Whilst on lockdown, we missed both International Earth Day and World Environment Day which celebrated their 50th and 45th anniversaries, respectively. It is appalling that, half a century on, the environment is in its worst condition ever! This prompted me to profile one of South Africa’s largest and most active environmental NPOs, the WILDTRUST based in Hilton. This short article cannot do WILDTRUST justice, as the scope of its operations is immense, but I will over the next two issues, give a brief overview of its projects.
The WILDTRUST’s vision is "A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE FOR ALL". It has two core programmes - WILDLANDS that focuses on terrestrial conservation and the sustainable development of the green economy and WILDOCEANS that focuses on marine and coastal conservation and the blue economy. WILDTRUST’s vision is achieved through working at the interface between environmental sustainability and human wellbeing to improve the livelihood of underprivileged communities and to restore the ecosystems
that support them. The work of the WILDTRUST encourages the employment and upskilling of young people and the empowerment of communities to deliver a sustained and improved environmental outcome and impact. WILDTRUST has a wide range of projects encompassing most of the critical eco problems that our planet is facing, and which have reached critical status. This month I will explore the WILDLANDS programme and its projects.
Ecological Restoration – aims to support the restoration of degraded forests, fynbos, grasslands and wetland and riverine habitats. Local communities are involved through direct employment of teams to clear invasive plants, collect waste and plant indigenous trees.
Sustainable Livelihoods – uplifting communities, one livelihood at a time.
- Trees for Life is the foundation on which all the Sustainable Livelihoods projects are built. The Tree - preneurs (75% of which are women) are community members who are mini-nursery owners that grow indigenous trees (over 100 000 so far) needed for the various restoration sites.
- Recycling for Life aims to make it possible for communities to divert waste from the environment and landfills; to develop new innovative solutions to add value to waste; to create awareness and to promote a change in lifestyle, thereby reducing waste.
- Food for Life’s primary aim is to ensure that local communities learn how to establish homestead and school-based vegetable gardens to help them sustain their families.
- Khuthaza Business Project has enabled 58 entrepreneurs to complete an accredited skills programme as well as receiving start-up stock and on-going mentorship to sustain their small business ideas that include Garden services, Poultry businesses, Tuck shops, Clothing shops and Bakeries. Over the next 3 years the aim is to develop at least another 200 sustainable businesses with a Green economy focus.
Biodiversity Economy - involving marginalised communities with the focus on the Wildlife Economy.
- Somkhanda Community Game Reserve is the flagship project. This is a Big 5 reserve and the local community, under the guidance and management of WILDLANDS, manage the day to day running on the reserve. This involved training in tourism and hospitality in order to grow its Eco Tourism offering and the wildlife management of the reserve.
- Dartmoor Farm in the Karkloof Nature Reserve is a project educating communities in the benefits of rotational grazing of their livestock, which not only improves the health of their animals, but also improves on the health of the grassland. A small herd of indigenous Nguni cattle is used as a model for this and conservation efforts are supported through the sale of these beautiful animals. The success of the rotational system is evident in the increase of Crane breeding sites and Oribi antelope sightings.
Species Conservation – securing vital habitats to protect priority species.
- WILDLANDS’ goal is the conservation of threatened and endangered species through education, community involvement and habitat protection. The conservation of Key Biodiversity Areas and thecreation of Conservation Corridors are critical as well as the establishment of new conservation areasthrough working with communities and making them aware of the potential that eco-tourism canprovide to uplift their community.
- Specific interventions include the collaring and monitoring of vultures, rhino, elephant and wild dogs. The poisoning of vultures has increased because of the belief that vulture brains assist with predicting lotto numbers. WILDLANDS launched a campaign in the communities surrounding communal and private reserves in KZN to dispel the myths and to explain the importance of vultures in natural ecosystems. Somkhanda Community Game Reserve has daily monitoring of its lion, wild dog, rhino and elephants. The dehorning of the rhino has become the most successful strategy to deter poachers.
- WILDSERIES - wild adventures for conservation. This series comprises of 4 unique events - Imfolozi Mountain Bike Challenge and 3 trail runs – Mont Aux Sources Challenge, Golden Gate Challenge and Three Cranes Challenge. (These events raised over 1 million Rand in the last financial year – a significant contribution to much needed conservation initiatives.) If you are into these kinds of events, what better way to participate AND raise funds for the preservation of the environment, while experiencing pristine wild areas. To take part, visit www.wildseries.co.za or email email@example.com