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Written by: Someleze Mgcuwa and Catherine Browne

The Botanical Society of South Africa has recently employed six passionate individuals to work for flora conservation and education. Here we share the story of Someleze from the Eastern Cape.

© Mzukisi Beja
© Mzukisi Beja

“Lao Tzu once said that ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.’ In June 2013 I took that first step, without even knowing that it was a step in a right direction.

It is the norm in my community for young people to seek employment straight after high school as we don’t have the funds to further our education.

I was presented with an opportunity to join Groen Sebenza – a programme that offers young South Africans a chance to learn and grow in the biodiversity sector. I didn’t even think twice about accepting it as such opportunities are very rare in rural communities. The term biodiversity was very new to me, but this didn’t stop me as I was eager to learn all about it and see what it actually entailed.

© Catherine Browne
©Catherine Browne

I started off by collecting biodiversity specimens, ranging from plants to insects – each of which required that I undergo training first, as it was all new to me and my fellow interns. Learning the terminology used with each of these organisms was a challenge, but my determination and hard work paid off! My well pinned and mounted insect and plant specimens that are filed at the Selmar Schonland Herbarium are the reminders of how hard work can pay off.

© Khululwa Gxekwa
©Khululwa Gxekwa

That was my first step. It didn’t happen immediately as one would think a single step does, and there were so many ups and downs.

At the beginning of this year I took another step – moving from Pirie Mission (my village) to Grahamstown (the city of Saints). My Groen Sebenza expired at the end of November 2015, but the Botanical Society of South Africa extended this journey by employing me for the next year. This is my next step.


I’m currently working as a herbarium assistant at the Selmar Schonland Herbarium and a Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) field project assistant. As a herbarium assistant I mount, file and identify specimens, and for CREW I assist during field trips by preparing field equipment, data collection and capturing as well as designing identification guides for the volunteers to use in their search for threatened plant species in their respective areas.

© Mzukisi Beja
©Mzukisi Beja

I’m so thankful to the Botanical Society for giving me this opportunity. Now I can say loud and clear that the journey to make my mark in the biodiversity sector continues.”

To read stories about other young, passionate biodiversity sector staff working for the Botancial Society click here and here. Support the continued work of the Botanical Society of South Africa, supporting biodiversity education and conservation, by becoming a member and by getting a MyPlanet card and selecting the Botanical Society as your beneficiary.

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