Written by: Catherine Browne and Anri Marais
Groen Sebenza, which is a combination of the words ‘green’ in Afrikaans and ‘work’ in isiZulu, brings young South Africans from previously disadvantaged backgrounds together with experienced biodiversity professionals. The goal is to help them to learn, grow and eventually gain the competence and confidence to embark on rewarding and meaningful biodiversity careers.
The two-and-a-half year programme involves partnership with the Botanical Society of South Africa and more than 40 other host organisations from all tiers of government, NGOs and the private sector. It provides practical training courses, in addition to conservation research and hands-on mentoring.
The Botanical Society of South Africa hosted five individuals (three graduates and two matriculants) on the programme, which commenced last month, and is proud to share that these individuals have been employed on varied contracts to support SANBI’s Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) programme nationally and to help with essential Red Listing work under SANBI.
Here we share one of these stories – Anri Marais’ journey:
Being an unemployed matriculant with no tertiary qualification in conservation or botany, the start of my internship with the Botanical Society of South Africa seemed scary. I was in complete darkness.
My career vision had always been focused on the field of medicine and initially I went off to pursue a career in paramedics. Unfortunately, but luckily, I did not complete this venture. I was just not emotionally ready for the trauma I would have to deal with at times.
As a matriculant with no qualifications or experience, a new door opened for me – a door that I never even thought I would enter.
Like a dried protea seed, I awaited a wind that would blow me in a new direction, a fire that would pass, germinating the little seed after blissful showers of rain. Like fynbos, Groen Sebenza was my fire. It ignited the passion in me for conservation and the environment. The Botanical Society of South Africa and the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) were my wind and rain.
During the past two and a half years on the Groen Sebenza programme I grew into a bright green juvenile plant, but all plants have threats (alien invasive plants, urbanisation, habitat degradation, etc.). My threat was the termination of my internship contract with Groen Sebenza.
But thankfully the Botanical Society of South Africa saw the potential in me and cleared my path. They cleared all the debris and threats to this little plant.
I am now a blooming protea. I shine bright red, and am sweet with knowledge and experience. This plant will fight all threats, and will continue to bloom and multiply over the years with even more knowledge, experience and passion for conservation.
In line with the Botanical Society’s Mission “to win the hearts, minds and material support of individuals and organisations, wherever they may be, for the conservation, cultivation, study and wise use of the indigenous flora amd vegetation of southern Africa,” the Botanical Society has definitely one my heart.