How the Running Tree Campaign began in South Africa - and continues to this day!
We are honored to have completed another Running Tree Campaign in 2022! It was an incredible 42km race in Cape Town, plus a 10km Peace Run, supported by reforestation nonprofit One Tree Planted. Many runners held trees in their backpacks in order to celebrate the incredible value of trees, and to raise awareness for how ecological restoration is needed in South Africa and beyond in order to support healthy communities, conserve indigenous biodiversity, and to mitigate the effects of global climate change.
Activist and treegrower Siyabulela Sokomani, founder of Nguni Nursery, started the campaign by running alone in 2017. He then had more support running with 20 friends in 2019, and it has since continued to grow in popularity with hundreds of participants.
“There were no trees in the township where I grew up,” he said. Now Sokomani has tattoos of his favorites - the Coral Tree, Speckboom and Acacia - twining across his shoulder.
The Speckboom is a favorite at Sokomani’s nursery. Spekboom can grow almost anywhere and absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere faster than most other trees in dry conditions, the United Nations says. In 2018 Sokomani went back to the school where he was inspired by a teacher during his childhood, to plant 67 trees on Mandela Day, symbolizing the 67 years that Mandela spent in public service. He co-founded Township Farmers in 2017 to teach children about agriculture and plant trees in schools.
According to Ondela Manjezi, "Each year the campaign runs on behalf of a cause close to our hearts. In 2019 it was Girls and Women affected by Climate Change in Africa, and this year we ran for Urban Heat. For the reduction of urban heat and the importance of creating green spaces to offset urban heat. These green spaces need to be in not only affluent communities but disadvantaged and indigenous people also need green spaces. Hence we planted all the trees in disadvantaged communities and schools."
All the trees that were connected to runners will be planted in Phillippi Village, Cape Town. Township Farmers, which participates in the race, claims "urban greening is an important component to our community development. Once spaces become eco friendly, communities start to feel more connected to the space."
5,000 Portulacaria Afra and Spekboom trees were given to runners and spectators at this Cape Town Marathon, with the majority planted after the race in the locations of Vuyiseka High School in Phillippi, and Cosat High School in Khayelitsha.