Short description

WESSA promotes public participation in environmental and conservation projects with a strong focus on water, biodiversity, energy and waste.


According to the Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa has almost 10% of the world’s known bird, fish and plant species, and over 6% of the world’s mammal and reptile species. Increased agricultural activities, urbanisation and the presence of invader species are all considered threats to biodiversity. While the South African National Parks and the South African National Biodiversity Institute are contributing towards conservation in the country, some conservation areas fall outside nature reserves. There are, for example, more wetlands outside national reserves than within them, making the conservation of these areas just as vital. A key aspect in supporting conservation efforts is education. It is for this reason that many conservation projects aim to educate people in how they interact, perceive and protect the environment.


Established in 1928, WESSA is the oldest environmental association in South Africa. WESSA’s objectives are to promote environmental conservation and education, and increase public participation in caring for the earth.

WESSA’s core activity is providing accredited environmental training to various stakeholders, which include school children, teachers, community members, municipal workers and government officials. The organisation runs over 231 projects under four thematic areas: biodiversity, energy, waste and water.

In the biodiversity area, they run projects that aim at raising awareness around the need to protect the wealth of our ecosystems. An example of this is the countrywide Mondi Wetlands Programme aimed at conserving wetlands outside of nature reserves.

Projects in the energy theme support the use of renewable energy and reduction of overall energy demand. The ESKOM Energy and Sustainability Programme is one such initiative, supporting over 180 active learning projects which expose young people to issues such as climate change, electric efficiency and renewable energy. Reduction is a key objective to both the energy and waste thematic area as well as the responsible disposal of waste.

To increase the skills capacity in the environmental sector, WESSA is a partner in the GroenSebenza Programme, a Jobs Fund initiative aimed at developing priority skills in the biodiversity sector. Through this programme, WESSA will host 59 graduates over two and a half years who will benefit from workplace experience, mentorship, and skills development and training.

WESSA’s SustainEd unit provides accredited training for the education sector with an environmental focus. The organisation offers level 5 NQF qualifications. Other training initiatives include the Fundisa for Change and Eco-Schools international programme, of which WESSA is the South African implementer and aims to create awareness and action around sustainability in schools and their surrounding communities.

What we like about this organisation

  • The organisation has taken their experience and learning – that conservation cannot be effective without voluntary social change – and used this to establish and implement programmes that expose and teach a variety of stakeholders about the environment and conservation. The organisation has established regional offices allowing staff to be closer to projects. Control and finance systems between regional and national levels function well.
  • The organisation’s strategic plan shows that interventions have been well thought out, not only by thematic areas, but also in the relevance of interventions and actions.

What difference can your money make?

  • R10 000 will make a contribution to the publication of Enviro-Kids, the organisation’s popular children’s magazine.
  • R250 000 will allow for six Eco-Schools to be supported or alternatively provide accredited training in environmental management.
  • R750 000 will allow the organisation to build human capacity to manage biodiversity or water in the country.

Volunteering opportunities

  • Volunteer your time – the organisation occasionally needs assistance with special projects, administration, as well as volunteers to lead walks, give talks and assist with events. The organisation can be contacted directly for specific opportunities.
  • Join a Friends Group – these groups encourage public participation in the protection and conservation of the local environment.
  • Become a member of WESSA.