants and biodiversity.

We all have to think of how we can individually contribute towards that goal of effect­ive conservation and the management of at least 30% of the world’s land, coastal areas and oceans. Currently, 17% of land and 8% of marine areas are under protection.

I commend Living Roots’ work in empowering the public to grow and green their communities with endemic vegetation, creating corridors of habitat conservation for local plants, birds and insects, because educating the community in Claremont is a great way of contributing towards GBF.

Living Roots is also try­ing to raise funds to build a multipurpose modular learning centre to help them pro­mote habitat conservation throughout Cape Town’s increasingly urbanised land­scape as well as creating more awareness of green spaces that can be used to create natural habitat corridors/stepping stones, that allow endemic vegetation, birds and insects to cross-pollinate and migrate sustainably despite ongoing urbanisation putting pressure on natural wildlife.

This enterprise is a U-Turn Homeless Ministries enterprise and managed by U-Turn’s formerly homeless staff.

The enterprise has been working on community projects, like the maintenance of endemic communities in Newlands and along the Liesbeeck River. The maintenance of these communities is done by U-Turn’s phase 1 homeless people. They also have an agreement with local growers to propagate endemic vegetation at their Claremont site in Cape Town. – Siwaphiwe Myataza-Mzantsi


Originally published in The Star on 23 March 2023

Photo: Living Roots