Reconnecting the youth with nature
In this week’s #TMFInTheField we introduce you to the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor Small Grant funded project “Reconnecting the youth with nature”. The project team believe that sustainable conservation of natural resources and the fulfilment of the lives and potential of young people will only be achieved if youth are able to connect with their natural environment. It has been shown that young people growing up in rural areas have limited opportunities to enjoy the diversity and beauty of the natural environment, as most of them are living in towns and villages with little access to, or understanding of the rich natural environment that surrounds them. “Reconnecting the youth with nature”, a project implemented by EMG, is helping to make this connection possible for a group of young people from Nieuwoudtville.
The project was developed based on growing concerns that the modern lifestyle of young people, with its digital devices, electronic entertainments and other distractions, impedes their ability to acquire an essential basic knowledge and understanding of nature and the vital role it plays not only in sustaining the local ecosystem services, but indeed all life on Earth. Many young people have not been able to develop a profound appreciation for nature, do not see the need to learn from or about their natural environment and as a result do not see the need to conserve it. Given the opportunity and the right nurturing and exposure, young people can quickly learn to appreciate and enjoy the natural environment.
A group of young people from Nieuwoudtville were given the opportunity to visit Avontuur and Oorlogskloof Nature Reserves, on different occasions, to explore and learn from nature. A baseline interview was done to assess the young people’s knowledge of and attitude to nature and its conservation. Following the programme an exit interview was completed to assess their experience, learnings and to revisit the questions addressed in the first interview. All activities followed a participatory approach and this allowed for maximum learning, ownership and gradual growth.
The reflection process of the young people’s experiences were documented in a short film. The film can now be used as a tool to create awareness and facilitate positive change amongst the youth in relation to environmental conservation and to inspire more active involvement in environmental activities. The participants were also given the opportunity to expresse their comitment to nature’s wellbeing by designing and implementing some soil and water conservation measures in a designated area on the Avontuur property. Siya Myeza from EMG refected that: “during these excursions, so much was learned about nature and about ourselves as youth in the process. Nature is relaxing, challenging, resilient, kind, patient and endlessly fascinating, as are we. Nature taught us that humanbeings are a vital thread in the fabric of life and that we are all connected”.
The project seeked to understand the disconnection with nature and addressed the need to reconnect by awakening an inner appreciation and developing a personal relationship with nature. This new appreciation has the potential to subsequently grow into a profound understanding and adoration of nature.