Inspirational retired nurse plants her own forest

09 October 2019 | Life Style

Retired nurse Emilia Angala (63), a resident of Ongwediva, has created her own forest of more than 400 trees which all grow together, competing for space, water and sunlight. Her feat went viral after Namibian Sun shared it on social media recently.

She spends about N$2 000 a month on water for the trees in Kuku GwaKondo Gardens, situated behind the Charles Anderson Combined School in Ongwediva.

Although many of the trees in her garden are fruit trees, her objective is not to generate income, but to create a green oasis in the heart of a modern town.

The National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) has nominated Angala for the Tree Award 2019.

In celebration of Arbor Day the Botanical Society presents certificates of recognition to any person, company, organisation, school or establishment that goes out of their way to save and protect Namibia's indigenous trees.

Angala was therefore nominated for this year's awards, which will be handed over in Windhoek on Thursday on 17 October.

According to National Herbarium of Namibia curator Frances Chase, they read Angala's inspirational story in the 2019 Ongwediva Annual Trade Fair supplement recently published by Namibia Media Holdings (NMH).

Chase said the award is in recognition of Angala's determination.

“After we learned about Angala from the trade fair publication, we researched about her and we found out that this is not her first garden. She had another garden that was destroyed during the expansion of the Ongwediva-Oshakati road. It appears to us that after that incident, she did not give up, but she went ahead and established another garden to continue what she had started,” Chase said.

“Although not all her trees are indigenous, we notice that she also conserves indigenous trees together with the non-locals. That is what qualifies her for the award. We got in touch with her to give us a list of all the indigenous trees in her garden.”

Angala started planting trees in 1986 when she established her previous garden situated along the Ongwediva-Oshakati main road, but it was destroyed in 2013 to make room for the road expansion.

“I grew up with my father and our house was in a forest. He introduced me to the world of trees and I fell in love with nature. When I started working as a nurse in the 1970s, I learned that living in an environment surrounded by trees is a healthy thing. I started learning the importance of trees and what different trees do,” said Angala.

“I therefore started a garden in Ongwediva in 1986 and before it was destroyed in 2013 I had planted over 500 trees. I moved the garden to my house inside Ongwediva and currently I have over 400 trees. The idea is not to generate income from them, but just to live a unique, healthy lifestyle. Everything I need is in the garden.”

Angala said that as a busy nurse, she used to plant trees and take care of her garden during weekends, and after she retired in 2016 she came home to her paradise.

She said staying in town one is exposed to dirty air from factories and car emissions, but she is living a healthy life as her house is surrounded by plants.

Fruit trees such as mango, orange, lemon, cashew and avocado, and indigenous trees such as camelthorn, all grow together in her garden.

She said the reason why she planted all of them together is because every tree has its role in the ecosystem.

Angala also helps other people plant trees at their homes.

“During the OATF I always sell trees to people. Those who buy a lot of them, I go and plant them myself at their places for free. The idea is to teach them how to do it,” Angala said.