Thursday, 2 March 2017

Five Environmental Organisations Making a Difference in Cape Town

While there are many things presently wrong with our world and some people making decisions that endanger our collective welfare, there are also plenty of positive, forward-thinking and regenerative enterprises at work in the world.

There are plenty of articles and thoughtpieces that discuss mostly what is wrong with the world and problems, and, while those are needed, I personally prefer my blog to be a home for solutions, showcasing engaging, optimistic people.

The groups that I have profiled below represent, to me, the optimism, creative thinking and bravery required to improve the world around us. If you live in Cape Town or know someone who does, someone who is interested in collaborating with a diverse group of people, someone who is ready to participate in fulfilling and productive activities, this article might be of benefit. Here, I introduce five different organisations that I feel are making a difference in Cape Town, summarise what each group is up to and provide contact details.

It is my hope that a pattern should emerge, a pattern in which the efforts of those working for positive change become more visible, and that it should become easier for us in Cape Town to network, by meeting people involved in these organisatons and, where possible, supporting their work. In this way, we will strengthen in the network the attractor patterns of optimism, creativity and energy flow.

As such, I've profiled these five organisations to provide an overview of some of the people I've met in the last four years on my journey of integral transformation.

1) Tyisa Nabanye

Tyisa Nabanye is located at the old military base (Erf 81) on Signal Hill, between Tamboerskloof and Bo-Kaap.

Andre in the garden - by Dimitri Selibas (2014)
In 1994, Andre Laubscher started a foster farm at the abandoned military base, looking after vulnerable children from the street and integrating them into farm life, providing them the ability to play with animals.

Later, organic gardeners joined their occupation, and with consulting, designed a garden in the space.

Since then, they also started and host a market every Sunday to sell their surplus and provide other organic farmers in Cape Town a place to sell their goods.

For a more complete history on Erf 81 watch A Farm in the Rainbow, a short and moving documentary about the farm.

A small group of occupants and gardeners ended up forming the NPO Tyisa Nabanye, in August 2013. It is a collaboration between food security activists, neighbours and people living on the site. Their mission involves exploring the possibilities of growing food in an urban environment. In isiXhosa, 'Tyisa Nabanye' means 'feed the others'.

The garden and the community hall
Garden Party, May 2015

Members frequently host and give workshops and events encompassing their goals of food security and employment creation.

In the attendance of one such workshop in July 2015, I presented a talk on Ecovillage Development in the Western Cape in collaboration with Tyisa Nabanye, Western Cape Ecovillage Collective, Sacred Earth Association, and SEED.

They have an organic garden that is capable of feeding up to six families and producing a sellable surplus!

Tyisa Nabanye's community garden in 2014

If you want to find out more this interesting community, be sure to meet Mzu, Chuma, Unathi and Lumko on a Sunday at their farmers' market! The market is usually held from 10am - 1pm.

They are in the process of redeveloping their volunteer programme, and I shall update this space when they are ready to restart their programme.

Here is a link to their Facebook page.
Here is a link to an article about them: 'The Guerilla Gardeners' by Dimitri Selibas. (August 2014).

2) SOUL Trust

S.O.U.L Trust is an acronym for Sharing Our Ubuntu Legacy, which is a Public Benefit Organisation founded in August 2012 and registered in 2013.

The focus of the organisation is in transforming the way South Africans donate and receive. After initially performing charity work in Langa, Philippi East and Westlake, they were inspired to change a mindset, in which people receiving donations and assistance do not feel like they are begging for help, but that they are uplifting themselves.

In my own words, this involves the shift of one's mindset from thinking "I am being granted help out of mercy" into "I am uplifting myself while being supported".

Methodology used thus far has been the establishment of an Exchange system. From their Facebook page, founder Tracy writes:

We envisioned a space where impoverished yet active community members were able to shop for items they needed. We also understood that outsiders can’t change a community; a community can only truly change when its own members actively worked together to change it. So we developed a system where community members were connected with grass roots projects, where they could volunteer or learn or both. For their participation they would earn credits which could then be redeemed for resources.

In this way, people who are economically disadvantaged by having less access to the formal economic system of Rands can receive community credits for participating in learning/volunteer events that are aimed at benefiting a community.

This means that even from poverty-threatened communities, individuals can make a difference. In September 2016, Cynthia and Roland from Jabulani Day Care Centre in Westlake helped organise a donation from Ferndale Nursery in Constantia! This donation was supported by SOUL.

The children of Jabulani Daycare Centre
Community members help clean up

New plants on a pavement in Westlake, Cape Town

Beneficiaries who wish to apply to support community programmes can apply to SOUL either by giving sponsored time to a project, or by paying a monthly donation to SOUL's community projects that will support the Exchange program, and events such as the tree planting (as above) and community recycling initiatives.

SOUL is currently in the process of updating their web site. In the mean time, you can contact Tracy at

3) Shift

Shift is a Social Organisation aiming to co-create a peaceful, united and sustainable Earth in collaboration with people. Their mission is to inspire and create change through self-empowerment, social development and eco-sustainability.

In October 2014, they started hosting the popular Full Moon Meditation events at Camps Bay Beach, which are now attended by up to 1,500 people!

Camps Bay Beach, Cape Town

The meditation events are held with the objective of sharing the practice of mindfulness meditation with people in Cape Town. Meditation events typically include yoga practice, qi gong, large group guided meditation, silent meditation, hooping and fire breathing.  I recommend watching a video of the Meditation event, because it's free to attend and usually happens on the weekends, so it can include people who work full time. Camps Bay Beach is on a MyCiti bus route from Cape Town.

Meditation practices of yoga, qi gong and group guided meditations help us become more in tune with our bodies and also our Earth.

In a heightened state of awareness we become more sensitive and aware of where there is stress and pain and how it can be healed, in ourselves, in others and in our environment.

Silent meditation while the sun slowly sets can be a time for us to reflect on the Earth's movement around the Sun, which involves becoming aware of the cycles of Nature and reminding us to work with Nature and be in its flow.

Shift facilitates yoga, qi gong and hooping classes at their studio, located at Soul Studio in Salt River, Cape Town, and has also done outreach programmes teaching yoga in townships at under-resourced schools.

Shift has also helped start up the company GezaKapa, which is a community-driven recycling collection service, waste processor and compost manufacturer. At present, you can drop off your waste with Joseph at the Gardens Bowling Club on Upper Orange St, Monday-Friday at 7am-4pm or Saturdays 7am-1pm.

GezaKapa recycling centre in Cape Town

If you would like to know more about possibilities for recycling in Cape Town, see this article by Cape Town Magazine.

See Shift's web site and their Facebook site.

4) The Philippi Horticultural Association

The Philippi Horticultural Association helps the community protect the Philippi Horticultural Area, a 3,000 hectare Agriculturally-zoned area of land from the incursion of  would-be urban developers and sand miners, in order to safeguard Cape Town's food security, water security and soil security. They are working to declare the P.H.A a national asset - the country's first protected agricultural area.

At present, the Philippi Area produces 200,000 tons of vegetables per year, and is on top of an aquifer with an area of 630 km2. It is hard to overstate the importance of an area that:

-can produce 50-80% of Cape Town's food
-can produce up to 30% of Cape Town's water use needs, while Cape Town presently suffers a drought
-is a vulnerable wetland ecosystem with high biodiversity
-employs many disadvantaged South Africans
-is home to over 200,000 people.

For these reasons, I consider it essential that no one should be allowed to get away with any behaviour that may threaten the health of this already vulnerable ecosystem.

Recently, development companies have attempted to rezone areas of Philippi, Cape Town without an Environmental Impact Assessment, something that is typically not allowed in South Africa. Officially, it has already been recommended twice to maintain and preserve the horticulural land, but the City has thus far been determined to proceed in satisfying the wishes of would-be developers. When members of the civic association have attempted to contact the Mayoral committee, they have been ignored. 'Public participation' processes have already excluded the public.

PHA protest (16 Feburary 2017)

The public were not impressed about being ignored.

It seems that the peaceful protests are startting to make headway. The PHA has recently won a victory, in which Heritage Western Cape has dismissed an appeal to rezone 96 hectares out of the total 3,000 ha of the PHA.

The campaign is headed by Nazeer Sonday, and supported by agronomist Brian Joffin. You can view their Facebook page here.

They have a volunteer gardening programme on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I previously shared my experience volunteering here.

Vegkop Farm in Philippi, where volunteers are invited to help out

Contact the Philippi Horticultural Association at

5) Guerilla House

Guerilla House is a learning platform for the experimentation and pursuit of regenerative technologies and regenerative worldviews. 

Guerilla House provides an impromptu and organic training space where people can learn practical urban permaculture skills, deepen interconnection, and actively engage in regeneration as a collective.

Soil mixing: Grow Your Own Food

They currently offer weekly workshops on topics, including:

-introduction to urban permaculture and food growing,
-soil fertility,
-plant propagation and starting a backyard nursery,
-grey water systems and water harvesting,
-biodegradable detergents, soap making, biochar, herbalism
-low tech mushroom cultivation

Build a Geodesic Dome
Sheet mulching: Grow Your Own Food

They also offer a design and consulting service for those wanting to bring permaculture into their lives. You can join their mailing list to be notified of upcoming workshops (which usually take place on  weekends, so even if you work full time you may still have a chance to attend.)

They have a volunteer programme every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30am - 12:30pm. To volunteer, or to contact them, message them at

Something I feel that makes Guerilla House special is how Imraan and Josh include all participants in a collaborative network. They emphasise that permaculture skills can be found in each of us, and that all we need to do to bring it out is facilitate and hold a creative space. Imraan and Josh's enthusiasm and wisdom transcend generations, and their workshops have appealed to people of all ages and from different backgrounds.

You can view their Facebook page here.

* * *

It is my hope that through providing this overview, that it will be easier to network and connect the dots of positive progress in the environment in Cape Town.

There are many more organisations - off the top of my head, SEED, Greenpop and Abalimi Bezekhaya come to mind. There are just as certainly so many more organisations that I've never heard of, where people are doing brilliant environmental work. We as people are not going to let the problems in our society go unanswered!

It is important that we work together, just as it is important that we view these apparently separate organisations as part of a greater mission and objective, which is to help us become more conscious as a species about both the mistaken danger we can inflict on the environment, but more importantly, how we can regenerate and improve the lives of others by growing food, educating others, buying locally, recycling, protecting important ecosystemic resources and showing one another love and care.


  1. I found your blog really interesting and informative. It's so good to read about positive and uplifting achievements rather than hear about all that's wrong. Keep it up.

  2. great stuff, what amazing people we have in our communities....thanks for sharing