As per Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2019, youth unemployment in South Africa for the ages between 15 and 24 was at 55.2% by March 2019. 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 celebrates 24 years of exposing vulnerable youth to wilderness areas and wild spaces, 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.

The programme has recruited students from many different townships– urban and rural informal settlements which are the most poor and vulnerable, throughout South Africa. 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 
* 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 three-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.

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Umzi Wethu Training Academies.  Umzi Wethu is a vocational training academy which prepares youth for positions in conservation and nature based careers.

This video takes you on the journey of 4 graduates of the Youth Development Programme’s Siyazenzela and Umzi Wethu courses.

Through these courses and our partnerships, WFA is able to uplift the youth of South Africa and provide them with employment opportunities, enabling them to begin their careers in conservation.

WFA would like to thank Graham Beck Enterprises for contributing significantly towards supporting Wilderness Foundation Africa’s Youth Development Programme, through funding the Siyazenzela training of our youth in the Robertson Area as well as Umzi Wethu Training of selected youth from the Western Cape.

Youth Development Programme in the WC

The Youth Development Programme of WFA has nurtured and trained thousands of vulnerable young people through our job readiness and vocational training.

This video tells the story of 3 Umzi Wethu graduates who are now qualified field guides and can pursue a career in conservation.

Youth Development Programme | April 2020
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.

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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.