The Jewish National Fund (JNF) Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre owes its existence to the Jewish National Fund of South Africa initiative to develop long term sustainable development projects on behalf of the Jewish community in South Africa. In the mid 1990’s the JNF in partnership with Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) helped establish the Mamelodi Greening Committee (MGC) to oversee the Greening of Mamelodi.
The first project was to develop the Nelson Mandela Park to provide recreational facilities for the community of Eastern Mamelodi, which was opened by President Mandela on Arbour day in 1996.
The MGC then identified the need for a pensioner’s community food garden, and the JNF in partnership with Food & Trees for Africa developed the Mandela Park Peace Garden which is still thriving today.
The third project suggested by the MGC was to design and build an environmental education centre to educate previously disadvantaged children and the community of Mamelodi on South Africa’s huge wealth of natural heritage and to contribute towards creating new leaders and future champions for the environment. Recognising that Africa faces unprecedented environmental problems such as overpopulation, environmental illiteracy, soil erosion, drought, silting of rivers and desertification. The need for greening programmes and environmental education is urgent and essential as the legitimate aspirations of previously disenfranchised communities put increasing pressure on already limited natural resources.
A steering committee was formed made up of the MGC, FTFA, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) Community Forestry Directive, Tshwane Metro and Department of Agriculture, Conservation, Environment and Land (DACEL), Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) and the National Environmental Education Programme (NEEP).
The steering committee established the following aims for the centre:
- Encouraging learners and the community to use environmental resources in a sustainable way through environmental education programmes.
- Involving every school in Mamelodi in Environmental programmes that include learners from early childhood development to those engaged in further education and training.
- Involving educators, parents and School Governing Bodies in environmental programmes in the schools.
The centre was designed by Paul Asquith under the International Institute for Energy Conservation, “Green Professionals” project. Who funded the costs of the design and drawing up architectural plans ensuring that the building is environmentally-friendly and energy efficient. The brief included addressing issues such as water harvesting, insulation, passive solar orientation and water saving. So that the centre will would be an example of environmental best practice as well as a venue for environmental education.
The JNF raised funds for the construction of the centre largely from the Jewish community in SA as well as a very generous donation from the National Lottery Development Trust Fund.
The JNF Walter Sisulu Environmental centre was opened my Ma Albertina Sisulu on the 14th September 2004.