Meet Our Students


Meet Some of Our Featured Students

 who have become our family; Earth's Amabassadors.


Each of these passionate, ecosystem enthusiastic individuals have benefited through the Trusts funding and are working through the 14 Month Correspondence course provided by SAN Ecosystems, the Trusts Service Provider.


We are confident that each of these individuals, through their determination and passion for South Africa’s Ecosystems, will and are making a difference to Conservation in our country.





AliciaRöhmMy name is Alicia Röhm and I am a 26 year old teacher from South Africa. The past 3 years my fiancé and I have been living on a 24 hector farm just outside of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.  Even though we are just renting it is our dream and goal to own our own farm one day.


In 2012, I graduated from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University with a 4 year Bachelor of Education degree in Foundation Phase. I have been working for a government school as a Grade R teacher for the past 5 years. It is currently my third year in holding a Grade Head position for Grade 0 and R.  Since my student days, it has been my passion to work with disadvantaged children, rather than those from a higher economical class. From the time I was promoted to Grade Head, I have been making use of the opportunity to create many positive changes for my colleagues, as well as for the learners. I felt that it was important to empower and enrich my group of educators and their approach to the teaching and learning process. This has caused a ripple effect and a positive reaction has been noted from the learners, as well as their parents.


One of the main points of focus in my class has been to create a general awareness of our environment and the issues we face. The current curriculum only allows for a small amount of time in the year to focus on and educate the learners with regards to the environment. It is, therefore, up to each educator to bring to light the importance of caring for our planet and incorporate this way of thinking into our daily life and routine.


My greatest dream is to live and practice a self-sustainable life. We have been consciously working towards such a lifestyle since moving to the farm 3 years ago.Some of our developments and achievements so far have been to successfully maintain a permaculture food garden. We practice the principles of subsistence farming, and through doing so, I have developed an understanding of soil composition; identification of herb plants, vegetable plants and fruit trees as well as the surrounding indigenous flora. I am able to identify many plant pests; I understand the complications of watering schedules and water conservation; the cycles of planting and harvesting and importantly, the relationship between farming and the surrounding wildlife.

Other responsibilities on the farm include that of feeding, cleaning and ensuring the health-care of our animals. We care for many rescued pets and we have a fully functioning free-range chicken coop, which provides us with eggs and meat if need be. All our animals and produce are raised as naturally as possible, without the use of hormones and chemicals. When we have our own land one day we plan to introduce a wider variety of beneficial livestock into our homestead.

I have always had a deep empathy and a good understanding of all animals.  This has led to us helping and rehabilitating any injured or rescued animals we may have come across.  Our aim is always to re-release them back into the wild if the situation allows, otherwise, our home is their home.

Over years of living on the farm, we have become well-accustomed to the chores and responsibilities required of us in order to maintain a stable lifestyle. These include structure maintenance; clearing of invasive plant species; capturing of fresh water; welfare of livestock; sufficient energy consumption; and resource management and planning.

We only hope to be an example for young adults our age, to live more self-sustainably and in doing so benefiting our planet.

I grew up in a family of nature enthusiasts and from a young age we often went camping, hiking and exploring in nature. I believe that this was the foundation on which I built my love of all things natural. Since striving for a self-sustainable lifestyle, issues within the environment have been a topic that I have been looking into and I have realized how oblivious the norm of society is to these problems. This realization has sparked a passion within me, to educate and inform youth from a young age about our environmental issues and the important role we have to play for our future. I feel that those most affected and least informed are people from poorer and rural areas in our country. It is for this reason that I would like to focus my attention on educating the disadvantaged youth about nature conservation. It is important to plant the seed of environmental consciousness during the early stages of childhood.

Economic crises has led to a loss of traditional values and ancestral knowledge on how to live in co-existing harmony with our environment. There is a need to reignite the passion within my pupils to be self-sustainable, regain knowledge of farming skills and integrate this with conscious cultivation methods such as permaculture.

By completing this course, I hope to achieve a greater and more beneficial understanding about nature conservation. This will enable me to carry this vital knowledge over to the youth of this country and in doing so, hopefully improve the quality of life for all. My intention is to start small but with the hope that one day my work will have far reaching effects. I am excited for the opportunity to let this grow into something so much bigger.




emma hay

Hi there. I am delighted to partake in a potentially high impact programme – of the positive kind! My name is Emma Hay, and impacts have been my central focus for some time. I have lived in PE for 4½ years, in a selfcreated, alternative living situation that incorporates attempts at practicing sustainable practices guided by the application of principles of permaculture. I came here to SA from the UK with the sole intention of putting into practice the permaculture principles that I had learned in England back in 2012, after completing a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) there.


I would say that the motivating factor was the current anthropocentric, ecological and social crisis that constitutes the global context of our Earth. I feel as though things really need to change; consumption patterns, industrial development, corporate control and the economic system to name a few, that all pose huge risks to our planet and collective psyche.


Within permaculture I found what I felt to be solutions to some of these issues that really resonated and so, I came to SA to practice applying these ecological design principles; and walk the walk, as they say. Today I love the practice and principles of permaculture more than ever, and have increasing enthusiasm and motivation to develop my skills and share them far and wide with anyone willing to make changes, especially ideological changes. Over the past 4 years, areas of interest, experimentation and application to my life thus far are;

  • Medicinal, indigenous and exotic plants, herbs & trees, Pioneer species & green manure, Building soil and compost creation & humanure, Organic and-heirloom veggie growing (annuals), Edible weeds, Fruit & nut trees, Perennial support systems, Seed saving, Water harvestin, grey water harvesting & earth works/swales
  • Mycellium & soil fungi and related interactions

I am in the process of completing my permaculture design diploma (PDD) via the independent route, which is accredited by the Permaculture Institute in the UK and is a minimum design process of 2 years, only accredited following 5 years of proven practical experience and with 10 related designs. I am also developing my knowledge and application of herbal medicine & food-created wellness with a focus on edible wild food, or ‘food from the veld’ – these factors create the backbone to my attempts to live a life more sustainable and autonomous as well as reflect areas of interest and excitement! It is my intention to eventually combine my permaculture experiences/knowledge and love for the ethos with my formal work experience of facilitating learning, in order to ‘live-out’ my activism. I am perhaps less idealistic about changing our world to protect our beloved and oh-so-essential environment, Professionally, I lecture part-time for NMMU (Development Studies) and Rhodes (Sociology).


I have lectured at both institutes for the past 3, and 4 years respectively. Our tiny home with our parabolic solar cooker and also some evidence of drying and harvesting in progress! 2 The Dev studies course; ‘Environmental Impact Assessment’ is a form of activism for me, since I developed a course that focuses largely on the importance of our environment and the major threats towards our ecological services and ecosystems. I spend time with my students considering some of the ideologies that lead to/underpin environmental degradation, and consider potential changes to the ‘business as usual’ model of high mass consumption and resulting environmental degradation. Herein I find my passion; a desire to learn as much as possible about conserving our planet, on how to reduce consumption and footprint (in all of their forms) and attempting to spread awareness and opportunity for others to do their own thing too, in an informed way and perhaps with more confidence than before. For now, I attempt to help my students analyse the situation we face as a global village, and to help those who already know, to learn all that I have encountered.


Further, I have given talks at permaculture gatherings on herbs for health and wellness, edible weeds and the role of permaculture in addressing food (in)security (as opposed to intensive, industrial agriculture) Additionally, I presented a paper at a conference in Nov 2012 discussing the Green Revolution 1 & 2 and related inability at present to meet food security and sustainability requirements. I have been involved in ‘March Against Monsanto’, the ‘Occupy Movement’ and other campaigns. I would like to conclude by adding that although our environment is my central focus and concern, directly related is my belief in the need for change due to ethical and social considerations. Global inequality (a unit I taught at Rhodes two years ago) and poverty are pressing issues that interlink with the globalized economic model (e.g. economic neoliberalism, continuous growth and power of corporations), etc. Our planet is a mesmerizing place. I see the beauty and connection around me every day. Here in SA, a place I call home, I marvel at the splendour of the natural landscape, of the diversity of biomes, of flora and fauna. I have hiked the Amatole twice, the Otter, the Drakensberg and the Tsitsikamma over the past 4 years. As I spend more and more time in nature whenever the opportunity arises, my motivation grows even more. I want to do all that I can to aid South Africa’s ecological strength and expand my knowledge-base a wide as possible, while always remembering to focus on what we have, not just that which we have lost.




ursula wiblinI am hugely excited finding a course of this nature presented right on my doorstep and leading it, a woman I have met and respect greatly. Thank you for this opportunity to apply for a bursary for the abovementioned course.


Firstly a little bit about whom I am. Since I was a little girl, I used to follow my mommy around her beautiful garden and learnt from a young age to love and respect our Mother Nature and all her creatures. In later years this love grew into a deep seated passion and I was fortunate to learn more, growing plants and designing beautiful indigenous water wise gardens. My love for all things pure together with some health issues made me search for alternatives on conserving, reclaiming heirloom and heritage ecosystems and what I can do to be more mindful of what we consume on our beautiful earth. And what are we doing to replace it...mostly it was educating my clients on how to conserve water, start veggie gardens etc.


Waking up that sleepy fantasy gardener within them, within us all.

My husband has been involved with a Wildlife Estate in P.E for a number of years and during this time I also set up n in-house nursery for them and advising on various beautification and landscaping projects. As they have their own issues regarding alien vegetation, I have also been very interested in that aspect and feel this has been exactly where the road has led me. To identify, reclaim and restore the beautiful Fauna and flora in this part of our countryside. As they have 1000 plus head of wildlife and having fostered many tiny babies, their diet has been a very important aspect for me.

Which brings me to my dream of being able to make a difference in this reserve and many other projects hopefully? The dream where we can give our wild animals what they need to eat, how to let an eco village and its wildlife live in harmony, how to create miniature biomes within the reserve and restore the land to its former glory.





rushka jI am an aspiring organic veggy farmer, permaculturalist in progress and Environmental Activist. I am fascinated and passionate about food and medicinal crops and the freedom to be able to create a sustainable future for our country with regards to food and seeds.


The damage from the toxic pesticides and corporate owned, industrial, monoculture farming system currently squashing our indigenous knowledge, plants and people, is one of my main focuses. The state of our Soil and water

systems because of this, as well as methods used by environmental affairs for alien invasives, another.

Promoting and learning about working with nature, treasuring it and saving the knowledge of seeds, seed saving, indigenous food crops, agro ecological farming systems is my passion. As well as inspiring the average human to realise how important it is to become connected with our earth and food again.


As a homeschooling parent, I like to use any and every opportunity to involve my children in learning experiences with me and one of the priorities for us is to instill in them, these values.

Thankfully they are involved from their hearts, in various different ways, from being in the ground planting, to wanting to study environmental law and talking at action events.


Thank you, for considering me. I am greatly honoured.






khanyisaMy name is Khanyisa Besengile, a 32 year old lady and I am currently a Snr Lab Analyst at Aspen Pharmacare in Port Elizabeth.

 I was born from the rural areas of Mooiplaas, Mzwini Location in East London. I went to Mooiplaas Public School, where I started from Sub A up until Standard 5. I was discovered by one of my teacher Miss Sizani as one of the best students, who had a great potential to make it academically. She offered to take me to stay with her, so that I could have the best education in a multiracial school. My aunt told my mother about Mizamo High School, which my cousin was going to study at.


My parents and aunt agreed that I would go and study at Mizamo High School at N.U 15 Mdantsane, and stay with my aunt. It was a better school compared to studying in rural schools. When I started I was teased by some boys calling me a farm girl, asking how many cows my father had. I didn’t get bothered though, I knew I went there to get the best education, not to try and fit in. I made a name for myself as I studied hard and excelled in Mathematics and Physical Science. I passed my matric with a Merit, and later I went to study at former PE Technikon.


I studied national diploma (ND) Analytical Chemistry, which I completed successfully. I worked as an Intern at a pharmaceutical company called Bodene (Fresenius Kabi Manufacturing SA). I was later employed as a Chemical Analyst. I gained 8 years of experience from working with raw materials, components, to bulks and finished products. In 2010 I wanted to study further BTech Quality and I was funded by Bodene. I completed that successfully and I was awarded by the Faculty of Engineering as the Best Student for Quality Auditing for 2011. After completing my studies I was more thorough as I understood the importance of my job. I inspired my colleagues to also do their best. I am currently working for about 4 years now at Aspen Pharmacare.


My passion for livestock started when my elder brother was going to the initiation school. My late father had cattle and goats and my brother was herding them. My father also had a tractor that he used to plough mealies in the fields with. I saw a need to take over after my brother, since there was no one who was going to herd them. I took that as a challenge at the age of 12, working with boys. I thought to myself if they could do it, so could I. I was willing to learn. I did it with passion and I enjoyed it. It was an adventure to me.

When it comes to gardening my mother is my mentor. I consult her, when it comes to gardening skills. She grows her own vegetables, and has inspired me to do the same. She always says that God has given us hands to use, and what better way than growing our own food to eliminate poverty.

Agriculture has always been my passion and I would like to take it professionally as a career. Obtaining this Bursary can help me have a solid background on this career path, I would like to take. I strongly believe that knowledge is power.


Through studying the Introduction of Ecosystem Interpretation and Biodiversity Development, I will be able to take care of nature. Through studying I would be able to go back and give back to my community. I believe that hard work, dedication, knowledge, passion and God’s given talent will take me a step ahead in the agriculture field. I also believe through education I will be more empowered, so that l can also empower others. One of my other talents is I am influential person by motivating people to be the best and empowering them to grow food is my mission as it will eliminate poverty and crime. Being a business woman later will create job opportunities to more people, as jobs are scarce in our country.

My goals are the following:

  • Understand and be able to interpret ecosystem.
  • I will therefore be able to take care of nature.
  • Master crop production. I would need a Mentor who has an organic farm.
  • Be involved in community projects, teaching people how to grow food organically.
  • Motivate especially young people against drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and peer-pressure and encourage them to go to school.
  • I aspire to be a Business woman owning an organic vegetable farm, later extend to animal production.
  • Studying this course I can make a contribution where I currently work on waste management.
  • I believe with all this I can make a huge difference.

So far a project that I have done is that I have managed to raise funds for a High School Student, who will be going to a school tour in Europe next year. Promoted one of Mrs. Eastern Cape finalists. (1st Princess). In future I would not only want to ask for donations on a student’s behalf, but I would also contribute as a business woman funding students who excel in school that are under privileged. Excellence, dedication, hard work and passion really pays off!!!

The Slogan I have adapted is “Be the mentor you never had” and “empower as you go a step up.”




brent hillIn 11th grade, my principle sent me to UWC to get registered for environmental studies since that was always my passion in activism at school. The people who interviewed me were in shock and explained that the Department of Public Health is not the best place to be to issue warrants of arrests and fines against all polluters, since many corporate representatives played golf with corporate heads. I guess I was a bit overzealous and in my disappointment, turned to project management in the corporate environment until the eco bug bit me again after the beginning of the millennium.


In 2013, I realised the extent to which biotech corporations and the oil industry's “Green Revolution” were contributing to climate change and it has been my full focus since. It would help a great deal if I did a formal course on the subject, as opposed to only doing my own research related to facilitating international events against the problem or for the solution. This can allow me to follow my passion more thoroughly.

Thank you for this opportunity.













I matriculated from St Dominic’s Priory High School in 2016, a school in which I took Biology as a subject. I say this because in doing so, I developed an interest in the world around me. Not the business world or corporate world, but the actual world itself. The outdoors has played a big part in my life while growing up. From a young age I learned to appreciate my environment and all the living things in it. Fortunately I have parents who love the outdoors and love animals and we’d often come home to a stray dog or bird that my dad had found on the side of the road. So basically, if it weren’t for my parents bringing me up and raising me to love nature, I might not be typing this right now.

My real reason for wanting to do this course is because I want to further my knowledge in order to further my knowledge. Don’t understand? Well let me explain to you exactly what I mean.

I saw a clip on Facebook about 2 or 3 years ago and I was disgusted. The clip showed the reality of commercial animal farming and the way these animals in certain farms were treated. At the end of the clip I was sobbing and it made me realize what I could possibly do in life. I immediately started doing research on environmental law, and although the field for environmental law isn’t big in South Africa, I believe it is a very fast growing one.

As I contemplated the idea of studying and becoming an environmental lawyer, I realized that I shouldn’t be doubting myself because, in my mind, in 10 or 20 years time from now people aren’t going to be worrying about shopping malls and cars, they’re going to be worrying about the environment. We need food more than anything else money can buy and that is why the environment should become everyone’s priority.

I am currently taking a gap year because I was unsure of what exactly to study and wanted to experience life out of school before jumping back into studies. People may call it “finding yourself” ,but I call it “being precise”. I’m not going to study the first thing that pops into my head and waste my parents’ money. So I’m taking a gap year to be 100% sure of what I want to study.

This is why this course is a perfect fit for my situation. I want to broaden my knowledge of the environment in order to make a final decision on studying environmental law, simple as that. Fortunately for me, I enjoy biology and the outdoors so this course could actually be very fun for me. I’m always in the outdoors whether it be surfing, snorkeling, hiking, fishing or just simply enjoying being on my boyfriend’s farm.

To summarize, I love nature and it’s always been a big part of my life, I have a deep love for animals which sparked my interest in environmental law and I generally would be keen to further my knowledge of the earth and the methods of environmental conservation as I think the Earth is worth fighting for.




peter maraisI started my working career as a student in the construction industry,(destruction industry). Later I changed over to a supplier of electrical wire components in the motor industry. Eventually I ended up back in the construction industry. The result of being in the wrong industries and living in a city caught up with me, I ended up with depression.


My marriage ended for the second time. Before leaving Johannesburg, I helped a friend to load of rubbish at municipal dumping site. Standing ontop of this "mountain" of refuse, I became gobbsmacked, this was enough to motivate me to make a start on the journey of conservation.


I packed my bicycle (mountain bike) and headed off to "where ever", twelve days and 970 kms later I stopped in Queenstown , Eastern Cape. From there, I made my way down by train and vehicle to Port Alfred. I recovered here and then moved to Port Elizabeth. I did odd jobs and handyman work until an opportunity arrose for me to start a new carreer in conservation as a nature guide .

So far, I have attained my NQF 2 nature guide qualification, I also have now six and a half years guiding experiance. I have guided in the Addo Elephant National Park as well as a private game reserve too.

I am currently based just outside the mid-western side of the Kruger National Park. I conduct game drives in the Kruger Park as well as the Manyeleti game reserve at present.

Having a deeper understanding of the local ecology will pay dividends as I shall be attaining my my back up trails guide in the following low season too. I believe the above mentioned courses shall compliment each other in the form of a larger knowledge base to have to inform my guests on conservation and South African nature.

Also, I would like to start a recycling program in one or more communities in the area, so that the local communities can be educated and helped in the right direction.

I believe that I already have changed many guests perception about what conservation is all about, my aim is to reach many more and also the local public too.

I believe, by completing the above mentioned courses, I can have the "tools"to reach many more people out there.