The Isiqalo Project:

Launching youth into careers in nature

BotSoc works to know, grow, protect and enjoy South Africa’s indigenous plants. But for BotSoc, ‘grow’ also takes on an additional meaning: the importance of growing young people in botanical careers.

That’s why BotSoc and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) are working together in a new initiative, called the Isiqalo Project. “Isiqalo” means “beginnings” in isiXhosa – and this captures the project’s goal to launch youth who have not been able to access study or work opportunities, into careers linked to nature, in support of South Africa’s rich natural heritage.


We’re doing this through training and capacity development for youth workers – working with partners to provide these young people with work exposure in the areas of horticulture, conservation, landscape restoration, as well as general life skills.


Get involved

As BotSoc, we’re only at the start of this journey with our youth. And there are now big plans in place to grow the Isiqalo Project, as we raise funds to continue developing and rolling it out. You can also get involved

Or contact us by emailing or contact 021 797 2090 to chat to us about opportunities to support.

How does the project work?

The Isiqalo Project initially piloted the initiative in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, where we worked with 12 young people who were previously unemployed, but who were hired by SANBI to undertake horticultural and conservation at Kirstenbosch. However, the project soon grew to reach 26 young people working in the Kirstenbosch, Harold Porter and the Karoo Desert National Botanical Gardens, who participated in the Isiqalo Project. These 26 participants form part of a career development programme in which 40 youths were hired by SANBI, funded by BotSoc, across gardens countrywide.

In addition to their work in the garden, the Isiqalo Project participants have also been taken on a journey of growth and development.

That’s why the Isiqalo Project works to:

  • Provide training and capacity development to this team;
  • Help them to access opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship and education in nature-related sectors once the contract has ended;
  • And draws on the expertise of BotSoc members as speakers and trainers, building on SANBI’s biodiversity human capital development strategy.

Driven by volunteers: Our sincere thanks

We are grateful to all our partners and friends for helping to bring this important project to life, in particular to BotSoc member, Caroline Petersen, for being the driving force behind the project. We’re also grateful to our SANBI partners for their key support, Sustainability Matters for rolling out the life-skills programme, the Kirstenbosch Branch of the Botanical Society for their help, and all others involved.

The three legs of the project:

Life Skills

We’ve partnered with non-profit organisation, Sustainability Matters, who have developed a 6-month programme that builds the desire, knowledge and tools to make better, more informed and sustainable life and career choices and to support personal and community resilience building. This includes weekly life-skills sessions and exciting outings and events. Their lessons look to cultivate mindfulness and reflection, to help respondents deal with clarity to challenging situations. They also learn about climate change as a human development issue. And these young learners participate in the Sustainability Marketplace, a forum where they hear from business that showcase the way to a green economy. At the end of the 6-months, participants graduate at a celebratory event.


BotSoc staff and members and SANBI staff host monthly talks on matters related to botany, ecology, horticulture, landscaping, restoration, fynbos, threatened species, alien invasions, fire management and much more to the youth workers, and at times to other garden staff as well. We are also developing a bank of information and contacts about opportunities for work, study and internships, and we bring in speakers on these topics as well.


BotSoc is investigating the opportunity to pair participants with BotSoc members who will serve as mentors, to support them in their learning journey and next steps in terms of bursaries and applications for study, internships and work opportunities, or finding support for starting small businesses.


Monday to Friday 08h30 to 16h00. Closed on weekends and public holidays.

Contact Us

We are experiencing intermittent faults with our landlines. If you can't get through on our landline (021 797 2090), please phone or send a message to our alternate WhatsApp number: +27 65 922 6163.






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