Cape Town has the title of 'biodiversity hotspot' because it is blessed to be home to the Cape Florist Kingdom: a set of beautiful and unique plants and animals which occur within the Western Cape - and nowhere else in the world. The 1500 km² of Cape Town also includes 3.7 million people. Despite its local natural wealth, there are large areas in the city that are unnecessarily dominated by a stark environment featuring little to no vegetation and animal life -- a hostile environment for humans and other organisms alike. The Cape Floristic Kingdom is remarkable because of the very high number of unique plants that occur only here. Unfortunately the proximity of the unique plants to harsh urban living has earned Cape Town the label of extinction capital of the world, with 1700 plants currently threatened with extinction. (1)
The three most important historical threats to these plant communities include permanent habitat loss (including urban expansion, infrastructure development and agricultural expansion); invasive alien plant species (that displace indigenous species); and, habitat degradation (through overgrazing and inappropriate fire frequencies and intensities). The two most important emerging threats are climate change and new diseases. (1)
Habitat loss and degradation is justified in part by the delivery of much needed basic services to those lacking in the necessities, but it is also strained by those striving to live a life of luxury that is unfortunately equated with excess. Underlying the pressures brought on by both the wealthy and poor humans is a conflict between humans and nature that never existed before. The ways humans aspire to live now in modern times is in conflict with our environmental support system. It is becoming more and more obvious that we are destroying the very support system which we cannot live without. WE have become distracted and forgotten that air, soil, water is our breathe, our food, our life.
Our goal during the pilot project is to work in three different sites in Cape Town. Our aim is for these three sites to all be located in areas where urban greening severely lacks and where the greening can help support local biodiversity.
Since August 2016, we have beening working in Delft, surrounded by fragemnts of the Cape Flats Dune Strandveld vegetation type. We have found a great partner organisation called IsiQhamo, which is a local urban farming cooperative. Together with IsiQhamo, we have identified areas in Delft that are in need of greening and have created a list of Cape Flats Dune Strandveld species, and quanties of each, that we will use to green the selected areas. We are now working on gathering cutting and seeds, and growing the plants for the greening. This will kick off an indigenous nursery for IsiQhamo, which they will use to suppliment their vegetable sales.
Since June 2017, we have been working with local greeners in Rosebank to support the local sunbird population. Long term greeners in the area have been tirelessly greening for many decades in the area, keeping the river clean and weeded, and maintaining the Rondebosch Common. We are adding more sunbird friendly plants to exisiting green areas, and expanding the number of areas we are greening. We aim to add enough gardens in the area to enable movement of sunbirds from Table Mountain to Rondebosch Common. The plants on both Table Mountain and Rondeboch Common need the sunbirds and other pollinators to ensure plants are pollinated by a diversity of plants. The sunbirds need nectar-rich plants to feed on, and rely more on residential garden feeding when their is fire or drought and therefore less food on the mountain for them.
Soon we will begin greening in the CBD with an organisation that has already made two beautiful vegetable gardens, and is willing to add sunbird-friendly plants to their perimeter. Sunbirds feed on insects when they are breeding so they could help with pest control in their vegetable gardens.
Photo credit: Martin Power - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:City_bowl.jpg