National Gardens offers opportunities for youth

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The National Gardens play a pivotal role in mentoring and developing young people already in the sector through its Student and Intern Programme, says Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

“This year, 73 beneficiaries were developed through work-integrated learning, internships, scholarships and postgraduate programmes,” Molewa said during the launch of the Sisulu Circle Garden, a landscaped area paying tribute to the late Walter Sisulu.

Molewa and Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom officially unveiled the garden at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in Roodepoort on Tuesday.

“The introduction of the Sisulu Circle here is an ideal opportunity for the public, and in particular the youth, to reconnect with our country’s important heritage. It is an opportunity to not only honour a great man, but to learn more about the role played by Walter Sisulu in the attainment of the democracy and freedoms we have enjoyed since 1994,” she said.

The Sisulu Circle was funded by the Department of Tourism as part of its plans to develop tourism destinations across the country and enhance visitor experience.

“Through our modest investment in this new addition to the garden, we are putting our money where our mouth is. We will continue to work with our sister department to improve on public assets of high tourism growth potential, this ensures that our contribution makes a difference in improving their visitor offerings,” Hanekom said.

The Water Sisulu Botanical Gardens Garden was founded in 1982 under the management of the South African National Biodiversity Institute.

In 2004, the then Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden was officially renamed the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden through an initiative taken by the former Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Valli Moosa, to honour the life and work of Walter Sisulu

Molewa said the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Kids in Gardens Programme has reached more than 50 000 beneficiaries in the past year.

“While many of the participating schools and organisations are regular clients to the programme, deliberate plans have been made to market the gardens to new schools in order to spread the conservation message as far as possible. This has resulted in 173 schools with almost 15 000 learners visiting the gardens for lessons for the first time in the past year,” she said.

According to the Minister, further steps are being taken to include marginalised groups.

“Last year, this resulted in 484 learners with physical and mental disabilities participating in lessons specifically designed for their needs. In addition, over 700 youth and 423 adults attended specially designed lessons,” she said.

Over 2 500 learners and students meaningfully interacted with information about biodiversity careers through the SANBI’s Career Programme which is aimed at attracting young people into the biodiversity sector.

“In the past financial year, the Walter Sisulu gardens hosted 6 647 beneficiaries and 13 new schools for garden-based schools programmes hosted by BEE programmes.  

“Nationally, 53 179 young people participated in the garden-based school programmes and other guided groups programmes. 162 new schools were reached in 2017/18,” Molewa said.

She said South Africa is among the few countries that has legislation specifically aimed at managing the problem of biological invasions.

“Our Working for Water Programme, initiated by government in 1995, is internationally-renowned for its innovative approaches that combine alien plant control with poverty relief, employment and development opportunities,” Molewa said.

Albertina Sisulu Orchid

The Sisulu Garden plays an important conservation role, including protection of one of the few remaining populations of the Endangered Albertina Sisulu Orchid (formerly known as Brachycorythis conica ssp. transvaalensis) in Gauteng which is being threatened by pending housing developments and uncontrolled recreational vehicle activities.

The orchid was named Albertina at a time when government is celebrating the centenary of this iconic woman.

Wild Orchid South Africa Vice Chairperson Kaersten Wordrich said the orchid was first discovered in 1918, which is the same year that Albertina was born in the Transkei.

“The Orchid disappeared in 1956 and that was the year that Albertina joined Helen Joseph and Sophia Williams De Bruyn in a march of 20 000 people against the apartheid pass-laws to the Union Building in Pretoria.

“The orchid was not seen again until 2007…that was just four year before the sad passing of MaSisulu when it was rediscovered…at its current location,” he said.

Wordrich said the orchid is now fighting for its own survival just as Albertina did with her family and many friends during the dark days of apartheid while her husband was in detention. –