Sunday, June 29, 2008

Growing firewood for everyone

- Richard Dean -

Firewood is often the only affordable source of warmth and fuel for cooking for the unemployed of Prince Albert. It is affordable because people collect it themselves from the veld and cheaper than buying electricity or gas.

But there are not many trees in the semi-desert landscape, and most of them are on privately-owned land.

Wood can be grown if water is available, and there is available water if the "clean pond" sewage water is used. Prince Albert needs a woodlot, or even several woodlots.

It is for this reason that the Prince Albert Municipality, Renu-Karoo, the Plant Conservation Unit at the University of Cape Town, Prince Albert Primary School and Working for Water are collaborating to plant and care for a community woodlot.

Providing firewood for the future needs some skills. Working for Water has the expertise to provide training in woodlot management, including how best to prune trees to get the best yield of firewood. Prince Albert Primary has many young learners who would like to care for trees that will later provide their families with wood, and Renu-Karoo grows indigenous plants including soetdoring trees.

On 5 May Prince Albert Municipality appointed two men to dig 500 holes on the closed rubbish tip near Rondomskrik. Renu-Karoo donated 500 soetdoring trees which were carefully planted in these holes over the next two weeks under the supervision of Richard and Sue Dean, Meraai Isaacs and Caroline van der Ross and watered by the sewage truck. This is the start of the wood lot which in five years time will have trees large enough to be cut for firewood – that is, if the trees are well cared for. The trees will need to be regularly watered, at least until they have grown a bit and established efficient root systems, and they need to be pruned so that most of their growth is put into the main stem and not into thin side branches.

So much will depend on support from the local community, from the school, from the Municipality and of course, from Working for Water. Thanks to all for their support. Let’s hope this project is a great success!

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