As per Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2017, youth unemployment in South Africa for the ages between 15 and 24 was at 54.3% by March 2017. This insight is guiding WFA’s Youth Development Programme which is aimed at simultaneously conserving wilderness areas and nurturing the physical and psychological wellness of young people. In this way, the Youth Development Programme, which celebrated 21 years of exposing vulnerable youth to wilderness areas and wild spaces in 2016, aims to tackle environmental education and youth unemployment in South Africa.

Wilderness Foundation Africa has developed a number of holistic skills development and education interventions that harness the healing power of nature, to equip vulnerable youth to be economically active and environmentally responsible citizens.

At the core of these interventions are carefully developed physical and psychological wellness programmes which aim to provide specific support to the participants as they complete the employability, skills development or vocational training aspects depending on which project they are enrolled in. Furthermore, the Foundation has seen just how powerfully young people respond to spending time in wilderness areas and based on their long history of using the healing power of nature for personal and social transformation, the Foundation has integrated various levels of Wilderness Trail activities into our holistic intervention projects.

In both the Eastern and Western Cape the programme has recruited students from about a dozen different townships– urban and rural informal settlements which are the most poor and vulnerable. The programme also strives to achieve a balance of female and male applicants. The key approach to selection is youth-centred while also recognizing the needs of employers, and involves partnerships with many community-based organizations (CBOs), local government agencies and schools.

The projects managed and facilitated by WFA to achieve the above are:

* Umzi Wethu Academy (with Nature Conservation and/or Hospitality as fields of study)
* Siyazenzela training courses
* Imbewu 3-day wilderness trails


Imbewu Trails.  The Imbewu trails project facilitates three-day wilderness experiential trails throughout the year with school learners from disadvantaged communities in the Nelson Mandela Metro and around the Addo Elephant National Park. As with all of Wilderness Foundation Africa’s outreach initiatives, Imbewu, which means ‘seed’ in isiXhosa, aims to provide education about the environment as part of youth development. These trails aim to connect the youth to their cultural-environmental heritage and senior Xhosa rangers from the Addo Elephant National Park assist with the guiding of the trails.

Siyazenzela Training Courses.   Siyazenzela (meaning “We are doing it for ourselves”) training courses are run as a four-week short term project with facilitation on the following focus areas: Emotional & Social Wellness; Occupational & Financial Wellness; and Physical & Environmental Wellness. The courses are aimed at previously disadvantaged youth between the ages of 18 and 26. Youth participating in the Siyazenzela project gain job preparedness skills whilst also developing personal insight and understanding of themselves.   WFA trains 120 youth every year.


Umzi Wethu Training Academies.  The Umzi Wethu model is a social development and intervention programme for displaced and socially vulnerable youth (those who have lost one or both parents, are child headed households or live in households with no formal income). It draws on opportunities presented by gaps in various sectors including the hospitality and eco-tourism industry in South Africa, training chefs and conservation rangers.   

Green Leaf Kitchen.  Through Wilderness Foundation Africa’s Youth Development projects, excelling Umzi Wethu graduates are given the opportunity to develop specific entrepreneurial skills through the experiential setting of the Foundations successful SMME initiative, the Green Leaf Kitchen.


Umzi Wethu

BLOG: Hospitality Intake 2017/2018 – An interview with Chef Kevin

One of Wilderness Foundation Africa’s projects is the Youth Development programme, where we seek to deliver holistic skills development and education interventions to equip vulnerable youth to be economically active and environmentally responsible citizens.

Read more.


ilderness Foundation Africa was privileged to be the caterer at a media event hosted at the Tramways Building in Port Elizabeth last night. The event formed part of the media launch of the VW Motorsport’s 2018 Polo Cup car.

Our Umzi Wethu hospitality students were given the opportunity to assist Development Chef, Kevin Gouws in the kitchen, as well as to be waitrons at this prestigious event. This activity forms part of their training through the Green Leaf Kitchen, and it affords the Umzi Wethu hospitality students an opportunity to gain experience in their chosen field.

Polo15  Polo16

Umzi Wethu forms part of the WFA Youth Development Programme. The vision of this programme is to deliver holistic skills development and education interventions that harness the healing power of nature, equipping vulnerable youth to be economically active and environmentally responsible citizens.

Umzi Wethu has helped uplift well over 309 vulnerable youth in the Eastern and Western Cape who now have skilled fulltime employment in the conservation and hospitality industries.