Stellenbosch University
Welcome to Stellenbosch University
FMHS’ ‘Mighty Milkwoods’ inspired by Greenpop tree-planting celebration
Author: Keenen Gilbert
Published: 05/07/2022

This article is a first-hand account of FMHS students' experience of the Greenpop Reforest Fest 2022.

A few weeks ago, a group of ten green-thumbed TygerMaties packed a mini-bus chockful with camping gear and made our way to Bodhi Khaya Nature Retreat in Stanford to take part in Greenpop's Reforest Fest 2022.

The three-day festival is a tree-planting celebration for everyone, where the main aim is to plant indigenous trees (milkwood, wild olive, pock ironwood, bladder nut, etc.) on land that was previously forested. The project forms part of a broader ecosystem restoration management plan which was developed by the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy.

Through a generous sponsorship by Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences' (FMHS) Dean's Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability (DACES), we (the group of students) were able to help restore degraded land, attended environmental workshops and experience a number of the festival activities.

Day 1 - After a one-and-a-half hour half journey from Tygerberg to Stanford, we had to face the daunting task of setting up camp. Many of us were first-time campers and had no idea how to pitch a tent. We also had to adapt to the great outdoors which meant compost toilets, cold showers and no cellphone reception. But through perseverance, teamwork and some help from Google we set up our small camp. The rest of the evening was spent exploring the broader festival site and becoming acquainted with our fellow Maties around the bonfire.

Day 2 - The second day started with a morning wake-up-shake-up and the whole day was dedicated to planting trees. We joined the red team, also known as the 'Mighty Milkwoods' and dug, planted, sang and mulched our way through our site. We had a 'Mad Hatters' tea break and then spent the rest of the day in soul-transformation therapy and mindful movement sessions.

The night we danced to live music by talented artists such as Hot Water, The One Who Sings (Zolani Mahola) and Greenpop Co-Founder, Jeremy Loops, who performed at the festival. Star-gazing and staying warm by chatting around the bonfire were other popular activities.

Day 3 - The third and final day we attended talks presented by Tasneem Karodia (Mzansi Meat) on cultivated meat and Gray Maguire (Climate Neutral) on regenerative farming. Some of us took a guided forest walk with Francois Krig, custodian of Platbos Forest. We then had to break up camp and make our way back to the city and the reality of tests, deadlines, clinical work and stress. But something was different about the way we now viewed our world.

Lerato Homu (MSc Pharmacology) said: “I will forever cherish the lessons, laughter, fun and overall life-changing experience I had with some of the most incredible people." Matthew Blows (MBChB III, Meerhof Green HC) said: “We want people to share in this to be as passionate about sustainability and experience the amazing time we had in nature." Another comment from Christina Mouton (MSc Pharmacology) said: “The forestry festival at Bohdi Khaya was a valuable experience and a weekend I will cherish for the memories that came from it."

FMHS students would like to thank DACES for giving them the opportunity to connect with a community of people that love the earth and want to protect it.

Caption: Tygermaties at Greenpop's Reforst Fest 2022.