Courtesy of M. Powell
Working for Water in South Africa
The sides of the Baviaanskloof ("Baboon Canyon") in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province range from very steep to vertical. Halfway up a 45-degree slope, under the supervision of spirited 19-year-old Abbey-gail Lukas, 10 men and women are planting thick cuttings of a plant locally known as Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) in circles three meters apart.
Spekboom is the characteristic ground-cover plant of subtropical thicket in this area. A healthy patch of it is growing 500 meters away, but where Abigail's crew is working the earth is bare, as dry and rough as sandpaper. Pick up a stone and it will burn your hand in an instant. A century of overgrazing by goats and sheep has left only a scattering of standing canopy trees, the jacket plums (Pappea capensis). The root systems of these...