Nature Connect is a Not-for-Profit, Public Benefits Organisation, founded in 2001 by the Table Mountain Fund and the City of Cape Town in order to provide opportunities for children from the Cape Flats to experience the outdoors and in the process to develop a curiosity and interest for the natural environment. Through a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Cape Town, Nature Connect operates environmental education camps and programmes on City Nature Reserves; the aim of which is to impact the lives of underprivileged children from the Cape Flats with a life-changing environmental experience.
Over the years, the demand for the programme grew and the scope widened. In 2007 the Nature Care Fund was created in order to facilitate the management of conservation projects on public and private land not currently part of Cape Town’s Biodiversity Network – a network of remnant patches of critically endangered vegetation on the Cape Flats that forms a link between Table Mountain National Park in the west and the mountain chain in the east. This fund is in partnership with corporate companies, friends groups and private individuals. These funds are ring-fenced, tightly monitored and audited annually. Currently there are over 30 ring-fenced accounts for conservation projects in the Nature Care Fund varying in size, duration and required capacity.
In 2007, a non-accredited Skills Development Programme was initiated in partnership with City of Cape Town which created 59 opportunities to previously disadvantaged out-of-school youth to gain work-place experience on nature reserves and develop appropriate workplace skills in activities such as 1st Aid, chainsaw use and drivers license training. In 2014 this was taken up a notch and became the first accredited Nature Conservation: Resource Guardianship (NQF level 2) Learnership to be run in Cape Town with a further learnership in Environmental Management (NQF level 5) being added in 2015. Funding from CATHSSETA, LGSETA, City of Cape Town and the Table Mountain Fund has enabled over 137 youth to enter year-long, work-based training programmes on nature reserves across the city. The success of these programmes has been phenomenal with our average extending well beyond the national average of 50% for post-programme placements.
In 2009, the Luqmaan Jabaar Memorial Bursary Fund was started by management and staff of Zeekoevlei and Rondevlei Nature Reserve in memory of a colleague who passed away. The aim of the fund is to enable passionate individuals the opportunity to pursue a career in the environmental sector. In 2017, the fund was supported with additional bursaries by CATHSSETA. To date, a total of 27 full bursaries were awarded to disadvantaged students from universities around Cape Town and a further 36 smaller bursaries were allocated to assist staff in attaining various qualifications and for students to get their drivers licenses.
Our Conservation Leadership Project, started in 2013, was born out of a desire to have a more pronounced effect on youth impassioned about the environment than a once-off outdoors camp could enable. Through the various interactions we have with school children – through the through the Sustainable Schools Programme we identify the most enthusiastic of these children to take further in conservation. The objective is to involve the children with environmental activities and to take them on outings to conservation areas in South Africa over the last 7 years of their schooling in so doing broadening their views and understanding of conservation and helping them to nurture this passion. It is hoped that a good portion of the learners coming through this programme will go on to further education and training programmes that we run.
In 2013, we placed our first interns these being 3rd year Nature Conservation students requiring placement for their Work Integrated Learning year. In 2014, we started the Graduate Internship Programme, funded through CATHGSSETA, from various disciplines within the environmental sector. To date, 80 graduates, from around the country, have joined and completed the programme. Many of which have found permanent employment and some even joining Nature Connect as managers of our various programmes.
Through these various interventions within our Crèche to Career model, Nature Connect’s intention is to foster a life-long passion for nature and stewardship of natural resources. We aim to expose as many people as possible to the wonders of nature and create the platforms and structures to enable them to become environmental champions or pursue a career in the Green Economy.