South Africa is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to a combination of political, geographic and social factors. What’s more, the impacts are already being felt, with extreme weather, droughts, flooding and fires commonplace across the country.
However, in the face of great crisis, communities of resilience have grown, and the Eden Festival of Action is one such example. This seven-day environmental gathering blends practical restoration activities with educational talks and workshops, as well as storytelling and music. It aims to empower regenerative communities while equipping them with the tools they need to fight climate change on the ground.
This year, Youth in Landscapes, which is the youth program of the Global Landscapes Forum, sponsored representative Keneilwe Mathaba from the Young African Landscape Leadership program to attend the Eden Festival of Action. Below, Keneilwe guides us through her time at the South African festival with a series of photos that capture the energy, commitment and hope of young people in climate action.
“Being a part of a community that not only cares about the landscape ecosystems but also about the livelihoods people derive from these landscapes was quite an amazing and wonderful experience.”
“My biggest highlights of all were the two main tree planting sessions that took place in Pachamama Healing Sanctuary and Rest Camp and Wild Spirit Lodge, where we planted 1,000 and 650 indigenous trees respectively. These trees were planted in the land historically dominated by invasive black wattle trees.”
“The planting methods and techniques of using patterns are some of the principles of permaculture used mostly in agroforestry projects. It was during these events that I saw the spirit of community being manifested as people from neighboring homes and lodges came to assist.”
“It reminded me of a custom called Letsema that was (and still is) practiced in some parts of my country, Botswana. Letsema (a Setswana word that means voluntarily working together) is an important Indigenous practice. It has been in existence since time immemorial among many Africans. It urges people to collectively build communities through voluntary contributions and services toward a common development task.”
“I was surrounded by a diverse group of individuals from many nations even outside Africa, which to me was important as we exchanged ideas, experiences and skills.”
“I had an opportunity to attend sessions including a beach clean-up at Nature Valley, permaculture practices, touring the Pachamama agroforestry infrastructure, mycology (something I didn’t expect at all), waste upcycling, making a biodigester, and also foraging edible plants and flowers.”
“There was so much to learn as well as the opportunity to be in oneness with nature, in a very accommodating environment surrounded by forests, birdlife and wildlife, and water sources.”
“I was happy to witness the Wild Spirit Lodge recycling bay and observed how they work tirelessly to not send anything to the landfill. The landfill bin was basically non-existent despite being labeled at the bay. Personally, I felt challenged to look deeply into my daily lifestyle, at how much I contribute to the generation of waste, which we learned can be turned into a source of income if sorted well and disposed of properly for recycling.”
“Another thing of interest was the experience of vegan meals for a whole week. I am still learning what a plant-based diet is and how beneficial or not it is to the environment and human life as compared to a meat-based diet. In my opinion, if our consumption habits, whether plant-based or not, continue to be exuberant and without regard to the impact they cause, we will continue to wound the environment.”
“When dealing with conservation, there is no species that is not of importance, so it is upon us as custodians to make sure that we give back to our environment as a form of investment. Holistic environmental conservation and livelihoods strategies are important.”
This year’s event was hosted by a dedicated supporter of Greenpop activities, Wild Spirit Lodge in the Garden Route, South Africa.
Keneilwe Mathaba is a Natural Resource Management and Environmental Education practitioner who graduated with a bachelor’s in environmental science and English from the University of Botswana and obtained a master’s in natural resource management and assessment from the University of Dar es Salaam.
She is currently pursuing a PhD in environmental sustainability education with Rhodes University, studying how stakeholders in natural resource management can collaboratively learn and work together and fully engage and participate to sustain communal rangeland ecosystems and their livelihoods.
She previously worked at Cheetah Conservation Botswana as a volunteer, conservation education officer and as communities for conservation coordinator. Additionally, she worked at Kalahari Conservation Society as an environment and conservation officer.