Mr Talifhani Tshitwamulomoni, 29 years old, made the coveted Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 list for 2023 in the industry of Sustainability. Forbes is a global media company that compiles an annual list of 600 enterprising individuals under the age of 30 who have amassed noteworthy achievements in their chosen field or industry. Talifhani, along with ten other South Africans, was honoured by their Africa branch.
At the time of the interview, Talifhani was at the Forbes Under 30 Summit Africa in Botswana which took place from April 23 – 26. He wants to be “the voice of sustainability” in order to build a better planet for the next generation and has made great strides towards that dream.
Talifhani attended primary school in his home village Vondo in Limpopo Province and transferred to a secondary school eight kilometres away from his home. He then went on to the University of Venda for Science and Technology, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences. In his second year, he became the Founding President of Universal Greening Organisation (UGO) which focuses on community development and protecting the environment.
As a non-profit organisation it incorporated other students at the University of Venda and prospered under the umbrella of the school of Environmental Sciences. Sponsorship was obtained from the University, Vhembe district Municipality and outside stakeholders.
Mr Mulalo Thabela approached Talifhani in 2016 and volunteered to mentor him, committing to groom and nurture Talifhani as he realised his potential. Talifhani values the mentorship of Mr Malalo Thabela. In 2019 they combined their respective organisations and Talifhani became the Chief Operations Officer of the Green Development Foundation. Under his leadership, the Green Development Foundation experienced phenomenal growth and currently has 52 staff members at their headquarters. President Cyril Ramaphosa, chair of the Committee of African Heads of States and Governments on Climate Change, committed South Africa to plant 10 million trees by 2025 as part of the Global Peace’s 75 million Trees Campaign launched in Durban (2019) to combat climate change.
Stepping up to the challenge the Green Development Foundation has pledged to plant one million trees in Gauteng, two million in Mpumalanga and one million nationwide with the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Other programmes run by the Green Development Foundation are:
- Food gardens and agriculture; A farmer who owns 200 hectares shares the use of his farm while making a profit and creating employment
- Protection of the environment and looking after South Africa’s scarce water resources
- Skills training accredited by the Agri-SETA to educate and equip people to grow their own food
- Rural development by building community gardens and providing tools and seedlings
- Emergency responses and campaigns
A dinosaur, Buti Green, the mascot of the company teaches young people about taking care of the environment by minimising waste and planting trees and food gardens to provide nutritious food to uplift indigent communities. The Green Development Foundation has partnered with the Road Accident Fund to teach those with disabilities after a motor vehicle accident how to maintain food gardens to provide food security. They have also partnered with the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Together they focused on tree planting, gardens and environmental issues for Nelson Mandela Day on 18 July 2023. The theme was: Climate, Food and Solidarity.
Talifhani’s vision for South Africa’s future:
His core aim is for communities to feed themselves and to take care of the environment without outside influence. To this end he created the Shumani future village model, a township development model which incorporates three elements: firstly, to structure a community ecosystem integrated with service delivery and environmental issues; secondly to build a community culture of Ubuntu and self-reliance and lastly to develop a community economy that provides employment.