What’s been happening at the Kwendalo Institute

We’ve had a busy few months of activity with the Kwendalo Institute as we forge new partnerships that align with our expertise and core focus areas. 

In May, we officially welcomed Dr. Matthew Zylstra as Programme Coordinator and Principal Researcher to the Kwendalo Institute. Dr. Zylstra will further develop the institute research and education programmes, including spearheading the work on Nature Referrals (NRx). 

Since his arrival, Dr. Zylstra has engaged with the following:

  • Outeniqua Naturalists Club (ONC):  Dr. Zylstra presented to members of the ONC about Kwendalo’s programme of work and specifically the rationale and progress behind Nature Referrals and status and successes of The Harmony Project.  
  • Plett Oceans Festival’s Marine Science Symposium:  Dr. Zylstra delivered a presentation on his decade-long naturalist engagement with the Keurbooms Estuary showcasing some of his wildlife encounters and curious findings.
  • Environmental Youth Circle (EYC) Camp: Dr. Zylstra led a day filled with fun and mindful nature awareness activities at Salt River for township youth involved in EYC groups that are being co-created by the dynamic organisation – Cultural Connections.  We’re currently exploring further outdoor learning collaborations.
  • Spirit of the Wild:  Dr. Zylstra co-facilitated two week-long wild immersion programmes at Bergplaas Nature Reserve which serve to deepen participants felt sense of connection with Self and the rest of nature, promoting personal and planetary health.
  • Nature Coincidences & Compassion: Dr. Zylstra was invited to co-host The Coincidence Project’s Speaker Series on the topic of “Nature Coincidences & Compassion”. Dr. Zylstra spoke about the part of his doctorate research (completed through Stellenbosch University, 2010-2014) that explored the impact of synchronicity as a meaningful nature experience.  Watch the webinar recording here
  • Trends in Nature Connectedness: Duing September, Dr. Zylstra travelled to The Netherlands and presented to a group of scientists at Wageningen University (hosted by the Forest & Nature Conservation Policy Group) on progress in research and practice around human-nature connectedness, and providing examples from his related work in South Africa and Australia.

The Institute has also been active in supporting Kwendalo Gardens in embarking on our journey toward biodynamic farming. Both Dr. Zylstra and Kwendalo Gardens team led by our estate manager, Gift Lwazi have been regular attendees of the local biodynamic study groups being convened by revered Plett elder Avice Hindmarsh, an expert in food growing and other related topics. Kwendalo is now a member of the Biodynamic Agricultural Association of Southern Africa , and endeavours to adopt the biodynamic principles and practices across the estate.

The Harmony Project continues to grow and attract the interest as well as being invited to contribute to other spaces.  Tash Wilbert, coordinator for the Harmony Project was recently involved in a Mandela Day initiative on the Cape and talks are underway to support experiential learning activities being proposed at Pledge Nature Reserve in Knynsa. 

Last but not least, the Harmony Project’s end-of-term excursion for the Grade 2 learners from Bahia Formosa school down was held at the Keurbooms Estuary.  The intention was to learn about the animal life and their homes (habitat) and all was going well until a wild winter front hit us in an instant and sent bodyboards, equipment and people scattering in all directions.  But that was also fun in a different way and with everyone finding shelter, warm clothes and transport back to school, it was definitely an outing to remember! We will return to complete the activity next term.


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