“A tree has fallen”
This is the title of the poem that Namaqua National Park Corporal game ranger, Roland Links, wrote in memory of Lita Cole. It was read at her funeral in Kamieskroon on 7 January 2017.
In life one sometimes meets another person who inspires, teaches and lives by example. After meeting such a person it often leaves you with a sense of hope for humanity and the planet. These people often become mentors, life coaches, inspirational speakers, lecturers or leaders in their field. Without ever claiming these titles to herself, Lita Beukes Cole was such a person to many.
As an ethnobotanist, tour guide, nursery owner, expert and student of the plants of the Succulent Karoo, Lita inspired and taught over the years the treasures of this biome to many.
Realising that there are not many people with such an intense love, interest and knowledge of the plants of the greater Namaqualand and Richtersveld, tourists and botanists from around the globe visited and consulted Lita.
Lita never had children of her own, but often referred to her nursery plants as her children. As a gift to a friend, Lita once arranged a crane to lift a massive ‘botterboom’ (Tylecodon paniculatus), that she planted from a +-10cm cutting of 15-20 years ago, from her nursery to be replanted. Lita’s eyes were filled with tears as she watched the tree being lifted out of the nursery. She had a rare and intense love for her plants that was not always understood.
At her funeral, the minister described Lita as a true steward of the planet. In an age where we are smothered in consumerism and waste she strived to be as economical on the planet as possible. It was in her nature to recycle, upcycle, re-use and save wherever she could. When her rain tanks were already full, standing in the rain, she would fill the many 2 litre bottles that she saved up from the overflow. Her nursery is not an ordinary nursery. It was built completely from waste material collected from many sources. It bothered Lita that the multi-plug in her kitchen had a light that was on through the night. Lita was a true example of how to live a life with minimum impact on the environment by decreasing your carbon footprint.
Recently, Lita was commissioned to provide consultation to the Department: Water & Sanitation, Springbok to Henkries Pipeline rehabilitation project. In the project closure report the Department praised Lita for her vast knowledge of the Namaqualand flora and highly recommended her.
Namaqualand won’t be the same without her and she will be missed dearly, but it is certain that heaven’s nursery and botany division have now gained greatly from Lita’s passing.
In order to honour Lita’s memory Wilderness Foundation Africa will make an annual award recognising conservation students, researchers or others who make a contribution to the conservation of Namaqualand flora and fauna and who share the same values that Lita stood for:
- Biodiversity Stewardship
- Research in the arid ecosystems
- Recycling/ upcycling
- Reduction of human impact on the environment
- Sustainable tourism
- Water wise
This award will be known as the ‘Lita Beukes Cole memorial award’