Konica Minolta South Africa, a division of Bidvest Office & Print, held a tree-planting ceremony in Soweto to mark the 50 000th tree planted through its ongoing partnership with Food and Trees for Africa (FTFA). Over the past eleven years, Konica Minolta SA and FTFA have planted trees at schools across the country – as well as clinics, museums, community centres and RDP homes.
The partnership has seen many trees planted along the Mandela Route, including at Madiba’s birthplace in Mvezo, Eastern Cape; on Robben Island and at other historical landmarks.
Nelson Mandela was passionate about the youth and education – values Konica Minolta SA strongly supports. The company, therefore, decided to plant trees at sites in Soweto related to the former president, including his first home in Orlando East and at the DOCC YMCA, a community boxing centre where a youthful Madiba trained.
At February’s tree-planting event, children from AB Xuma Primary School gathered at the DOCC YMCA (formerly the Donaldson Orlando Community Centre) for a celebration and learned how to plant a tree and the benefits of doing so. "Besides enjoying shade and a fresh supply of oxygen from the trees, AB Xuma Primary School community will also learn about the different types of leaves on the trees, biodiversity, as well as many aspects of environmental education. During breaks learners as well as educators will socialise easily under the trees. Fauna and flora will eventually multiply and the environment in totality would be significantly healthier in and around our school," said M S Tsotetsi, deputy principal of AB Xuma School.
Trees will also be planted at 50 other schools throughout Soweto.
The planting of 1 500 trees across Soweto brings the total number of trees planted since the 2008 launch of Konica Minolta SA’s initiative to 50 001 (including bamboo and tree-equivalent spekboom plants). These plantings have offset an estimated 18 450.55 tonnes of CO2e and enabled Konica Minolta SA to maintain its carbon-neutral status which the company first achieved in 2013.
Konica Minolta SA’s ongoing donation of trees has reached 1 037 beneficiary organisations, including 985 schools, 52 community centres and 11 639 homes. The programme’s focus on sustainability has led to 129 community educators being trained during the tree-planting activities, empowering them to take the initiative forward across the country.
Planting trees brings many benefits – aside from improving air quality, releasing oxygen and helping to mitigate global warming by sequestering carbon dioxide. Trees also reduce storm-water runoff thereby reducing erosion and possible flooding. They also provide habitat and food for a variety of birds, animals and insects. Hence the significance of Konica Minolta SA’s achievement, and the importance of educating school children and other community members across Soweto in the value of planting trees.
"We are excited to be one of the beneficiaries who was chosen to be part of this greening initiative, and this is going to leave a legacy. Konica Minolta SA and FTFA will be able to come back after decades and see the difference they have made to the community of Orlando," said Portia Tshepe, YMCA general manager.
Konica Minolta South Africa’s CEO, Marc Pillay, emphasised the importance of the initiative for both the community and the broader environment. “Planting our 50 000th tree is a massive milestone, one that we’re pleased and proud to celebrate. But we’re not stopping here – we want to keep South Africa growing greener!”