by Erene Oberholzer
A young local wants to educate South Africa on the superpowers of SA’s ‘wonder plant’, the spekboom.
Eleven-year-old Chris-Tiaan Nortjé from KwaZulu-Natal has spent his time planting 750 spekbooms during the December school holiday in order to raise awareness for this ‘wonder plant’ that can help rid the planet of CO2 emissions.
Said to be ‘South Africa’s youngest global warming ambassador’, Chris-Tiaan took on the #SpekboomChallenge and is encouraging others to do so as well. It is said that he started to show interest in his grandmother’s succulent collection which ultimately triggered his enthusiasm to do something good for the planet by planting spekbooms.
This comes after Chris-Tiaan had to face his own obstacles:
“This little child has been through extremely heartbreaking circumstances with his mom’s illness and passing in Deceber 2017 but has conquered it all and lives an amazingly full life of giving and sharing,” writes his grandmother, Charlotte Coetzee on Back-a-buddy. “His positivity and bravery, despite his many challenges, inspired me to keep on going, to try harder and to never give up.”
Now, Chris-Tiaan wants to plant 12 000 spekbooms every year of his life but needs funding to support this project.
“We also plan to visit five schools per week, 300 per year, to educate scholars about the superpowers of the spekboom and promote the planting of spekboom at all schools.”
‘The Humble Spekboom’
According to WineLand, ‘the humble’ spekboom (that is mainly found in the Eastern Cape) can gobble up between four and 10 tons of carbon per hectare per year.
“It is a bright green, small-leaved plant with a contrasting red stem found in Southern Africa that seems ordinary but don’t be fooled – it is a very special plant!’
It ultimately helps to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by acting like a carbon sponge, improving the quality of the air we breathe. More specifically, spekboom can absorb between four to ten tonnes of carbon per hectare
“This incredible tree uses carbon to make plant tissue and produce oxygen. According to The Spekboom Foundation, spekboom’s capacity to offset harmful carbon emissions is compared to that of moist, subtropical forests. This remarkable plant is unique in that it stores solar energy to perform photosynthesis at night. This makes a spekboom thicket 10 times more effective per hectare at carbon fixing than any tropical rainforest.”
The spekboom is also great at adapting to its surroundings and can flourish almost anywhere. It makes wonderful hedges and beautiful shrubs and, can be planted in fields, flowerbeds and pots.
The spekboom challenge and other projects
According to Getaway, besides individuals taking part in the spekboom challenge, there are various initiatives across the country to champion the cause of planting spekboom as an environmentally friendly act.
One such spekboom promoter is Abraham Enzo van Vuuren, president of the Greater Magaliesberg Biosphere Business Chamber and founder of Heal the World 4 Us. He has run a project that creates awareness about the plant’s unique properties. He has sold tiny spekboom plants to school children as well as various businesses.
Another spekboom project is known as The Great Labyrinth of Africa with plans to create the largest labyrinth in the world by planting 165 000 spekboom bushes in Klapmuts, near Stellenbosch, in February.
Boplaas Family Vineyards in Calitzdorp also joined the fight for climate change by urging others to take the step with them and plant a spekboom.
1)absorbs the highest amount of carbon dioxide when compared to any other plant in existence.
2)highly water-wise, needing up to half the water of other plants to survive.
3)can live up to 200 years and has the ability to adapt to its surroundings.