Updated: Thursday, 19 April 2012

Sustainability Institute: Summary Overview

The Sustainability Institute is an international living and learning centre located outside the South African university town of Stellenbosch. Surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the Cape's towering mountains and rooted in an agricultural community needing to break free from its' racial past, the Sustainability Institute provides a space for people to explore an approach to creating a more equitable society that lives in a way that sustains rather than destroys the eco-system within which all society is embedded.

The Sustainability Institute forms part of the wider Lynedoch EcoVillage. This is an emerging ecologically designed socially mixed community built around a learning precinct, the heart of which is the Lynedoch pre- and Primary School attended by 450 children who come mainly from the families of farmworkers. This emerging community offers a unique African setting where creative work and learning can be inspired by the joys and challenges of sustainability in practice.

Founded in 1999, the Sustainability Institute provides residential accommodation for visiting writers, artists, activists, volunteers and scholars, and a learning space for participants in the Institute's various educational programmes.

The Institute and the Lynedoch Primary School share a large ecologically designed building. This is why children seem so present in the daily life of the Institute. After the chattering and giggling children have gathered in the hall for the morning assembly, the Principal leads them in a prayer that often starts with a word of thanks for the beauty and wonder of the Western Cape's unique ecosystem which includes the grand mountains peaks, the exceptional diversity of the 'fynbos' plant kingdom, the ancient history of local settlement, and the wild and windy coast. Although the children come from some of the poorest families in the country, the Principal reminds them of the promise of a better life through education. He offers them the possibility of hope. And this, in essence, is what sustainability is all about.

For a brochure for distribution about the SI click HERE

Potted History

The Sustainability Institute, established in 1999 by Eve Annecke and Mark Swilling, focuses on learning for sustainable living and is based within the Lynedoch EcoVillage Development, Stellenbosch. The focus has been combining practice with theory in a way that integrates ecology and equity in support of a sustainable South Africa, with special reference to ways of reducing and eradicating poverty.

Summary of current initiatives:

  • A home base at the Lynedoch EcoVillage Development which demonstrates child-centred sustainable living in practice
  • Masters Programme in Sustainable Development comprising a Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Development and a Mphil in Sustainable Development in partnership with School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University
  • Transdisciplinary Doctoral Programme in partnership with the TsamaHub, Stellenbosch University
  • Early Childhood Development (50 participants in 2006)
  • Ongoing youth development programmes
  • Community Development Management and Practice focusing on capacity building and career pathing in the HIV/Aids sector and sustainable human settlements
  • Further projects (applied research) on strategic design and development of sustainable neighbourhoods as well as policy change
  • Ongoing applied, academic and policy research, including the publication of Just Transitions: Explorations of Sustainability in an Unfair World by Mark Swilling and Eve Annecke (United Nations University Press, 2011).

Strategic participation, at executive management level, in the Spier Estate which culminated in the award to Spier of one of the first Fair Trade in Tourism in SA awards in 2003.

The Spier Wine Estate is owned by the Enthoven Family who believe that Spier should express a vision that values heritage, diversity, inclusivity and sustainability. The first challenge of the Sustainability Institute was to participate in creating a sustainable context for the Spier developments, demonstrating in practice a working example of an integrated private/public/community partnership, which would provide the space for the future learning programmes. A partnership emerged between the Sustainability Institute Trust, Lynedoch Development (Section 21 not-for-profit company), Spier Holdings and the Stellenbosch Municipality.

In 2002, Eve Annecke became the full-time director of the Sustainability Institute and Mark Swilling was appointed as a Professor at the University of Stellenbosch. Since 2002, the Sustainability Institute has operated independently from Spier, but with some grant funding support and ongoing participation of Adrian Enthoven on the board - he was replaced by his sister Mariota in 2011.

Founding members of Lynedoch EcoVillage Development, as part of the work described above, which included the facilitation of the following

  • Ecological preschool (35 farmworker children) focusing on early learning, bodywork and sustainability.
  • Government Primary School for approximately 500 (90% farmworker) children, which includes work focusing on ecology and non-violence.
  • Ecological renovation of an old steel-framed hall that now houses a combination of NGOs and businesses: Lynedoch Primary School, AGAMA renewable energy, USIKO (wilderness therapy with young adolescent men at risk), Groundwater Africa, the Sustainability Institute and Dimpo di Kopane (performing arts) – this building has won awards for architecture and international best practice in sustainable construction.
  • Guest house – restored historical building.
  • Mixed income ecological housing development for 38 houses, including 15 subsidy sites, as part of our facilitation of processes to access land for housing and infrastructure for promoting the government’s land reform and subsidised housing programme.
  • On-site waste treatment through a biolytic filter and integrated wetland system.
  • Re-use of water, solar water heating, sustainable building construction, indigenous planting.
  • Land reform through the set up of a partnership between Spier Estate and the Sustainability Institute for a 10ha organic farm managed by Eric Swarts, a local emerging farmer

The focus on further developing a sustainable context, into a ‘sustainable neighbourhood’ has been core to the identity of the Sustainability Institute. Participants in the training programmes listed below are able to engage in their learning at a place where in practice they are able to experience first hand the issues within their courses. (Whether these be Early Childhood Development, Masters level degrees, Community Development Management, anti-poverty initiatives, social and environmental development, etc)

This has also been a site of applied research for masters level thesis work.

Partnership with School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University

Partnership with the University of Stellenbosch that delivers at the Sustainability Institute, Lynedoch Development, a Masters Programme in Sustainable Development (with specialisations in sustainable development, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and development planning), and a PhD programme.

The partnership with the University of Stellenbosch makes possible the offering of fully accredited masters’ level degrees through the appointment of Professor Mark Swilling within the School of Public Leadership. He is head of the Sustainable Development Division in the School of Public Leadership and also appointed Academic Director of the Sustainability Institute. Eve Annecke is appointed as Extra-Ordinary lecturer at the SOPMP.

Masters' Programme in Sustainable Development

On a post-graduate level, this full- and part-time degree offers twenty modules, with each module delivered over 6 consecutive days (see drop down menus on Postgraduate Diploma and Mphil).

The co-ordination of this degree includes: administration, engagement with the University of Stellenbosch, working with the teaching team, thesis supervision, assignment marking, individual engagement with participants, building the relationship between the participants and the community of Lynedoch Development, as well as the co-ordination of the mentors who host the participants in their internships.

The Sustainability Institute has a contract with Spier Holdings to manage, for 10 years, 10 ha of organic farm land. This farm is a teaching base for the Sustainable Agriculture programme, and the farming business is managed on a full-time basis by an emerging farmer, Eric Swarts.

Doctoral Programme

There are an increasing number of registered Phd candidates, supervised by the Academic Director. All workshops, held at the Sustainability Institute with ongoing supervision. The theoretical approach used is one of transdisciplinarity and all projects in which the candidates are involved are supportive of building sustainability in its broadest sense. The Sustainability Institute worked with various Faculties at Stellenbosch University to establish the TsamaHub as the vehicle for a University-wide transdisciplinary Doctoral programme.

Early Childhood Development (ECD) Programme

We set up the Lynedoch Crèche in 2002. In 2004 we began our first ECD accredited training programme, a pilot for 13 women from Manenburg, Cape Flats, and a farm crèche in the Winelands. The daily activities for this programme consist of:

  • partnering the ‘model’ ecological crèche within the Lynedoch Development for 35 farmworker children;
  • holding 11 x 5 day course modules here at the Sustainability Institute;
  • material making within each module for participants use in their ECD centres in Manenburg;
  • on-site visits from our staff for hands-on consultation and assessment between modules;
  • presentations from participants on their efforts to put into practice what they have learned on their course;
  • full-on formal assessment of written portfolios;
  • external moderation and verification in order to provide accreditation for Levels 4 and 5.

The modules covered are:

  • An ecological approach to Early Childhood Development
  • Preparation of the adult
  • The Child
  • Introduction to the prepared environment
  • Practical activities
  • Sensorial activities
  • Art
  • Maths
  • Cultures
  • Fundamentals: numeracy literacy
  • Fundamentals: communication literacy

This programme will hold 2 courses, for 25 learners each, from January 2006 onwards.

2005 - Sustainable construction training

This programme trained 40 builders on site in the skills of sustainable construction while they were building the first ten adobe brick houses. Funded by the Swiss South Africa Cooperative Initiative, this project has has resulted in the design and development of unit standards that may be registered as part of CETA (Construction Education and Training Authority). All trainees were previously unemployed youth and will graduate with qualifications that will increase their chances of accessing employment in the growing sustainable construction sector. Already one group has set up adobe brickmaking business.

Sustainable Community Development

Creating an enabling framework for career-pathing within civil society is core to this programme. Taking into account the dearth of capacity in the NGO/CBO sector, this programme has focused on the HIV/Aids sector and is engaged in the following:

  • unit standard writing for registration with the Education and Training Seta, against which competencies would be assessed;
  • building a network of training service providers who agree to collaborate on assessment standards and moderation in order to deliver accredited, high quality, competent and capable community development workers – not merely the delivery of training without any form of SETA accreditation;
  • the establishment of a network of CBOs who will participate in the programme, with direct linkages with the Federation of the Urban Poor, uTshani Fund (Mark Swilling is on the Board), and the Community Urban Resource Centre (Eve Annecke is Chairperson of the Board);
  • in 2011 a 3 year project for the National Department of Human Settlements was completed - the aim was to train participants in state-funded housing projects to build the capacity of the communities involved.

 For a brochure for distribution about the SI click HERE