Green NGO turns 85

2011-02-23 00:00

A LOCAL environmental NGO, one of the oldest and largest in the country, celebrates its 85th anniversary this year.

Wessa, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa, celebrates “85 years of proactive, engaged nature conservation and education which has benefited the country and beyond”.

“We’d like to invite all South Africans to join us in learning more about caring for the Earth and also to have fun through the activities that we will be running,” said Wessa CEO Mumsie Gumede.

During the course of the year Wessa will host a series of events and campaigns countrywide to allow South Africans the chance to enjoy both the beauty and the responsibility that comes with the country’s unique natural heritage, said Gumede.

The events planned will focus on four themes drawn from Wessa’s work: water, biodiversity, energy and waste.

Water is the theme for the first quarter of the year, and the flagship event of this period is the Wild Walk 2011, a 380-kilometre walk along the Wild Coast from Port Edward to Chintsa from March 3 to 30.

During March, Wessa hopes to highlight challenges the country faces in ensuring the sustainability of quality water supplies.

The themes of the remaining three quarters of the year are:

•April–June: biodiversity;

•July–September: energy; and

•October–December: waste.

The programme will culminate in a national gala and awards evening in September.

WESSA’s origins go back to the 1890s, but the organisation has been in existence since March 11, 1926, when it was founded as the Wildlife Protection Society of South Africa. Its emphasis has necessarily changed with the times, moving from the protection of wildlife to a more people-focused and sustainability-driven approach to conservation. However, it has been consistently at the forefront of conservation struggles and debates in South Africa, playing a major role, for example, in the establishment of the National Parks Board and proclamation of the Kruger National Park. In 1980, it was the first NGO in the world to produce a national environmental conservation strategy when it did this for South Africa. More recently, the organisation has gained growing relevance and influence as an environmental watchdog and an educator operating through an extensive network of regional offices, branches, friends’ groups and environmental clubs. — Wessa.

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