Mover and shaker greens townships

Siyabulela Sokomani recently completed the Knysna 21km half marathon with a tree attached to his back.

Ever heard of a moving forest? That is, outside of the Ents in Lord of the Rings?

Well, Paarl athlete Siyabulela Sokomani will be leading a moving forest of 19 runners with trees strapped to their backs in the upcoming Cape Town marathon.

Another moving forest of 10 runners will be participating in the 10 kilometre race on the same day.

What the heck? Yes, the moving forests are in support of fundraising for the planting of 2 019 trees in 2019 in townships around Cape Town.

This all is planned to happen during the 2019 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon, taking place on Sunday September 15.

The initiative under the #runningtree banner was started in 2017, when the Township Farmers initiative was launched by 34-year-old Siyabulela.

Their tally of trees planted stands at over 2 250 already, which they now want to double up on.

As a warm-up, Siyabulela recently completed the gruelling Knysna Forest Marathon on Saturday June 29 with a tree on his back, which was promptly planted right after the finish, with another donated non-moving tree.

“Tough going,” was Siyabulela ’s laconic comment afterwards.

Siyabulela grew up in Khayelitsha, and from a young age showed interest in trees and plants.

After a period of working with landscape projects in the Eastern Cape, he moved back to the Western Cape in 2013, and is now co-owner and manager of Roots and Shoots, a tree nursery located between Paarl and Wellington.

Siyabulela and his team supply tree saplings wholesale to various customers. Just Trees, the largest tree nursery in the Western Cape, and Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden form part of the customer base of Roots and Shoots.

Roots and Shoots is an ethical nursery, using no herbicides and working to minimise chemical use to exercise respect for the environment.

Siyabulela ’s favourite mantra is: “Tree planting and environmental awareness should be every citizen’s duty in this country.”

He practises what he preaches, and has planted thousands of trees in townships in South Africa.

For his sterling environmental activist work, Siyabulela was named one of the 200 Mail & Guardian outstanding young South Africans of 2019.

Now for the big longer-term dream, reaching for the stars. That is the One Million Trees target that Siyabulela has set for his lifetime achievement (the author is sure this target will be reached much sooner than Siyabulela is thinking).

There is already a “perfect storm” brewing for this to happen, just stick around, Siya.

So, you and your fellow runners shake those legs and don’t be as slow as the Ents…

Charl Pienaar is a mentor and supporter to Siya, and has contributed articles to Bolander on the health of our rivers and landscapes.

He is an agricultural scientist who lives in Paarl.

Any contributions to the Moving Forest campaign are welcome, and can be made at