Youth Environmental Service

This was a three year national project administered under the Department of Environmental Affairs and implemented by the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve. The overarching goal of the YES Project was to build capacity in unemployed youth and train South Africa’s next generation with the necessary skills for the work place, to enhance their abilities to secure permanent employment.

The WBR focused on skills training for the tourism sector as a channel to support community-based tourism in the Waterberg area. There were four training streams all with accredited training: (1) Wildlife security; (2) Nature guides; (3) Chefs; and (4) Housekeepers. Additionally, each learner undertook work placements in-line with their particular training stream that ranged from 2 to 5 months in duration.

A number of non-accredited courses were also included in each stream’s work schedule to include important components such as HIV/ AIDs awareness, readiness for work, life skills, basic computer skills, first aid course and financial awareness. Furthermore, elements of community service were undertaken to enable the learners to give back to their community with activities including township clean-up and renewal, removal of invasive plants, environmental education in local schools and sustainable technology.

Three hundred beneficiaries participated over the three years and many gained permanent employment which has changed their lives.


South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Groen Sebenza (Internship) Programme (Funded by DBSA / Jobs Fund)

The Groen Sebenza Jobs Fund Project was a national project, funded by the National Treasury and implemented by South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). The project placed 800 people (called ‘pioneers’) into various organisations in the environmental and biodiversity sector. Within the host organisations these interns had real jobs so they could learn professional skills and working experience, additional mentoring was provided to fill the educational and work experience gap. The Waterberg Biosphere Reserve hosted four pioneers from 2013 to 2015. Vee Mushiana, Letticia Mahlatji, Arthur Matodzi, Thandeka Mehlo who was later replaced by Lucas Namanyane; all four became central to the core running of the WBR and provided the essential capacity needed by the organisation during this period.

New walkways and fencing at look out point at Makapan Valley
San bushman art in the Waterberg, and cave at Makapan Valley
Makapan Valley World Heritage Site – Infrastructure Project

Makapan Valley is a World Heritage Site which was declared in 1999.  Makapan is a paleontological site of international significance. Situated northeast of Mokopane in the Waterberg, the site plays an important role in our understanding of human evolution. The caves are also the site of the clash between the Boers and Kekana people in 1854. After attacks on the Voortrekkers at Moorsdrift, Chief Mokopane (Makapan) and his people, 3 together with their herds of cattle, were besieged in one of the caves. The siege lasted almost a month with thousands dying from starvation and dehydration.

The Waterberg Biosphere undertook a project for Mogalakwena Municipality to redo the structural walkways and banisters within the caves, which had deteriorated due to exposure to sun and rain over the years. The aim was by helping to develop Makapan Valley this would increase visits from both domestic and international tourists.

Makapan Heritage Route Feasibility Study

This was a study to investigate the potential for developing a specialist tourism route based on cultural and heritage sites, within the municipality. The proposed route would cover Makapan Valley as well as lesser known sites such as those around the town of Mokopane, and other sites such as Masebe. The route would also be used to help support local community tourism products and places.

Project Literacy

In May 2013 the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve joined with ‘Project literacy’ – leaders in adult learning to undertake a three year project, funded by ABSA, to increase literacy in unemployed learners for 300 beneficiaries.

Stand at the Getaway show
Readiness for work graduating group
Promotion of WBR as a Tourism Destination (Funded by LEDET / Waterberg District Municipality)

The Waterberg Biosphere area relies on tourism as a major contributor to its local economy, and people’s jobs and livelihoods. During 2011 and 2013 the WBR participated in various national tourism shows to promote the area both to potential tourists and tourism agents.

Various skills development courses: readiness for work, math homework clubs (Funded by private donors)

During 2012 a number of short development courses were undertaken, these were coordinated by Matthew Bowers.

Waterberg Meander: Development of tourism route and support to community owned and operated tourism products (Funded by EU under Limpopo LED (Local Economic Development) Programme and Waterberg District Municipality)

The Waterberg Meander was created in 2009 to showcase Waterberg attractions and things to do in the area. The beautifully printed and collectable brochure provided an informative self-drive tour of historical, geological, cultural and environmental sites along the route. Its aim was to make it easier for the self-guided tourist, to promote tourism in the Waterberg and provide a platform for showcasing community tourism projects.

Removal of Pompom weed in Vaalwater

Alien plant removal work

Wetland restoration in Welgevonden Game Reserve was undertaken by removing highly invasive alien plant species from wetland habitats. This was done by  Wildife Security learners from the YES Project,  and in conjunction with SANBI and Working for Water. This work was undertaken over a three week duration, and greatly contributed towards the management maintenance of these wetland systems. It is estimated that South Africa has already lost 60% of its wetlands.

YES learners also assisted in the removal of pompom weed within, and around, the Vaalwater area, in November 2013 and December 2014. Pompom weed is a highly invasive alien plant species that destroys natural grassland and removes essential water out of the ecosystem. YES learners also removed a number stands of Popular trees to the south of Vaalwater.

Learners on a field trip to see rhino and learn about the rhino poaching crisise

Environmental education

The WBR had two dedicated environmental educators between 2013 and 2015, plus two other staff members who also gave environmental education support.  During this time the WBR rolled out various activities, events and regular environmental education support to local schools in Vaalwater and Alma.  After-school environmental education clubs became popular and outdoor nature based activities such as biodiversity identification and water testing activities provided learners with extra skills and environmental awareness.

In conjunction with Save the Waterberg Rhino Project, learners also were given opportunities to experience the bushveld, have a game drive and see wildlife that they had never seen before to increase understanding and awareness of the importance of conservation areas.