MEET REKAI : THE TREE-PRENEUR

A Zimbabwean who was left with no income when he was ambushed by a mob in South Africa is smiling again.

"Some days I just wouldn't eat," says Rekai Mapenda. "I would stand by the robots and ask for work, it was very bad." A painter by trade, 40-year-old Zimbabwean got his arm broken in three places when a group of mobsters ambushed him and stole his phone in an informal settlement in Cape Town. His livelihood was stolen along with his mobile, leaving him without an income.

Separated from his wife and son who moved to Johannesburg for her work, their family was broken up.

But his luck changed when he came in contact with Peter Shrimpton, one of the co-founders of Heart Capital, a company that invests in high growth social enterprises, addressing critical social and environmental problems. Like climate change.

"I can always tell you whether a horse has been a race horse or not. It's in their eyes," Peter told News24. "The same with people, I can recognise the light in someone. Rekai has that X-factor." 

Running The Great Labyrinth Project, Peter who has a passion to lift people out of poverty and preserve the environment, comes from a trading background in the stock market.

The plan is to grow over 120 000 Spekboom trees that will be used to create The Great Labyrinth of Africa in Stellenbosch. Empowering five 'Tree-preneurs' through Wonder Plant's entrepreneur development programme, Peter says each grower takes responsibility for, and owns 25 000 Spekboom trees that will, ultimately, form part of the labyrinth. 

"They are like my babies," says Rekai of his 25 000 Spekboom trees.  Before becoming part of this project, Rekai didn't know what Spekboom was, or that it was, in fact, a 'wonder plant' that has the ability to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere - i.e. one hectare of Spekboom can remove approximately between four and ten tonnes of carbon per annum.

The plant is so multifaceted that eating only 6 leaves a day can give you all the Vitamin C you need for that day.
Rekai says that the project has given him so much. He now has the ability to save for his future, to buy his own house and he has since been reunited with his wife, where they all now live in Stellenbosch.

He says that planting Spekboom has not only made his life better, or the life of his family better, but now he know it will make life better for everyone.




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