Durban’s eco-warrior, 9-year-old Romario Valentine is getting involved in building the Great Green Wall to drive restoration and sustainability for Africa as part of this year’s World Environment Day. Here he is with his acacia tree made from recycled waste. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)
Durban’s eco-warrior, 9-year-old Romario Valentine is getting involved in building the Great Green Wall to drive restoration and sustainability for Africa as part of this year’s World Environment Day. Here he is with his acacia tree made from recycled waste. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

Durban’s eco-warrior supports ’The Great Green Wall’

By Tanya Waterworth Time of article published Jun 5, 2021

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Durban - As World Environment Day is celebrated today (Sat June 5), Durban’s own young eco-warrior, Romario Valentine has joined the call to combat land degradation during the virtual launch of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration which took place yesterday ((fri)).

The nine-year-old was interviewed by Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Ibrahim Thiaw, whose organisation spearheads The Great Green Wall initiative.

Launched in 2007, the initiative aims to create an 8000km Wall through planting trees which will span Africa from east to west. Once completed, it will be the largest living structure on the planet and address degradation and poverty in some of the globe’s poorest areas, particularly the Sahel and Sahara region of North Africa.

The primary objective of The Wall is to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land, sequester 250 million tons of carbon and to create an estimated 10 million green jobs. The Wall will support communities living alongside it by creating fertile land which can address food insecurity and grow climate resilience in the region where temperatures have been rising fast.

Valentine, featured in the Independent on Saturday last July when, for his birthday, he raised funds for Durban’s Umgeni Bird Park to assist the park during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Valentine, who is in Grade 4 and loves maths and art, said this week that during his research about acacia trees, he came across the Great Green Wall initiative and felt “phenomenal” about his UN interview ahead of World Environment Day.

“I feel very grateful to have had such an opportunity at my age. I’m still a fan of birds, but I have also been planting trees this year. The acacia tree has roots which contain nitrogen bacteria and make the soil fertile. They help to restore the land, helping other trees and crops to grow,” he said.

Having been a keen environmentalist from a young age, Valentine has also done 159 beach clean-ups, becoming Ocean Sole’s youngest ambassador.

And for his 10th birthday on July 26 this year, Valentine has launched another BackaBuddy campaign for his birthday to raise funds for environmental causes.

The first is aimed towards his passion for birds where he hopes to raise funds for Birds of Eden in the Cape, which is home to 3 500 birds. It is also home to forest birds, such as the Knysna Turaco ‘Loerie’ which are on the decline due to habitat destruction caused by deforestation.

His other cause is to raise funds for the Zeitz Foundation in Kenya, which is a non-profit tree conservation organisation. Valentine said that in 2020, the foundation planted 100 000 acacia trees in the shape of a rhino, which also combines his two major passions - art and nature. Its reforestation programme aims to plant 1 million acacia trees over the next 10 years.

Valentine added that as well as assisting in soil fertility and reducing carbon emissions, acacia trees provide food for black rhino, giraffes, monkeys, impalas, nyalas and kudu.

With a goal to have planted 10 trees before his 10th birthday, Valentine saved his pocket money towards his project and has so far funded 26 trees on four continents. This included planting a Black Bird Berry tree in May for EnviroFixers in Durban North where he still regularly waters his tree. He has also planted several Spekboom “Elephant Bush” in his family’s garden at home and has created eco-art trees out of pollutants.

His parents Delsha Moodley and Clive Valentine encourage their son to follow his passion, with his mother Delsha saying they were proud he was getting involved in the Great Green Wall project.

Independent on Saturday

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