Children from three schools in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands enjoyed a hands-on, fun-filled experience at the uMngeni Valley Nature Reserve, as they helped plant 250 indigenous trees as part of the Trees4KZN initiative.  

More than 100 children from Shea O’Connor Combined School, Corrie Lynn Primary School and Currys Post Primary School as well as little ones from Siyabonga Helping Hands and the Shiyas Bizali Eco Club enjoyed a fun-filled day of hands-on conservation education at the uMngeni Valley Nature Reserve.

The brainchild of local NPO, Blue Sky Society Trust (BSST), Trees4KZN is aimed at increasing the province’s tree count while educating KZN’s youth about why it is important to plant and nurture our trees. BSST recently teamed up with IT trailblazers, Network Configurations, and WESSA uMngeni Valley for the KZN Midlands rollout. They were joined by 120 children from Shea O’Connor Combined School, Corrie Lynn Primary School and Currys Post Primary School as well as little ones from Siyabonga Helping Hands and the Shiyas Bizali Eco Club.

“Great weather, magnificent surroundings and a bunch of people doing good – the feel good factor was high!” says BSST founder, Carla Geyser. “During my many expeditions through Africa, I have seen the negative impact of deforestation. It’s a massive problem. We need trees to survive. They provide us with oxygen, shade and beauty. What’s more, studies have shown that tree planting is a sustainable way to combat the effects of environmental pollution. So, planting more trees is crucial and we’d like to see more people involved.”

For the 50-strong Network Configurations team, the day’s experience was both priceless and humbling, knowing that the trees they helped plant would be there for generations to come. “The children’s laughter and smiles were definitely the best part of the day,” says Erica Floweday, Operations Director of Network Configurations. “Our team really enjoyed being able to work together in a natural environment, interacting with the children and witnessing their joy as they caught all kinds of creatures and learnt about nature.”

The Trees4KZN Midlands rollout received a huge thumbs up from the WESSA team that pours its heart into conservation education. “What a fantastic initiative for our beautiful nature reserve!” says Matthew Cocks, Centre Manager for uMngeni Valley Nature Reserve. “We are working hard to eradicate alien vegetation on the property, and by planting yellowwoods, acacias, cabbage trees and stinkwoods in the place of the resident gum trees, we are returning the valley to its natural state.”

The sobering message amidst a day of planting, learning and playing was not lost on the children and Cocks believes there could well have been budding environmentalists and conservationists among the group! Some of the comments received by the WESSA team include, “What a cool day! We had so much fun exploring the stream and catching all those awesome bugs!’’ and ‘That was the best day of my life, all I want to do is work on that reserve and protect nature!’