The Maharishi Ezemvelo Rural Campus (MERU) Campus was founded to educate disadvantaged youth in the skills needed to participate in the green economy. The innovative concept combines personal, financial and environmental high-quality education with experiential learning; students live and study at the 4,500 hectare Ezemevlo Nature Reserve near Bronkhorstspruit, in South Africa.
Hands-on training for students in the practical implementation of environmentally supportive industries provides an invaluable opportunity to put into practice what they are learning theoretically. Students receive entrepreneurial yet practical training so that, upon graduation, they are equipped to either go on to gainful employment or start their own business.
MERU also has a focus on giving younger youth (school children) knowledge and experience in ‘green’ short courses at Ezemvelo. It is our aim to host 5,000 to 10,000 youth per annum to attend our conservation, bio-diversity, green economy, eco-tourism and waste management training. Since 2008, more than 6,000 youth have experienced leadership camps and training at Ezemvelo.
The vision for MERU is protection of the environment and to make a substantial contribution to the green economy, through the provision of practical, experiential natural resource management education to the youth of South Africa.
Aim: To create a campus internationally-recognized as diverse, and ethically engaged, promoting the positive transformation of South Africa through experiential natural resource management education.
Goals for MERU Eco Campus:
- To build a state of the art green University for Sustainability campus (completely off the grid), in a protected biome with rare species. It will include a climate change and bio-diversity centre as a showcase education site that influences and changes the views of up to 50,000 visitors per year (this will include climate centre, exhibitions, conference and training facilities, accommodation, lecture theatres, classrooms, research labs, faculty housing, dining areas, restaurant, shop, green technologies displays and more).
- To create a campus internationally-recognized as diverse, and ethically engaged, promoting the positive transformation of South Africa through developing a new generation of conscious sustainabilty leaders for all areas of government, private sector, and civil society.
- Train young people at scale for careers in the green economy (including consulting and other forms of influence and very practical approaches for leaders to follow sustainable practices).
- Provide students with graduate qualifications for the green economy.
- Provide an experiential learning platform where students live for three years in a carbon-neutral way; students live in, and manage the Ezemvelo Nature Reserve (and associated activities) during their undergraduate program.
- Contribute to the livelihoods of the students through the provision of remunerated, part-time work experience in the nature reserve during their undergraduate program.
- To provide skilled, experienced graduates for employment in the green economy.
The experiential element of the program, which is supported by a strong mentorship component, includes:
- Nature Reserve and natural resources management: students will be responsible for managing the Reserve and all of the associated activities.
- Students will be responsible for the growing and preparation of all meals.
- Researching, implementing and maintaining alternative energy technologies, ultimately resulting in the eco-campus being carbon neutral.
- Students will be trained in IT, with use of the Internet and social media for the purpose of marketing the Nature Reserve.
- Students will conduct game drives, nature walks and schools tours.
The vision for MERU is protection of the based on our pioneering T.E.A.C.H. model, students are trained in:
Tourism entrepreneurship: training for students for the tourism sector.
Energy entrepreneurship: alternative energy technologies, including learning how to create businesses in solar-electricity installations, wind installations, geo-thermal installations and the creation of bio-diesel. As new technologies emerge and advances are made, students will be kept abreast of the developments in this field.
Agri-preneurship: training for small-scale farmers (vegetable production).
Construction entrepreneurship: businesses around eco-construction and African construction, including game lodges.
Heritage entrepreneurship: building businesses around aspects of our natural and cultural heritage, such as wildlife, the environment and their conservation; African arts and crafts, African food, storytelling and African culture.
The Ezemvelo Nature Reserve
The 4,500 hectare reserve is located just outside Bronkhorstspruit off the R25 towards Groblersdal, a mere hour from downtown Johannesburg and 45 minutes from Pretoria. The eastern boundary of the reserve is the Wile River, which demarcates the boundary between the Gauteng and Mpumalanga provinces.
The Ezemvelo Nature Reserve is a for-profit business, owned and managed by the students of MERU, who help to run the business for learning experience and earning a small income, will help contribute to sustainability.
The Reserve is situated on the Bakenveld, which is the transition ecotone between grassland and savannah biomes. Ecologically this is very valuable as elements of both biomes occur within the reserve, creating very rich biodiversity. The reserve is naturally divided into well preserved grasslands and associated rocky outcrops and wetlands. The clear waters of the Wilge River is the boundary and forms beautiful gorges and valleys of colourful Wilge sandstone. The reserve is home to some 268 bird species, and a host of game; black and blue wildebeest, kudu, zebra, blesbuck, waterbuck, steenbok, eland, gemsbok, springbok, civet, caracal, vervet monkey, baboon, aardvark and aardwolf (just to mention a few).
Context: South Africa Green Economy
The Green Economy is one of the six priority sectors of the New Growth Path because of its potential for job creation and carbon emission reductions (South Africa is ranked the 14th bigger emitter of greenhouse gases in the world).
The Green Economy Accord (of which government, business, labour unions and civil society are signatories) aims to create 300 000 jobs in activities that contribute to greening the economy.
The green economy has the potential to create approximately 98 000 new direct jobs, in the short term, almost 255 000 in the medium term and around 462 000 employment opportunities in the formal economy in the long term.
The Community and Individual Development Association
The Community and Individual Development Association, established in 1979, is a non-profit project-facilitation organization with a 35-year track record in South Africa, focused on the provision of mass-scale, low-cost, high quality, effective and holistic education for South African youth. The organisation is credited with pioneering the ‘Free Tertiary Education’ movement in South Africa and has over the past 15 years has created six free-access higher-education institutions such as the Maharishi Institute,the MERU Ezemvelo Eco-Campus, and the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship.
The organisation has educated over 14,250 unemployed young people out of poverty: youth working in jobs with combined annual salaries in excess of R700 million, and with combined estimated lifetime earnings of over R17 billion. The return on social investment is between 5 000 to 10 000% – money that is going back into the hands of poor families, through providing tertiary or vocational education alongside practical work experience for an unemployed individual that in turn through sustainable employment creates a new breadwinner in each family.
The organisation has won multiple awards for innovation in education such as the $1 million Skoll Foundation Award for Social Entrepreneurship, an Ashoka Fellowship. In addition C.I.D.A. has won numerous South African awards as the most innovative organisation in the country.
As the result of its success in creating youth employment, the organisation was approached by Government to develop a national youth employment strategy focusing on entrepreneurship. As a result, the CEO of Community and Individual Development Association, Dr Taddy Blecher was appointed by the Deputy President of SA as Chairman of the SA National Government task team on Entrepreneurship, Education and Job Creation and has helped to develop the national entrepreneurship strategy for South Africa, which includes the introduction of social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship into the national school system for 12-million school children over the ensuing years.
For more information, please visit http://www.communityindividual.org/.
The Maharishi Institute
The Maharishi Institute was created in 2007 to make tertiary education accessible to all through providing support to students wishing to access education through accredited educational partners. This is done through a unique “self-funding” education model, which won a Global Education Award in 2010 for innovation.
The non-profit organisation was established to develop a new generation of leaders for South Africa through a consciousness-based approach to education and serves to uplift and provide educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth.
The Maharishi Institute (MI) and Invincible Outsourcing (IO) in downtown Johannesburg, presently support 700 full-time students annually through international business degrees, and up to 1,000 part-time students in obtaining tertiary education, skills training and work place experience through our “learn and earn” model.
Of the 14,500 formerly unemployed youth with whom the organisation has worked over the past 14 years, 90% are now employed, earning an estimated R700 million in combined annual salaries with approximate earnings of R17 billion over their working careers.
We focus on developing the youth through education, self-development and work experience