Global win for local organisation

The trail rangers team from the Idas Valley Community Trails with two visitors to the trails. WAITING TO SEE IF THEY CAN FIND NAMES OF GIRLS IN PIC. Rangers from left, are Ashley Mezichel, Errol Manuel, Devino Meyer, Aiden Thomas, Shane Christians and Eon Hendrikse.

A community organisation based in Stellenbosch has with for its work on creating and maintaining local trails and transforming the area into a more sustainable natural environment, recently scooped up an international award.

The Idas Valley Community Trails (IVCT) is a winner of the 2022 World Economic Forum’s BiodiverCities UpLink Challenge. “Being awarded as one on the 15 winners from 78 projects across the world, is indeed a great honour for us.

“The award means that we will be provided an opportunity to showcase our project on an international platform and most importantly be an opportunity to network and engage with other similar organisations that are doing incredible work across the world to leverage support and funding to move our organization to financial sustainability, which will support of bigger vision for our community,” says Etienne Basson, the organisation’s co-founder, and project lead.

The upliftment of Idas Valley and surrounding communities the core vision which, the organisation since its establishment two years ago has been hard at work to achieve.

“Our main goals are to create a safe and sustainable Adventure Tourism

Hub in Idas Valley and surrounding areas, that include mountain bike, hiking and running trails, that will link into the broader Stellenbosch and surrounds; provide training and education programmes for local unemployed youth and to extend our work beyond the trails and create and implement an environmental education programme in the local schools,” he says.

Together with his co-founder, Sylvin Thomas and team entered the challenge in 2021. One of the judging criteria of the Challenge is for entry submissions to suggest solutions to restore, enhance and rehabilitate natural ecosystems.

“Our submission was based on 3 aspects, clearing, and maintaining the existing trails, which we have achieved so far. Rehabilitating the area and creating biodiversity corridors to encourage the return on indigenous plants and animals and providing employment to local youth to implement the project,” Mr Basson gives more detail.

In line with their aim to upliftment locally, the organisation currently employs six trail rangers from Idas Valley and five from Kylemore. Shane Christians is one of the dedicated trail rangers, who volunteered since IVCT’s inception.

“The best part of my job is the fact that get to be out in nature, which I love, and I am able to develop new routes for tourists, while also creating better landscaping views and maintaining routes.”

The trail around the Idas Valley dam is his favourite. “I love the reflection of the dam and many tourists like to take photos in front of the dam. You also have a really great view of Simonsberg Mountain and on the trail if you walk, jog or even cycle there’s a nice cold breeze blowing through the track and there’s also a fresh scent of nature.”

The organisation is progressing in their work. “At this point the main transformation we have made was to clear and maintain the trails in the area to turned it into a safe space for recreational users. Our next area of focus is to rehabilitate the area, starting with clearing of invasive alien trees and establish indigenous plants nurseries in the community to assist with the active restoration of the area back to indigenous fynbos.”

Stellenbosch Mayor Gesie van Deventer applauded their achievement. “This award provides the Ida’s Valley Community Trails with international recognition and an important platform to showcase their work and our natural landscapes to the world.”

How can the public support their work? “The public can support us by coming out to Idas Valley and enjoying the trails. There are various routes to choose from and we also provided guided walks and bike tours. Our focus is to make the project financially sustainable and any donations towards our project will be greatly appreciated. We have a Snapscan account to ease the process of making donations,” says Mr Basson.

They teamed up with the Wild Runner Trails Series for a Trail Run presented by WWF South Africa which will take place on Saturday February 26. Find out more about the event on the Ida’s Valley Community Trails Facebook page.