Volunteers rally around spekboom trees amid water crisis fears

01 November 2017 - 08:55 By Bafana Nzimande
November 2011: A young spekboom (Portulacaria afra), also known as elephant's food growing in a rock garden. File photo.
November 2011: A young spekboom (Portulacaria afra), also known as elephant's food growing in a rock garden. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images / Home / Christo Lotter

A group of Western Cape residents have adopted natural methods to help reduce water shortages and climate change concerns in their province.

Volunteers are mobilising communities to cultivate spekboom trees in their backyards and in any available spaces. Project founder Clair Cantrell said the South African indigenous plant‚ which reaches up to 200 years‚ is the ultimate solution to dehydration and air pollution.

The movement has started planting a number of spekbooms in Kalbaskraal in the Western Cape‚ and plans are already at an advanced stage to spread more plants throughout the country.

"I belong to many groups concerned about water shedding and lack of water in the Cape and I can confirm that we are sitting on the brink of a disaster. The future is looking very dry‚" Cantrell said.

"Water shortage is a serious problem. This movement hopes to address this challenge. It doesn't require any funding or government support but a sense of responsibility from fellow South Africans. Let's plant spekbooms."

According to Cantrell‚ a nursery in Kalbaskraal has availed six hectares of land for the cultivation of spekboom. More people have shown interest in the project.

"This project has started in the Cape area but it has to move across the country. With a lack of water‚ our access to food decreases. This could be another national disaster‚" she said.

The City of Cape Town is presently at risk of running out of water due to drought. Water restrictions and water saving projects have been implemented. Government projects include water reuse and groundwater abstraction. The city hopes these projects could produce an extra 500 million litres a day.

"A spekboom is an exceptional plant with many benefits. Studies have revealed that an average patch of spekboom can capture up to four tons of carbon dioxide per year. Another benefit is that it's easy to plant and it doesn't burn‚” said Johan Swart of the Spekboom Foundation‚ another movement supporting the cultivation of spekboom.

Workshops on how to plant a spekboom are being organised and the movement has taken to social media to reach out to other areas.