During the month of July last year, the Deputy Minister adopted Boitumelo High School in honour of former statesmen Nelson Mandela. It was at that time that she also commissioned a needs assessment at the school which clearly indicated that there was a dire need for school desks. School principle Elliot Mhlophe said pupils had been struggling because of furniture shortages.
The desks are made from biomass taken from cleared invasive alien plants and manufactured at the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Working for Water Eco Furniture factory situated in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Working for Water programme has piloted value-added industry options, in partnership with the KwaZulu-Natal Invasive Species Programme (KZN IASP). These initiatives have shown the viability of utilising invasive alien biomass to create jobs, in making value-added products relevant to the government’s needs, and at the same time, reducing the cost of clearing these invasive plants.
School desks have become a major focus of these projects and are being manufactured for less than half of what schools are currently paying for chipboard desks. The biomass manufactured desks are made from solid wood and are durable and of a high quality. At R420 per desk, these costs of the eco-desks include the full cost of harvesting the timber.