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Spier’s Tree-preneurs branch out at Upcycle

At first glance, it might seem like something out of a fantastical tale: Spekboom in wine cans, proteas in pant pockets, fynbos in milk cartons. Yet, these plants hold the key to empowering communities. As a Spier Growing For Good initiative, Tree-preneurs is a project that teaches members of impoverished communities within the Cape how to care for indigenous plants. Once the seedlings they’ve been given to nurture are big enough, they are exchanged for food vouchers, clothing, bicycles, educational support, and other essentials.


Tree-preneurs is rooted in the “waste not, want not” philosophy. As a rule, they don’t purchase anything — no water, no pots. Instead, they creatively reuse what’s already there. Water is collected when it rains, and seedlings are planted in recycled items like coffee cups and paint tins. This commitment to upcycling is core to Tree-preneurs, and it’s exactly why they’ve been invited to showcase their innovative creations at this month’s Upcycle event.

The brainchild of Tétris Design and Build, a leading figure in global design and part of the JLL Group, the Upcycle event brings together artists and designers for a unique project. They’re turning old office furniture that’s no longer in use into a collection of artworks. This project highlights how we can reuse and repurpose items to create workspaces that are not only more conscious but also more sustainable through thoughtful design. Based on this shared foundational belief of turning everyday objects into art, they’ve invited Tree-preneurs’s very own Lesley Joemat to display her creations inside the event’s urban ‘hothouse’. 

Sustainability - Treepreneurs Lesley Joemat

For the past 15 years, Lesley has been the dedicated Project Manager for Tree-preneurs (and now credited Upcycle artist), teaching individuals not just about caring for indigenous plants but also providing avenues for personal growth and community impact. Lesley lives by her upcycling principles too, using water-saving gadgets and recycling at home. Since 2009 and under her watchful eye and green fingers, the Tree-preneurs programme has empowered over 310 individuals aged 9-79 from 12 communities by helping them barter over 1 million indigenous trees.


Now, for the very first time, her flourishing work will be on display to showcase the beauty of both upcycled design and thriving greenery nurtured by the Tree-preneurs. Upcycle is happening at Makers Landing, V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, on the 19th and 20th of April 2024. The event is open to everyone, for free, with a special walkabout with the artists on Saturday at 11 am.

Alternatively, if you’re interested in seeing the whole journey from growing tiny seedlings to the lively system that supports people and the environment, why not plan a visit? Visit our website to arrange a tour of Tree-preneurs at the Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch for a complete experience. It’s a powerful reminder that with a little creativity and dedication, even the most unexpected things can blossom into something beautiful.