The Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA) is embracing social media and technology to broaden its membership as it celebrates 90 years of conservation work.
The non-governmental organisation works as a link between environmental individuals, communities and organised structures like government with the aim of environmental and wildlife sustainability.
WESSA’s spirit of rebirth and rejuvenation aimed to draw a younger membership to take it closer to a venture of caring for the earth.
The organisation is made up of an extensive network of professional staff and members.
WESSA’s work includes the international Eco-Schools programme and the Blue Flag eco-labels.
From campaigns in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, to anti-mining activism in the Mapelane Dune Forests, WESSA has been at the forefront of doing right by the planet.
KwaZulu-Natal Chairperson Pieter Berger says while there is much to be celebrated at ninety, the organisation wants to move forward through an innovative online portal to bring its members closer.
“I do think people are concerned and they don’t know how to express and deal with many challenges but as the organisation we want to provide people with the capacity to do environmental stuff for themselves.”
With ambition to attract younger membership, the online space is important. The portal is reported to serve as a virtual meeting place.
Burger says young people can exchange ideas and make positive contributions to the environment right where they live. He says it’s a step in the right direction, to get people making a difference in their neighbourhoods.
WESSA’s ECO-Schools project is an international programme of the Foundation for Environmental Education, something that Burger is particularly proud of. “We created the programme to support environmental learning in the classroom.”
This programme is active in 58 countries around the world and it is aimed at environmental awareness and action not only in schools but surrounding communities.
WESSA has more than 10 000 schools and over 6 000 of them had sustained environmental projects for a multitude of years.
Burger says funding continues to be a challenge but the organisation continues through a solid network and team of volunteers. He says the negative perceptions associated with environmentalists have shifted in focus greatly.
Burger says now standing up for what’s right and saving the environment have become one in the same.