Africa is home to some of the most incredible unspoilt wildlife and landscapes on the planet. But in the face of immense challenges such as poaching, poverty and climate change, the path towards sustaining these gifts from nature can be a daunting one
An ecovillage by the name of Nourish, located 30 kilometres outside of Kruger National Park in South Africa, is making strides to overcome environmental challenges and working towards developing healthier and more resilient communities. I visited Nourish on my recent trip to the Kruger region with Brett Horley Safaris, and also stopped by the neighbouring village of Sigagule to meet with some members of the community. While the world is coming out of an unprecedentedly difficult year in many ways, an experience like this can certainly put our day-to-day struggles into perspective and I am grateful that I had this opportunity.
With a focus on education, conservation, sustainable farming, tourism and economic empowerment, Nourish is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for those living in the impoverished communities surrounding the nature reserves. Visitors are welcome to stop by for a coffee or craft stop, to experience an immersive or village tour (like I did), or to even take on longer-term volunteer internship options.
While the locals live in close proximity to amazing wildlife and the precious ecosystems of Africa, they aren't all given a chance to build a relationship with them in a way that will help them develop a will to protect and preserve them. Some kids in the nearby villages grow up without ever seeing an elephant or rhino in their lives, as the park and its reserves are fenced in to protect the animals and communities. Nourish provides opportunities for the children to interact with the land and learn about the animals so that they will form a deeper connection with them and become the conservationists of the future.In this village, the nourishment process starts with the land. Nourish offers a variety of options for residents to interact with nature in a sustainable way. There is an on-site food security garden, chicken farm, moringa orchard, and fruit and herb labyrinth, as well as permaculture workshops, which provide skills for the children to implement in their lives back home.
Education is a primary focus at Nourish, which offers preschool and after-school programs, adult literacy classes, a school uniform project, skills and training workshops as well as opportunities to sponsor a child to go to school. When I was there, the kids were joined by members of the group Rhino Revolution, which focuses on raising awareness and inspiring action against rhino poaching, in addition to rescuing and rehabilitating endangered species such as the rhino and pangolin.
Poaching is a dire problem in South Africa and members of the community may turn to this route for its financial temptation, but by educating the children from a young age about the wrongs of poaching, and creating a bond between them and the animals, they will be more inclined to protect them.
When you look around the village, you will find that Nourish is built with the environment in mind. The entire area is incredibly tidy, with all items tucked away and arranged with care. Walls are made of recycled bottles, and bottle caps make up the floor tiling. Tires have been repurposed to use as seats and playground equipment, and there are chairs made of recycled cardboard. Rainwater is harvested and used to water the plants and gardens, and the toilet system is compost, to minimize water use.There are unfortunately many organizations who advertise intentions that are not matched in their actions, but at Nourish, the care for the space, the environment and the communities is very evident.
While the challenges facing our planet and its people can seem insurmountable at times, it is encouraging to see places like Nourish working towards fighting these challenges from the ground up. I encourage you to help out however you can, because as we know, every little bit helps.