HISTORY AND FOUNDERS
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 need for greening programs and environmental education is urgent and essential...
The steering committee established the following aims for the centre:
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.
Our programmes directly support the following six United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development:
Goal 6 – Clean Water and Goal 14 – Life below Water
Our water programme instils sound water management and conservation knowledge and a thorough understanding of the huge importance that water plays in our day-to-day lives as well as provide education around the organisms that share this resource and rely on it for its survival.
Goal 7 – Clean Energy and Goal 13 – Climate Action
In the Energy Room, we seek solutions for this crisis by exploring renewable and clean energy sources like solar, wind, or water. We also explore ways of saving energy such as building energy-efficient houses, using less energy for cooking, lighting and other household appliances.
Goal 11 – Sustainable Communities and Goal 15 – Life on Land
Our community has huge challenges with informal waste dumping sites and the burning of waste. Our Waste programme provides education about a healthy environment covering littering, recycling, waste reduction, renewable and non-renewable resources, and the ecological footprint of products, from production to disposal. Our Biodiversity programme cover topics such as learning about the soil, food chains, growing healthy food, medicinal plants, and understanding ecosystems.
Our programmes also contribute to the goals of the Global Biodiversity Framework by educating an increased number of learners and the community about the importance of environmental conservation, creating dialogue, collaboration, and action between environmental leaders in Mamelodi to reduce biodiversity loss and aid recovery.