WESSA recognizes Environmental and Conservation stars at the 95th AGM and Annual Awards

The 2021 National WESSA Awards were presented at a virtual event of the organizations 95th AGM, on Saturday 4th December 2021. WESSA paid tribute to a wide range of outstanding environmental achievements to recognise and honour those who have made a significant contribution to the conservation or environmental education sector in South Africa over the past year in an exceptional and sustained manner. The WESSA Awards have been presented since 1974. That amounts to 47 years of acknowledging South African environmental champions at WESSA!

The goals of the WESSA Awards are to give appropriate, high level recognition to people, groups or institutions for advancing
the cause of environmental conservation and education in South Africa in an exceptional and sustained manner. It also provides an opportunity for WESSA to increase public awareness of local or national achievements in environmental conservation and education. The main criterion for the WESSA Awards is to acknowledge an individual, corporate/organisation, community group, educational group, conservation or environmental group who have done outstanding and sustained work for the benefit of environmental conservation and/or education in South Africa.

The WESSA Individual Award was presented to Mr Funisile Zothe, the WESSA Group Award recipient was presented to the Gauteng Stewardship and Conservancy Association, the WESSA Award for Corporates was awarded to Contour Enviro Group, and the WESSA Youth Award was presented to Siya Ntsumpa. This year, WESSA introduced a new award, the WESSA Teacher award, which celebrates the unique contribution of teachers to the Schools and Youth Unit and honours their commitment to improving the quality of environmental education in the South African school curriculum and enriching the lives of their students. This year, the award was shared with Ms Thandeka Sibiya and Ms Antonia Mkhabela. WESSA also paid tribute to Patrick Dowling who was awarded the prestigious WESSA Gold Award for his extraordinary contribution to environmental advocacy and activism and environmental education, and Dr Jeremy Anderson who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for a lifetime of contribution to conservation.

In addition, WESSA gave commendations to several organisations and individuals doing exceptional work in their particular fields in the environmental sector. In no particular order these are:

K9 Members of the Eastern Cape SAPS under the leadership of Dr Div De Villiers and Colonel Moodley who are responsible for several arrests and the recovery of thousands of kilograms of abalone. They are consistent with these successes on a monthly basis. WESSA salutes them for their bravery and commitment to the environment.

Itumeleng Youth Project who have built an information centre to support matriculated students. The organisation adopted environmental health as a main objective. Their Change Project focus is on illegal dumping with a particular focus on disposable nappies.

Izimbali Zkusasa is an organisation that believes in the power of women to change their own lives and create their own future. They educate women and young girls so they can be a positive change in their community and aim to ensure they are respected in the workplaces. WESSA recognises them for their significant impact on their community and youth development.

Romario Valentine is a 9-year-old eco-champion and has been an eco-warrior advocate for 4 years. At his young age, to date he has cleaned the beach 160 times, helped 900 endangered birds at Umgeni River Bird Park in Durban during the COVID-19, and supports a Bird Habitat Restoration Campaign for African Grey Parrots at Birds of Eden Cape Town to raise funds for the completion of an aviary. He is a true champion of the environment.

Kabega Primary Eco-Life is a recycling initiative of Kabega and focuses on education to create awareness. Through the recycling of bottle tops learners have provided wheelchairs to disabled learners.

The Liesbeek Maintenance Project Team is to rehabilitate and restore the river’s ecological functioning, clean the riparian edge, manage and control alien invasive species whilst replanting with indigenous vegetation and enhance the recreational and social value of the river and its trail. The team have completed a Lythrum control project and are busy removing crofton weed, balloon vine, moth-catcher, bind-weed, brambles, alders, long-leafed wattle, stinkbean, ginger, lantana and Spanish Broom from the riverside. WESSA salutes the LMP team for their commitment to ecosystem rehabilitation.

Please click here to view the presentation of the 2021 WESSA National Awards.


WESSA Award for Individuals – Presented to Funsile Zothe

Funisile Zothe is a general worker at Three Crowns Primary school located in Khavala village in Lady Frere, Cacadu, Eastern Cape. Mr Zothe became involved with conservation and environmental education through the Eskom Energy and Sustainability project which was introduced to the school in 2009. He was present and instrumental when the project installed the Integrated Biogas and Algal Sanitation System (IBASS) at the school and the subsequent projects that followed including food
gardens and orchards. Mr Zothe has sustained his conservation work at the school by expanding to other projects such as indigenous gardens, waste management systems and water conservation. The school is recognised as a conservation champion in the district and province, which is attributed to the phenomenal work performed by Mr. Zothe behind the scenes. Funisile Zothe is a worthy recipient of the Individual Award, and is regarded as an ambassador for the environment for his passion, contribution and example as a role model for individuals in similar circumstances to him!

WESSA Award for Corporates – Contour Enviro Group

Contour Enviro Group has been successfully implementing the Department of Agriculture’s Junior LandCare Programme which seeks to reach both rural and urban communities in the Western Cape Province. The programme focuses on teaching youth about conservation of the Cape’s Biodiversity including indigenous and endemic fauna and flora, pollution and waste management, soil conservation and sustainable agricultural practices, water conservation, catchment areas and river health, climate Change and the threats facing biodiversity, and alien Invasive plants and their effects on the natural ecosystems. Through these interventions Contour Enviro Group have managed to reach a total of 4 284 Primary School learners and 164 teachers and community members. They are most worthy of this award as a corporate committed to caring for the Earth.

WESSA Award for Groups – Gauteng Conservancy and Stewardship Association (GCSA)

The Gauteng Conservancy and Stewardship Association was formed in February 2003 to promote conservation on private land in Gauteng and to protect Gauteng’s fast-disappearing biodiversity. The Association represents 65 conservancies, and trains Conservation Officers enabling each conservancy to have trained people assisting with various environmental issues, re-establish plants that have been removed by the Muthi trade. They work with traditional healers and the Regional Healers Associations to educate and inform on the extinction of indigenous plants, and to assist with Environmental Management Plans focusing on both conservation and sustainable development. WESSA is so proud to be associated with the GCSA.

WESSA Award for Youth – Siya Ntsumpa

Siya Ntsumpa is the founder and CEO of an NPO in Motherwell township in the Eastern Cape, established in 2014 called Giving Them Wings. Siya is a nationally recognized and award-winning environmentalist who applies much of his time on school-based environmental projects. Through his work Siya has mentored over one hundred school environmental clubs where learners take on sustainable living projects. Siya is working with school’s in the Eastern Cape to promote sustainability through food gardening and recycling projects. He is a true champion of the environment and WESSA salutes his efforts!

WESSA Teacher Award – Presented to Thandeka Sibiya and Antonia Mkhabela

Thandeka Sibiya has wide experience in the subject of environmental sustainability, climate change and biodiversity. She has successfully managed to integrate this subject in to he South African curriculum and in the execution of extracurricular activities. This has been seen out school, locally and internationally. She has inspired many teachers in the province and nationally, who have received awards in different areas of education. Before, leaving Mpophomeni, a township in Howick, Kwazulu-Natal, she had already established networks with different organisations and think tanks, such as the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), uMngeni Water, WESSA, KZN Department of Sport Arts and Culture and others. Thandeka is a champion of environmental education in South Africa.

Antonia Mkhabela representing Shea O’Connor Combined School is a teacher and environmentalist and represents an incredible commitment and passion for education and community development. Through her efforts and commitment to the environment, the school has received an international community award through their incredible water saving efforts and other environmental projects. Antonia is a committed environmentalistand is being recognised for all she has given and all she continues to give because of a deep and personal commitment to making a difference to our planet!

WESSA Lifetime Achievement Award – Presented to Dr Jeremy Anderson

Dr Jeremy Lorn Anderson has 40-years of experience in natural resource conservation and ecotourism development in Southern Africa (Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe) and further afield in Kenya, Zambia, Sri Lanka, Syria, United Arab Emirates and China. Dr Anderson has authored over 30 scientific and technical reports and holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. degree in conservation from London University. He is a member of 10 professional and conservation allied societies and has been both a member for many years, as well as branch and regional member and chairman of WESSA. We salute him for his outstanding contributions to conservation and environmental education over is his lifetime. He is most deserving of receiving a lifetime achievement award for WESSA.

WESSA Gold Award

Presented to Patrick Dowling After 19 years as Environmental Educator and Trainer, Patrick has not taken a break. He continues to educate, inspire, lead, change lives, defend what is right, counter what is wrong, and all this with a passion for Earth and humanity. Today there are many men and women who have been taught by Patrick or within working situations have been inspired by him, who now work full time in the environmental sector, both government and NGO. They carry the banner that challenges complacency and acceptance of the status quo. They share the urgency that Patrick instils in us. Today there are many men and women who have been taught by Patrick or within working situations have been inspired by him, who now work full time in the environmental sector, both government and NGO. They carry the banner that challenges complacency and acceptance of the status quo. They share the urgency that Patrick instils in us. WESSA salutes Patrick and bestows the Gold Award to him for a lifetime of commitment to the environment.