UKZN’s recently launched Sustainable Living Student Organisation (SLSO) hosted an event at the nursery on the Pietermaritzburg campus aimed at teaching students about sustainable gardening, improving gardening skills, and beautifying the campus.
Five students joined the SLSO committee for an hour and a half to celebrate the arrival of spring with a gathering that contributed to meeting the organisation’s vision of promoting awareness of the environment students live in and factors affecting that environment, including climate change, pollution and environmental degradation.
‘We focus on factors that are detrimental to the environment and assist in addressing such impacts, especially those caused by the negative contributions of humans towards the environment,’ said SLSO founder Ms Wendy Hadebe, a third-year student in Geography and Environmental Management.
‘We promote the notion of sustainability, derived from the concept of sustainability development where we strive to meet the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,’ she said.
During the event, Hadebe and fellow committee members encouraged students to play their part in promoting environmental sustainability and resilience, and worked to improve people’s perceptions about the environment to positively influence their behaviour.
The students met with campus garden staff who explained about how to manage a garden. Participants worked in areas on the main campus to remove invasive alien plant species, weeds and leaves, littering the gardens and increasing the risk of plant disease. They pruned branches and examined plants, trees and shrubs for signs of pests and disease. They also cleared litter from the area and watered the plants.
The gardening event was inspired by a recognition that relatively few people realise the importance of having trees or a garden at their homes. Through the event, the SLSO highlighted sustainable gardening techniques, including environmentally-friendly gardening practices and methods of planting crops, trees or flowers while using minimal amounts of water and organic components, such as dry leaves for mulching.
The practices discussed and demonstrated how environmentally-friendly practices contribute to a healthier environment, improved human wellbeing, carbon sequestration and increased biodiversity.
‘Research has shown that gardening has provided a refuge for wildlife and supports animals, including birds, pollinators and other insects,’ said Hadebe. ‘Plants are an important part of nature and only few individuals realise that; terrestrial plants produce an estimated amount of 28% of the oxygen in the atmosphere and by looking after them, we are looking after ourselves in return.’
Hadebe thanked nursery workers, especially Head of Gardening Mr Siyabonga Bhengu, and Mr Sizwe Madlala of the Gardening division on the Pietermaritzburg campus for their assistance. Nursery workers responded enthusiastically to the students’ interest and welcomed them to continue assisting and learning from them.
• The SLSO will host another sustainable gardening event on Pietermaritzburg’s Golf Road campus on 4 October from 10h30 – 12h30. Students interested in participating can contact Wendy on:firstname.lastname@example.org
Words: Christine Cuénod