Colette Kemp – Terra Blossom Africa

Colette Kemp is the founder of Terra Blossom Africa – a reforestation and riparian restoration research initiative in Greyton, who have established a number of pilot research sites that will one day become living examples of the value, and impact of conserving, and restoring riparian ecosystems (water-tolerant, micro-climate forming ecosystems) that naturally recover under our Alien trees – even gum trees. Colette strategically chooses pilot planting sites for their potential to expand her knowledge and understanding of our ecosystem, and for the role that these sites will play in the restoration of our aquatic ecosystem, as well as in uplifting and integrating the local  Greyton and Heuwelkroon community

Editors Note: Colette is truly an inspiration for all us plant people and we will do our best to hear lots more from her in future publications, that is, if she can fit us into her busy schedule.

Nursery trees

For the past six years, Colette has been studying the Cape’s Afromontane Forest Ecosystem and has been photographing and recording its successional behaviour in our grassland, riparian and renosterveld [LSM[1] Semi desert and Forest ecosystems. She visits and monitors a range of uniquely distinctive closed canopy and emerging forests in the Cape which are endemic to the conditions of their environment, and are valuable references to the roles that our trees, ferns, creepers and forest margin species can play in the creation, and in the potential survival of our forests. Keen to learn as much about our forests as possible, she was alarmed to discover that our Afrotemperate Forest, and riparian ecosystem, as well as the trees that support it, are poorly researched and their ecology is virtually unknown.

After completing a permaculture design course with Permaculture South Africa

Colette spent 6 months assisting her father with restoring his Miombe forests and grasslands on his beautiful woodland farm, surrounded by desolate townships outside Harare.

“While in Zimbabwe, I observed many forest margin, understory and canopy species that are endemic to the Cape – leading me to discover that the Afromontane forests of Africa are fragments of the same successional rainforest ecosystem called the Afromontane Archipelago. This was a revelation, and coupled with experiencing the devastating effects of deforestation on the climate, wildlife and livelihoods of the rural people in Zimbabwe was the catalyst that cemented my resolve to become a reforester. I established Terra Blossom nursery in order to study our trees, and rear them in various micro-climates, in a range of long planting sleeves to develop a pioneering growth form. I generally grow from seed, and select my mother trees for their resilience to disease, and health in challenging conditions.” – Colette Kemp

SOME OF TERRA BLOSSOM AFRICA’S PROJECTS:

GREYTON WILDERNESS CORRIDOR:

ARBOR MONTH: September 2016 and 2017 (120 trees)

“Our pilot riparian research and restoration site in Greyton’s popular ‘Vleitjie’ picnic spot is a learning platform for the restoration of the Qobos River.

Our trees have survived, and many are thriving – despite severe frosts, and recent hurricane-like storms, drought and drenching rains. Sadly, most of our Keurboom trees that had already grown to 7 meters in height have succumbed to the sudden appearance of a number of pathogens and have died. I believe that these are the same pathogens that have been intentionally applied to our ‘alien’ trees, many of which have similar properties to our Keurboom – our most prolific and successful forest pioneer. I had observed these diseases infecting our local indigenous and exotic trees earlier in the year and compiled a report, and sent samples to FABI (the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute) who were surprisingly unable to identify or locate the pathogens. I am continuing with my research on these diseases, and believe that they are aggravated by desiccation. I am very concerned to see that these diseases have spread into our forests, and I believe in some cases such as Oubos and Platbos, have severely compromised their health”.

FOUNDED THE GREYTON COMMUNITY FOREST INITIATIVE: August 2016

“This is a community-driven, forest conservation and restoration initiative that aims to engage the community in becoming involved in restoring Greyton to her former ecological health – and to revive the forests and rich grasslands that the Khoikhoi, known as the Bosjemans, created and maintained for thousands of years. We aim to adopt Professor Coert Geldenhuys’ more ecologically sensitive methods of alien management that retains the valuable timber trees of our riparian exotic pioneers, providing a valuable natural resource while allowing our Afrotemperate forest and riparian vegetation to naturally succeed under their nursing canopies.”

SCHOOL GREENING: June 2018 – August 2018 (60 trees)

“Terra Blossom Africa started a school greening initiative for degraded rural schools in the Overberg. Our goal is to transform barren, hopeless looking playgrounds into lush life-filled forest ecosystems. All of the schools have very serious problems with water erosion, capping, and desertification. Our trees are strategically placed in a design that is created to enrich, shade and beautify the playground – and at the same time, protect it from degrading further. Children become custodians of the trees they plant, and learn about the roles that they play in the forest system.”

HEUWELKROON GRAVEYARD: July 2018 (40 trees)

“We donated trees to the families who were mourning the loss of their children in a series of tragedies that were brought on by the disempowered situation that this neglected Khoikhoi community find themselves in. Although they are surrounded by their ancestral lands, they have no rights to the land, and are living under the constant stress of poverty with little hope for local opportunities to uplift their lives. A few families planted their trees in their gardens, and a group of local volunteers spent a morning planting the trees and decorating the graves. A few trees were moved to make space for more graves, and the trees that are surviving are surprisingly healthy and have already softened and enriched the barren soils surrounding them”.

GREYTON FARM ANIMAL SANCTUARY: July 2018 (50 trees)

Greyton Farm Animal Sanctuary is a severely degraded, 40ha fragment of former grassland that has been left fallow for over 15 years, and is the home of passionate vegan and animal rights activist Nicola Vernon. I offered to create a restoration plan for her farm since the renosterveld vegetation that has replaced the once rich grasslands does not provide enough nutrient for her sanctuary animals. Our ecosystem restoration plan focused on restoring the riparian areas, and introducing micro-climate generating, water-retaining shrub and tree species along the terraced furrows on the contours of the hills. Our trees grew well in the pilot planting site for this project, but unfortunately, they have been browsed by goats and will not mature unless protected from browsing.

LAND STEWARDSHIP PROGRAME

Due to Covid restrictions, many children from our disenfranchised Khoikhoi community only go to school every consecutive day, and are left to roam the streets. Many of these children have parents who are tik addicts, and have no positive role models. Volunteers join me on fun, investigative walks and outings into nature, where we identify our trees, learn about the natural successional behaviour of our riparian ecosystem, and learn to observe nature.

We collect seeds, plant seedlings, learn creative landscaping skills, and learn how to ‘read’ Mother Nature. Volunteers are also taught to develop drawing, painting and craft skills, as I believe that creative expression assists in personal growth. A number of our volunteers are women who have suffered a history of poverty and domestic abuse, and are struggling to overcome their drug addictions. They love working in nature and say that the work is uplifting, and many have been inspired to create their own gardens and to spend more time in nature, where they feel more at peace. Our stewardship programme has provided Terra Blossom Africa with great insights into the challenges that we face, especially with regards to the healing and integration of our fractured community.


John

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