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What is Imbewu?

Imbewu, a joint project between South African National Parks and the Wilderness Foundation, was created in 1996 in the Kruger National Park. In the first two years of the project, 200 high schools involving 900 youth experienced our programme of environmental learning and youth empowerment, through a direct experience of wild areas.

The African name "Imbewu" literally means seed. It reclaims a birthright - a quality experience of people's natural and cultural heritage.

Imbewu seeks to instill, in present and future generations, a deep abiding emotional link to the earth and their cultural legacy. For it recognizes that with feeling for the bush - originally at the heart of African culture and of conservation ethics - a proactive role in environmental initiatives can, for the first time be self-realized.

Imbewu educates through experience. Youth are transported to the heart of nature reserves, living there for four days. The experience is unique in that specially selected "wise people" share their accumulated wisdom from lifelong work in the area and from traditions learnt from their forefathers. During the four-day period, pupils are taken on interpretive walks in the National Park, led by the Imbewu guides. Cultural values and traditional plant uses are interwoven into each walk. Pupils are accommodated under flysheets in primitive campsites and enjoy the age-old art of story telling around a campfire at night.

The Camp

Imbewu camps are held in the Kabouga section of the park, at the foot of the Zuurberg Mountains. The vegetation is varied, including subtropical thicket and afromonatne forest with fynbos on the mountain peaks. Fauna of this area includes red hartebeest, kudu, duiker, warthog, ostrich and many smaller mammals. The elusive blue duiker and klipspringer also grace this area. Knysna loeries are but one of the bird species that frequent the forest patches. Much of this area has remained untouched and represents a unique piece of wilderness.

On the final day of the camp, the youths are taken for a guided game drive on open-top vehicles in the elephant area of the park.

Camps operate by the minimum impact rule - trails are therefore limited to eight trailists at a time accompanied by two well-qualified guides who have been trained in all outdoor skills and safety procedures.

The Elders

Wise elders from local communities lead the Imbewu camps and impart to the youth their detailed knowledge of the local environment. They entertain the youth with stories around the campfire at night. These elders are often ex-park staff who served the park for many years before retirement. At present, three wise men from the communities of Nomathamsanqa and Valencia near the town of Addo, lead camps.

Rangers in service at the park are employed on each camp to take the youths on guided walks in the area.

The Youth

Pupils should be selected for their understanding and interest in their environment, their willingness to learn and their ability to interact with people as well as their leadership abilities. The participants are not required to have had any hiking experience; physical fitness and strength are not the focus of the trail, although walking fitness would be advised.

Youths of 16 years and older are sourced from local schools. These schools are situated in the communities surrounding the park, namely Nomathamsanqa, Valencia, Paterson and Moses Mabida (Kirkwood). Recently the schools in Motherwell (near Port Elizabeth) have also been included.

Future Plans

A second camp will become operational in the near future. This camp will be based close to the coast in the Alexandria area. Schools and wise elders from the communities of Alexandria and Bushman's River will be involved.

Contact information

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Did You Know?

  • It also protects the world's largest Cape gannet breeding population on Bird Island