28 January 2003
The donation of R200 000 worth of computer software and furniture to a Wildlands Trust “green school” could help pave the way to future wetland conservation in KwaZulu-Natal.
The donation was made this week by Unilever South Africa as part of the Living Lakes project and will ensure that local pupils in the Lake St Lucia region are taught about the importance of their environment.
Lake St Lucia was the first “member lake” in the global Living Lakes programme – an international partnership that promotes voluntary international collaboration among organisations that carry out projects benefiting lakes, wildlife and people.
Unilever’s co-chairman, Niall Fitzgerald, met with the children and teachers from the Wildlands Trust “green school” that borders the lake to hand over the donation.
“Businesses have to be partners in addressing the problems of society and the environment,” he said. “We are not separate from society – we are part of it.”
Unilever South Africa has committed funding, resources and the expertise of over 50 staff members to environmental projects in St Lucia over the past five years.
The programme was recognised as an example of global best practice in the area of sustainable partnerships at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg last year.
Local community support is essential for conserving wetlands, and Unilever has focused on encouraging environmental awareness and conservation principles among the local Khula village residents.
Examples of these programmes include the development of environmental education materials, building a technology centre and providing furniture for the local school. It also includes taking local leaders on wilderness trails, helping eradicate alien plants from the rare forests, and helping to implement endangered wildlife protection programmes.
Wildlands Trust chief executive officer Andrew Venter said: “Unilever’s vision is the same as ours – to create sustainability, particularly for deprived communities – through conservation awareness and development.”
The Wildlands Trust is an independent fund-raising and project management organisation concerned with conservation-based community development in KwaZulu-Natal.