Spier’s Tree-preneurs

Karel Julius and his bike.

Karel Julius and his bike.

Spier is dedicated to supporting the development of skills and knowledge of their staff, and while employees are given the tools for self-development, they also take on the mantle of being eco-warriors with vigour. The establishment has a dedicated philosophy towards sustainable tourism with a major focus on finding ways to reduce water usage. There are numerous environmental and social initiatives on the go at any one time, but one that stands out as the ultimate feel-good-everyone-wins story is Spier’s involvement in the Tree-Preneur project (an initiative by an NGO called Wildlands). The premise is simple: participants (some coming from the Cape’s poorest communities) are taught how to care for indigenous trees and plants: they are given seedlings to look after and once the seedlings have reached 15cm they can be exchanged for vouchers to buy clothing, food, agricultural goods and even educational support


Spier’s Tree-preneur project has been running since 2011, and there’s now a local network of Treepreneurs. Spier employee Lesley Joemat is passionate about the project and has built a personal relationship with growers – providing support and encouragement as well as soil, containers and compost. For Joemat, the project is really about changing lives and taking care of the environment. And there are many success stories. Twelve-year-old Karel Julius is in Grade 6 at Klapmuts Primary School and he’s been a Tree-preneur since May 2015 and has bartered 120 trees in exchange for his beautiful new Buffalo bicycle.

Tree-preneur: Bongiwe Phala. Images courtesy Spier.

Then there’s the story of 49-year old Tannie Babs Visagie from an area called Heather Park – who has bartered 5 600 trees since she joined the project in 2011, and runs a food kitchen for orphans in her community, using her Tree-preneur vouchers to buy food. She’s grown 500 spekboom trees, that can be seen on the verandahs at the Spier Hotel. These Tree-preneur champions will no doubt continue to grow from strength to strength, finding new ways to be in the world and helping their communities and the environment along the way.

Tree-preneur Leefreght Souls. Images courtesy Spier.

It’s not surprising then to note that Spier Hotel was the very first in the country to be awarded the Fair Trade in Tourism accreditation. They continue to set an example for the local industry. For those who work there – and the surrounding communities, it seems with Spier everything is coming up roses (or spekboom trees)…

Spier is situated along the R310 in Stellenbosch, call: +27 (0)21 809 1100.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *