A Green Family in Action - Reforesting Platbos
Last weekend my two children and I went to the “Greenpop Reforest Family Fest” in the Platbos Forest near Gansbaai, in South Africa. The main goal behind this festival, and the “Friends Fest” coming up next weekend, is to get together to reforest the scarred sections of this 70-acre privately owned forest. But before and after the main reforesting activity on Saturday morning, many fun activities and organized rituals in two days only were already planting the seeds of what felt like a small eco-village.
Misha Teasdale, one of the Greenpop founders and directors explained to me “it is important to have a festival that is specifically aimed at the younger generation to introduce them to their role as custodians of the planet. We reconnect them with nature so that they can see it as a playful and safe area to be in and in doing so we remove them from technology. We also give the opportunity to parents to play with their children in a hospitable place, where they know that there are many other parents looking out for them. What we are creating is a temporary community, which has the capacity of raising consciousness and the opportunity of having deep conversations, in a space away from the daily clutter and rush.”
It was hard for me to focus on the kids, with so many appetizing things that I could do and people that I wanted to listen to, whilst their petty needs and whines seemed to attain new heights in the wild. Indeed, choosing to spend a weekend out of our familiar comfort zone was physically and emotionally challenging, but it was truly a fantastic way to raise our consciousness together as a family unit. “Environmental activism is the rent we pay for living on this planet” says one of the boards scattered around the wild venue. We owe this to Her.
Together, as a sustainable family, we made rattles out of recycled beer tops, learnt some poi tricks, did yoga under a 1000-year-old milkwood tree, painted a tree on recycled cardboard, walked the forest trail and the shell labyrinth, watched a puppet show on the importance of “living smart” - for example playing outside and picking up plastic.
Practicing recycling and discussing environmental awareness is an essential goal of the Greenpop Reforest Fests. My 3 and 6-year-olds took our “ecobricks” (plastic water bottles filled with non recyclable waste that can be upcycled into furniture, building or artwork) to the recycling station – though not without some stern coaxing from their eco-captain on duty, me. To my immense pleasure, during the talks that I managed to half listen to, they understood first hand why straws and party balloons are so bad for the seas. I was impressed by the quality of the young bands that we danced to on Friday and Saturday evening and by the quality of the sound in that sacred forest circle. The food and the beer were delicious, and low GI and low carbon footprint of course. Just before we left we also went on a guided walk/run through the forest following the savvy footsteps of forest custodian and preacher Francois Krige. He showed us how, when the newly planted indigenous trees shade the alien species, the latter stop seeding and die out naturally. That proves that recreating the indigenous biodiversity around unwanted pioneer species is the most progressive way of eliminating them.
When learning about concepts and values that go against the general materialistic trends, there is nothing like watching and hearing directly from the experts. It takes a village to educate a child. And if we want to give our greater Mother, Nature, a chance it takes an eco-village.
I know that when I, their biological mother, finally eradicate the balloons from our party box and replace them with colourful African cloth flags, like those that were swaying around us in the forest, they will be proud, not because they are doing me right, but because they are doing Her good.
Oh! how they liked spotting the Reforest flags showing us the directions to the Fest. During the planting session itself, we were on the blue team, gathered around the blue flag, my children proudly wearing their blue cloth bracelets and trying their best to help us dig, plant and mulch some of the 2000 and 5 trees that all teams together planted on that day. Armed with spades and trowels we braved the dust and the heat while our youngest sat in the shade of older trees and wove bracelets and dreamcatchers, entertained by the Greenpop volunteers. We planted saplings from the forest itself that Francois and his team had prepared for the event.
“DIY (Do It Yourself) is dead, it’s the age of DIT (Do It Together)” said Mafrika, a unique specimen of storyteller, happymaker, and this year’s festival MC. What a star! It takes someone as upbeat as her and the rest of the Greenpop team to remind us that change is possible, as long as we persist and spread the word.
This union between the Krige and Greenpop is a much needed success story amidst the ecological doom and gloom that surrounds our every thought and action. How inspiring to see how skill and strong will can have such a huge positive impact on nature. And what a privilege to be invited every year to contribute to the process and play and dance in celebration of its success. By the way, this forest is soon to be rezoned as a Nature Reserve: “The Kriges are in the process of signing a Full Stewardship Contract with Cape Nature, which involves a perpetuity agreement with the Agency to commit their land to conservation.”
So, on their behalf and on ours, please catch your tickets for the 2018 Family Fest as soon as they are released this year, so that this event can continue for many more years. And let your friends know that this is one of the best family festivals in South Africa. Let’s help this magical forest grow and grow, to ensure that our own little human saplings continue to grow and grow with it too.
Author: Joanna Tomkins, founder and director of Gaia Conscious Travel, www.gaia-travel.com
About Platbos, Africa’s Southernmost Forest:
Platbos Forest, situated between Gansbaai and Hermanus in the Overberg, is a very unique combination of old growth Afromontain Forest and Coastal Thicket Species forming a magical pocket of rare and endangered vegetation. For the past seven years, Francois and Melissa Krige have dedicated themselves to the conservation of this unusual indigenous forest, and have “put it on the map”. The Kriges purchased Platbos in 2005.
Whilst botanical studies have highlighted Platbos’ importance in more recent years, it was zoned inappropriately as “Agricultural Land” in the past. So, about a century ago, 20 acres of land located in the heart of the old-growth forest was felled and ploughed for potatoes. After the land was found to be unsuitable for agriculture in the 1940s, cultivation efforts in the area were abandoned and the area was overrun by invasive species.
Many species of alien vegetation contain volatile oils that cause them to burn with a greater heat intensity than natural veld fires. Thus the dense alien stands on neighbouring land, if ignited by a run-away fire, represent a grave fire hazard to the forest.
Gradual climate change over the last few centuries, alien vegetation, and a “fynbos orientated” fire management policy, all combine to make Platbos Forest dependant on human help for its survival.
In 2012, Greenpop began a collaboration with the Platbos Conservation Trust to begin the long term process of reforestation. “Our efforts are focused in the pockets of alien vegetation that have penetrated the original forests borders. By combining alien vegetation clearing with a proactive planting regime, the project aims to bolster the original forest and stimulate and accelerate the regrowth of the original forest. Our monitoring surveys show that while some of the trees have suffered during last year’s very hot and dry summer, the vast majority of the trees are surviving and becoming established.”
Off-the-grid accommodation is available year round in forest tents amidst the Platbos Forest. For more information visit the website: www.platbos.co.za