Change the world


The beautiful Garden Route natural landscape is undoubtedly one of the biggest assets of the George Campus of the Nelson Mandela University.

The Southern Cape region encompasses a mosaic of indigenous forests, fynbos, and is flanked by the Outeniqua Mountains to the north and coastline to the south.

In recent years, unsustainable land-use practices, water insecurity, habitat fragmentation, the loss of biodiversity and inadequate fire management practices have made the region vulnerable to climate change patterns and risks.

The Garden Route Wildfires of October 2018 worsened the environmental challenges of the region and especially the George Campus environment.

In the Garden Route, this is worsened by a very significant influx of people from different backgrounds, with often conflicting demands, expectations, values and ethics.

When the future envisaged environmental impact is not carefully managed, the beauty and unique sense of place over which generations of residents and visitors have marvelled will be degraded to just another statistic of a failed attempt by mankind to control their environmental footprint.

Global concerns about the environment are reflected in increasingly sophisticated legislation, policies and protocols, international agreements, and a proliferation of NGOs and societal movements trying to make a difference.

Within the academic environment, it is essential that lecturing staff stay informed about modern principles in environmental management, sustainable lifestyles, environmental footprints and ecosystem resilience and landscape ecology.

It is also imperative that academic programmes cultivate value systems and environmental and business ethics among its graduates in support of responsible citizenship and environmental stewardship.

Alien invasive vegetation is regarded as one of the most significant environmental challenges facing the southern Cape.

Local ecosystems across a wide range of site conditions have been invaded by a multitude of invasive species, which resulted in serious threats to water security, reduced economic value of land, abiotic and biotic risks associated with transformed landscapes, of which increased fire risk is paramount, and biodiversity loss.

It is simply unrealistic to expect that national or local government must provide the detailed attention required to address all our environmental concerns.

For this reason, staff at the Nelson Mandela University’s George Campus launched a project of monthly ‘hacking’ events to clean its campus of all alien invasive plants.

The aim is not only to restore the aesthetic qualities of our landscape, but also to manage fire risk, and to create a landscape of natural functioning biodiversity that can serve as an example and benchmark of what the southern Cape community must strive towards.

Through the involvement of all staff and students, there is a need to engage the science, enhance awareness and increase environmental stewardship.

In doing this, the academics on the campus hope to install an ethic approach that supports the vision of the campus to be a centre of excellence in Sustainable Futures Science.

Hacking is an essential requirement in the Natural Resource Science and Management academic programmes for which the campus is well known, for all students studying at this institution.

The School of Natural Resource Science and Management at the George Campus has partnered with the horticulture department to impart knowledge to staff and build capacity for the George Campus.

Hacking provides a unique opportunity for staff and students to contribute to a sustainably managed campus community.

In modern times, students have to realise that environmental problems are not only an environmental concern which need to be addressed by natural resource scientists and managers — the reality is that environmental degradation will manifest itself as economic problems, which in turn will affect the social environment in a variety of negative ways.

Through this initiative, the campus wishes not only to set an example of responsible environmental stewardship, but would like to challenge the Southern Cape community, including schools, formal business, residential communities, NGOs and conservancies to initiate and be involved in similar projects.

This is the right thing to do for anybody who is serious about our wellbeing and quality of lives, and who realises the significance of our natural environment.

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 24 May 2022 written by Prof Josua Louw, the Director of the School of Natural Resource Management at Nelson Mandela University’s George Campus.

Contact information
Prof Josua Louw
Director of School of Natural Resource Management
Tel: 27 44 801 5031