Short description

Protecting and sustaining African wilderness and wildlands through integrated conservation, social intervention and education programmes.


South Africa is the third most biologically diverse country in the world but it is also amongst the nations with the fastest rate of environmental decline. It has the highest known concentration of threatened plants and the highest extinction estimates in the world. There is a lack of knowledge and care for the environment thus educating people and raising awareness of environmental issues is necessary to address the current state of the country’s environment.

A degrading environment however is not the only challenge South Africa faces; there is also much poverty and a high unemployment rate of 25%. Furthermore, the segment of the population that is most affected are the youth. To tackle the two above mentioned challenges, innovative projects are needed to address poverty, while paying heed to environmental concerns. Such projects can promote job creation and raise awareness of the limited resources in our country while conserving the environment.


The Wilderness Foundation was founded in 1972 in Port Elizabeth with the objective of protecting the African environment through conservation and education programmes. The Foundation has since evolved into an environment and conservation NPO that not only initiates and implements projects that are of an environmental nature but also includes a social and economic aspect. In addition the programmes are aimed at conserving the environment but also benefitting the communities and beneficiaries, being disadvantaged youth – particularly orphans – and creating vocational opportunities for them. Wilderness Foundation has four main programme areas:

Conservation: To protect and support biodiversity conservation. Through this programme the organisation develops and manages protected areas as well as ecosystem rehabilitation and restoration.

Leadership and Education: The Wilderness Foundation runs leadership and experiential programmes (including nature trails) which enable youth and other relevant stakeholders to have personal interaction with the wilderness and natural environment. The aim of this programme is to educate people on the importance of the environment and to develop ecological leaders amongst youth and government officials.

Advocacy and Awareness: The organisation actively advocates for the expansion and safeguarding of protected areas. Publications include an environment magazine and other educational materials which are published by the Foundation to raise awareness on the importance of conservation. Furthermore the Wildlife Foundation aims to motivate the government and society at large through campaigns and participation in forums.

Social Intervention: This programme includes various projects that are aimed at the personal and professional development of orphaned and vulnerable youth. The Foundation runs the Umzi Wethu Livelihoods Programme, a life skills programme providing work readiness training, environmental education and communication skills training. Upon completing the Livelihoods Programme graduates can apply to the Umzi Wethu Training Academy to receive accredited training in hospitality or as a field ranger. The 12 month course is composed of theoretical and practical training as well as life skills training. During the 12 months students reside at the academy and upon graduation the Wilderness Foundation finds skilled vocational jobs in the eco-tourism and hospitality sectors for graduates.

The Wilderness Foundation also employs graduates at the two enterprises the organisation owns: a coffee shop called Green Leaf Cafe opened in 2011 and Umzi Wethu Catering Unit which was established in 2009.

What we like about this organisation

The organisation’s main targeted beneficiaries are orphaned and vulnerable children and youth. With South Africa’s high HIV and unemployment rate, these children and youth are in great need of education, life skills and accredited vocational skills training. Through its broad networks, the Foundation is able to place graduates at various five star hotels and restaurants. The organisation has a high placement rate and a high rate of graduates who maintain their jobs for at least two years.

What difference can your money make?

  • R10 000 will allow eight primary or high school children to go on a four day trail
  • R250 000 will allow the Wilderness Foundation to run a Livelihoods programme in a new location for one year, benefitting 300 youth
  • R750 000 will pay for seven scholarships in the Umzi Wethu programme along with seven internships for youth

Volunteering opportunities

  • Mentors
  • Training facilitators for life skills, business skills, financial literacy
  • Small medium and micro-sized enterprise expert
  • Legal expert