United Colours of Africa
Greenpop South Africa planting trees

"I think dancing brings joy. It loosens us up and connects us with our bodies and our friends. These connections bring joy and it is meaningful joy that can change the world. I think that conscious dancing is a powerful tool for connecting with ourselves and others - and reconnection is very powerful. "Lauren O'Donnel Greenpop

Interview Misha Teasdale

South Africa is an interesting space from a volunteering perspective given that we are such a pioneering nation, people are innovators, entrepreneurial and they are inherently go-getters. But the volunteering space has not been as well developed. One thing I have found really exciting though is with the birth of initiatives like Mandela Day, women's day, world environment day. This type of thinking and momentum has become a lot more accepted and parts of popular culture. What I am particularly excited about is that in my experience people are starting to see purpose and value and fun in things that are more tangible in terms of the authenticity that comes with connecting with South Africans through volunteering. It is easy to look at consumption, entertainment as a way to connect, but when you connect through adding value to someone else's world or to the environmental space, the type of happiness that comes out of that is beautiful. I am excited about the momentum on the volunteering and hands on interactive space.

We have Arbor month, Arbor week and Arbor Day. September is the month of trees which we do celebrate and we have all sorts of engaging campaigns that we do during that time. But really we are so connected to trees, everything that we do in some way shape or form has an element of wood or oxygen or material value that has come out of trees. It is important that we feel gratitude toward nature for the consistently giving us this gift of trees.

If you want to get involved with Greenpop you are welcome to volunteer and you are also welcome to hop onto our website and gift a tree to someone you love or just because you want to.

South Africa has a very small natural forested area and that forest area has seen decline over the last 300 years. It is imperative that we look to out riverine and coastal areas where there is existing forests to see what we can do to rehabilitate these areas. We are experiencing huge amounts of diversity loss, water shortages. There has been a massive lack of rain occurring for the last few years. In order to alleviate this, removal of alien vegetation and reforesting massive sots of the East Coast of Southern Africa is a critical way of rehabilitating those areas and allowing for the biodiversity to thrive again and bringing back the natural micro-climates that very often bring the rain. And it is a beautiful way of reconnecting. We annually host various reforestation type events and festivals and the opportunity to get your hands in the ground and get people motivated and get momentum behind a large crowd of people putting trees into the ground and feeling the soil underneath your fingers it is such a beautiful thing. So if you want to come and connect with us and plant some trees you are welcome to do so. We are hosting our next reforestation event in Hogsback. We have planted almost 15000 trees since we started planting there. It has been a really beautiful journey for us.

What are the origins of Greenpop?

I am the pinnacle person that started Greenpop and I brought along a group of people as the initial campaign, Jeremy Hewitt, Lauren O Donnel and Rowan Pybus.


Having run an organisation that plants trees for the last six years I have had the amazing gift and opportunity to spend a great deal of time to travel around Southern Africa. Whilst tree planting is definitely one of my favourite things to do, travel is a firm second. Southern Africa is a gem at the bottom of Africa and I have gone to so many beautiful natural wonders and experiencing an incredible country while getting so much good work done in collaboration with so many amazing individuals and organisations. So If I can encourage you to do anything, go and spend some time in nature, it will revitalise you and your soul and get you excited to do your little bit for the planet.

Interview Lauren O Donnel

My husband Misha was travelling around the world filming a documentary for Volkswagen. He was a cameraman. They travelled to 12 countries in 4 months and on the way back on the aeroplane they had a conversation amongst their team about what they could do about all the carbon emissions on their flights. They wanted to take action. We all have environmental footprints, whether it be from living in the cities, buying packaged foods, driving in vehicles. And the idea came up to plant 1000 trees in one month in September 2010, Arbour month. I was a freelance journalist at the time so my role was to attract attention to the campaign. We did that we planted 1000 trees and it spiralled from there. We wrote a business plan, we realised that there was a gap in the market. We saw the need to create continuous on-going education. It kind of all happened organically.

Zambia came into our lives early on. We were at the music festival called Rocking the daisies, doing a small green activation. Misha received a phone-call from somebody's uncle who was a chicken farmer and the by-product of chicken farming is a lot of good nutritious manure which is great for compost and this man had started planting a few indigenous trees and had thousands of indigenous trees. He saw what we were doing in Cape Town and wanted to get us to Livingstone Zambia to see if we could plant some of the trees that he was growing in the communities around. We came up to Zambia to do a research project and found out that Zambia has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world and there are many different drivers for it. We decided to start a campaign. We did not know what we could do in the bigger scheme of things to solve problems but what we had been doing in South Africa was planting trees, so we designed an event trees for Zambia in June July and people joined us from all around the world ad we planted trees in Zambia and that was the catalyst of the programme. It is now morphed into the festival of action which is not just about trees but about sustainability in general and sustainable lifestyles, upcycling, recycling, natural building, food forests and trees and art and creativity and personal development and family based learning.

What impacts?

In brief we have planted over 13 000 trees in Livingstone Zambia. We have connected with over 40 schools, some of them repeatedly so it is a deeper education. It is not only the event that happens in June July but on-going project on a much smaller scale that happens in between. We have planted one food forest that has been extended over three years and is now producing quite a lot of food. This year we are extending and doing 6 smaller food forests for individual farmers. We have made partnerships with the Departments of Agriculture and Forestry and Tourism and Natural Heritage to see if we can collaborate as much as possible. We have done 12 educational wall murals at different schools with a journey based learning approach to doing the wall mural. We have built 9 benches with eco-bricks. On this project we are doing another one and a cob oven as well.

Any other activities ideas?

We have a small project in Tanzania that we met up with. It is an existing project in the Izingwe forest. We partnered with the University of York who are a doing research project on deforestation. It is next to the sugar cane fields which was the reason for the deforestation. We are helping support one employee there. It is the beginning of that relationship. We work in Zambia and South Africa. In South Africa we work mostly on our over-greening programme in Cape Town. We also have our re-forestation programme in the Overberg region in the Western Cape and Hogsback in the Eastern Cape. It is important for us at the Zambia festival of action to grow it into a conference of action. We want to grow it to a place where people from around Africa can come and join us and share ideas and knowledge about sustainability in the African context.

It is important for us to get as many different people from African countries and the world as possible. This year we have improved. We have got UNICEF climate ambassadors from Zambia. We have a small group of students from the Izingwe area, the Eastern arc mountains of Tanzania who are part of the Eastern Arc conservation project with the African Rainforest Conservancy. We hope to grow our reach and attract more people from Southern Africa and perhaps the whole of Africa. I think the situations, challenges and solutions need to come from on the ground. And a conference like this is place to share them. We have got lost of students from South Africa and from Zambia.

How many volunteers?

It is difficult say, but it is definitely over 100 000 if you count the school kids who volunteer to help and plant trees and people who have come and done various things with us.

We have had volunteers that have come from overseas, from America, UK, Europe, all over. People have come and volunteered with us in the office, kind of luck an internship where people come from between 2 6 months and we have had amazing people who have joined us from all over. We usually have between 5 and 8 people in our office helping out at any given time.

And then we have volunteers who help us at planting days who are corporate groups that come out on planting days with us to do a corporate engaging day and then they engage with the schoolchildren to do a planting day together and then we also have people who come to our events and pay for tickets to come to our events, so they are sort of like volunteers, but they are also getting an event experience and they are also helping us with planting trees and painting murals and building benches and various different sustainability activities.

Over 400 schools, schools, community centres, old age home and educare centres, hospitals all around the Cape Town, Cape Flats area.

What do the volunteers experience?

People take different things away and it depends on what they are coming with. Some people want to get their hands dirty and work at our nursery or plant trees and it is a really nice connecting activity, giving back and connecting with the planet earth. Other people want to volunteer and use their specific skills, marketing, web development or finance. And they come into our office and help us using their specific skills with a back-end enrol. It depends what people want and people get lots of different things out of it. We keep getting requests for more and more volunteers, so it is something that is growing and people want to get involved with us and various other causes whether it be an internship in the office helping us with a specific skill way or just getting their hands dirty.


Where is the nursery?

The nursery is in Woodstock on Mountain Road and it is the eco education hub. In terms of the urban greening programme it is the place where we keep our trees until they are ready to plant. We buy trees in bulk and then we will plant trees 20 or 30 at a school every week. It is a storage nursery and a place where we can grow the trees a bit bigger and look after the trees once they are planted. And we also have lots of vegetables there and we are trying to turn it into an eco-education hub which is a place where we can in the future run workshops and bring people together and learn about urban farming and urban agriculture.

What was the first festival you did?

We started with Arbor day 2010 and our urban greening programme planting trees on the Cape Flats and our first festival we did was called the Platbos Reforest Fest in 2011 and that was in Platbos forest and that was bringing a whole lot of people together to reforest the Southern most indigenous forest in Africa. There is two weekends. One weekend is a family fest with about 300 people and one weekend is a friends fest with about 500 people.

In the beginning of Greenpop we got a call from a man who wanted to give us advice. He was Francois Krige who invited us to visit Platbos. Misha and I went up to Platbos for a night away and we saw the forest and met Francoise and Melissa who are the custodians of the forest and we brain stormed with them that we could help them plant trees. They already had a tree planting project there but we had connections to more people so we thought we could create a festival. And that is how we started.

What about Hogsback?

We have known Shane who runs Terra Khaya for a long time. He used to have a catoring company that donated sandwhiches to all our volunteers every day. We have known him for a long time. And when he closed his catering company and moved to Hogsback to build an eco-lodge, we always had an idea to partner up and plant trees there because we knew about the yellowood Cape Parrot challenges there. When his eco lodge was up and running we set up the partnership to plant trees there. We started in 2014.

Terra Khaya runs the event and Greenpop the tree planting. It is a weekend where everyone stays or camps at Terra Khaya. There is music and the whole day on Saturday we plant approximately 2000 trees in an incredible setting and we have a music festival in the evening. And the Sunday is similar to Platbos and is a day of activities and activations. Things like sustainability related things. The capacity is about 300. It is not something that can grow to big because of the space and the control of the planting of the trees. It is growing slightly.

Shane lives there and has various volunteers who work there and they continue slowly with a little bit of planting in the right season and they also do tree maintenance and checking and monitoring and a little bit of planting depending on where it is needed.

We plant in a nature reserve near Terra Khaya on the hill with a view of the Hogsback Mountains. The waterfall is further down the valley. It is very close and very beautiful. Hogsback is a very special place, it is kind of enchanted.

Planting by the waterfall in Zambia?

We don't plant a lot of trees in Vic falls national park anymore. We have planted quite a few trees there already. Some of them have done really well and some of them haven't. We do still plant trees there but fewer because it is manageable. It is a maintained national park, but it does seem to be a tricky place, one reason is because of the baboons. So if we do plant trees there we plant them with cages on top of them so the baboons can't dig them up and eat them. We do plant trees there but it is more of a ceremonial thing. We have got to plant them in a very specific area where there is access to the water and all of that. It is an unbeilavable experience to plant a tree at the falls, you can't really match that. It is necessary to plant more trees there just to keep the biodiversity up and keep the national park in order. It is a big national park area and in one of the areas there was a tricky situation with access to a water point but mainly the problem is the baboons; which has now been solved with the good caging and planting trees where there is clear access to a water plant.


We set up a partnership with the Udzungwe Forest Reserve and they are managed by the University of York in the UK. The University has a small-scale reforestation project where there are local people on the ground who are planting trees and growing trees in the nursery, and when we were there we realised we could support this project, so we have paid the salary of a nursery manager for a year so we can support the planting of the trees in Tanzania. We have yet to get any results. We were meant to get more reporting from them, but it is very new.

Future projects?

We have got ideas to grow, it depends on a few different things. We would like to continue planting trees in our current programmes, there is still lots of need and space for planting in the Platbos area. There is still a need for urban greening. There is still lots of need for environmental education. We get approached weekly by other reforestation and tree planting projects around Southern Africa that want to partner with us and get support. The goal is to be able to support smaller scale grassroots projects because we have a central city hub where we can fund raise from and we can outsource the fund raising to smaller grassroots planting projects. And we wouldn't be able to do it all ourselves with good vetting and good monitoring and good educational support. We are keeping a database of projects for now. We want to focus on what we are doing currently right and streamlined and then we will see if we can support any other projects.

Music festivals ?

If we can go to a music festival it ticks a few boxes. We can create a small green part to the festival, like at Rocking the Daisies we do the green village where people can come and learn about the greening elements of how festivals could go green. I think it is a big challenge to get a whole festival to go green and one day we would like to get there, but I feel that our role is an educational role at these festivals. There is lots of people there that we can reach through a small touch point in education. We can also create awareness for the other work that we do. And it is not only us at these festivals, we bring in many other partner NGO's and green organisations and showcase what is going on in the area. It is a showcase of what people can get involved in and brings greening into the popular space, so it is not seen as a fringe environmental movement but rather as a normal popular thing that everyone sees everywhere. It is an important awareness tactic.

Interview Jamie Beron

Secret Sunrise are currently operating in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, PE and Stellenbosch. We run a 2 events a month in each city and the attendance ranges between 150 and 700 people depending on the event and city. We are launching this project in several international cities this year but are unable to disclose information on these locations just yet.

There are several different styles and types of dance meditations (sober dance parties) happening around the world and these practices have been taking place for a very long time. There is however a new trend emerging around these gatherings and a few event organisers have developed unique and very popular events of this nature as global entities   

We pride ourselves on making our events as accessible possible. There is no age limitation to this. We have had a 3 year old and a 93 year old at the same event. It requires no special skills or dance experience. We are working to build a community of inclusion. No matter what race, economic or cultural background you are welcome at a Secret Sunrise 

We have found that our events are most popular with women between the ages of 25 and 50. We have been doing these events regularly corporate team building experiences. There is a big shift towards corporate wellness events at the moment and Secret Sunrise offers a fun and accessible solution for large scale corporate events of this nature. 

Our events started off as before work gatherings, as a way of kickstarting the day and combating the daily grind. These events are still very popular and continue to have a positive impact on peoples lives. 

We have however also started to include Sunset dance events as well as day events on the weekend to make the events more accessible to people who don't like early mornings and clients with children and busy schedules 

I think in general the dancing before dawn trend is growing in popularity as the communities around these movements are growing exponentially and new members are constantly being awakened to  the amazing benefits of these liberating sessions.

























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