The African word Imbewu, meaning ‘seed’ in Zulu, symbolises the potential for growth from small beginnings. This is the basis for an exciting new rural skills initiative, ‘Imbewu Scotland’, being run jointly by Wilderness Foundation UK and Scottish Land & Estates across Scotland, with funding support from SNH.
Imbewu Scotland aims to increase understanding of ecological issues and sustainable land management, enabling young people to develop an awareness and love of nature and the outdoors, while opening their eyes to future career opportunities within the rural sector.
In early summer, five young people set out on the very first Imbewu Scotland journey, which took them from the comfort of their urban homes into the wild heart of the Scottish Cairngorms. With wilderness guides, they navigated their way through remote areas, wild camping and following ‘Leave No Trace’ principles.
Learning first-hand from those who live and work in Scotland’s beautiful countryside, they were able to tap into knowledge of land use and management acquired over many generations. The group spent time with the head stalker of the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate, learning about field sports and deer management, and found out how to spot wildlife crime with the local Wildlife Crime Officer.
With Estate Rangers they discovered local wildlife and took part in a practical conservation task repairing brash fencing to protect native trees from deer. They heard about the wide range of employment, training and volunteering opportunities in the rural sector, from gamekeeping to wildlife tourism and guiding. Each participant was awarded a John Muir Discovery Award and Leave No Trace accreditation in recognition of their achievements.
Contact with nature undoubtedly inspires our young people, developing in them a respect for the natural world and a deeper understanding of the interdependence of humans and nature; hopefully this will ensure that they continue to enjoy and protect our wild places in the future. Nature provided them not only with aesthetic enjoyment but ‘a classroom’ in which they learned the value of balancing nature conservation ideals with economic land management goals.
In this ‘Year of Natural Scotland’, John Muir’s clarion call to ‘come to the woods’ is being answered by more and more of us as we seek respite from what can be a frenzied modern world. Imbewu Scotland is hopefully sowing the seeds of a new generation of environmentalists who, assisted by land managers, can help bring Muir’s conservation message to an increasingly urbanised society disconnected from nature and wild places.
In partnership with Scottish Land & Estates, the Wilderness Foundation is running Imbewu Scotland as a two-year pilot approach to reconnecting young people to the land.
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