Denisha Anand

Denisha Anand says that she’d like to think of herself as a planthropologist. “It’s a really fab word for someone studying plants via the lens of anthropology. I document plant stories and record intimacies between plants and their people in the Northern Cape. I’m also a socio-environmental activist and I manage a wetland system on the Cape Flats,” she says. Born in Ladysmith, KZN she grew up in Cape Town, in a “typical cultural entanglement and story of European expansion in South Africa.”

Denisha also adds: “Climate change is also impacting on indigenous vegetation and fynbos seems to be diminishing with time.
This impacts on nomadic pastoralism too, putting pressure on riverine communities and Wetlands as these are forage reserves for these small stock during drought periods. In urban spaces, these green lungs are being threatened as alien species thrive in the accelerated climate change, which is influencing fire regimes too and impacting on species numbers. Our groundwater is being over extracted and poorly recharged due to poor apartheid town planning with canalisation being a huge problem. Sustainable harvesting of indigenous vegetation by local communities is also at risk as the vegetation is struggling to recover with all the eco system changes. We need to look at mass cultivation of ethnobotanical species and indigenous forage species to preserve indigenous and local practice throughout South Africa.”

Q & A with Denisha

  1. I would like to share and encourage story telling between more than just human beings. Just like POC, many other species have been marginalised at the hands of white scholars. Plants being one of the many victims of western scholarship and plant blindness being an attribute of this. Communities like SAPOC are important because they encourage us as POC to share of ourselves in an intimate manner without being informed or socialised around the standards and etiquette of white conduct. At a table with exclusive for POC, allows us to be vulnerable without being fetishized by white culture and opinion.
  2. Zayaan Khan is a gem. She’s a strong woman exploring multispecies ethnography in a very unorthodox and decentred manner. She explores autonomy of beings who we share our lives with but who often go unnoticed and are discredited for their contribution to our existence. 
  3. Transformation in the environmental sector will happen when we acknowledge patriarchy and white privilege and its negative impact on eco-system function and the social injustices as a result thereof. 
  4. I work for an NGO in partnership with the local municipality to manage Princess Vlei wetland. A 90 plus ha biodiversity area on the Cape Flats. I work with various stakeholders and local communities to restore the site to its former glory. The site has indigenous value and is a sacred water ritual space too. Its also one of very few green spaces accessible to POC communities. It has however been neglected due to apartheid and post-apartheid officials not prioritising the management of the site due to the social constituents of the surrounding communities. On site, we plant fynbos and strandveld, we do environmental education with local schools on the Cape Flats and host an annual Flight of Dreams Parade in honour of Princess Vlei and her custodians. I train contract workers in general conservation practice and maintenance of indigenous vegetation and I run all operations on site as the biodiversity manager. My biggest challenge is re-educating people about Princess Vlei and its socio-environmental value as we continue to restore it as a safe green space for all.

We’re always seeking partnerships and support to grow as a restorative movement of changemakers. We rely on donations and funding to make the magic happen and any contributions to forward our efforts are always welcome.

Denisha was voted one of the Mail and Guardian Top 200 young South Africans 2019, in the environmental category.

Read more about her in: Beautiful News SA