FMHS sustainability initiatives off to a roaring start

FMHS students took part in Greenpop's reforestation programme in the Platbos Forest.

More than 650 people took part in the Platbos Forest reforestation programme recently, with students from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) enthusiastically paving the way toward restoring this indigenous forest and the biodiversity that supports it.

Says Tessa Brooke, a second- year medical student at the FMHS who participated this year: “The reforestation project was all about building a sense of community while working toward the same goal. We really had a wonderful time while working on this worthwhile project. It’s was a very humbling experience.”

More than 7500 trees were planted at this year’s reforestation event including milk wood trees, peach trees and wild olives. The Platbos Reforestation Project aims to clear the alien vegetation that poses a fire threat to the forest and restore the indigenous forest canopy, the biodiversity that this supports and, in turn, the vital ecosystem services that this forest system provides.

The FMHS’s Dean’s Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability has been collaborating with conservation group Greenpop over the past few years as it commenced the long-term process of reforestation. Situated near Gansbaai in the Western Cape’s Overberg region, Platbos Forest is described as a rare ‘botanical gem’ in the crown of South Africa’s national assets as it is home to critically endangered leopard toads, mysterious bushbuck and an array of ancient tree specimens. The reforestation efforts are focused in the pockets of alien vegetation that have penetrated the borders of the original forest.

Says Committee head, Professor Bob Mash: “Last year we introduced environmental stewardship as a new Faculty graduate attribute and through that, we hope to clarify the links between sustainable living and human wellness.” Through sustainability initiatives, the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability which celebrates its tenth year of existence this year, hopes to demonstrate leadership support for a green and healthy campus at Tygerberg in order to create long-term organisational change, realise widespread staff and student engagement, and foster policy that promotes environmental sustainability.

Each year the committee tasks itself with a number of initiatives aimed at improving student and staff relationships with their local environment. The Faculty Dean’s Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability has also joined the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network (GGHH), which means the FMHS, has now committed itself to sustainable practice in the areas of leadership, energy, waste, water, food, buildings, travel, chemicals, biodiversity and procurement.

To find out more about Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences’ Dean’s Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability, contact Christine Groenewald (clgroenewald@sun.ac.za)
Florence de Vries