Languages Spoken: 

Cultivating land and communities

Ashoka Fellow, Chiawelo, South Africa


Mandla Mentoor is restoring areas of South Africa scarred by the turmoil of its history. He is engaging citizens – often youth – in the transformation of abandoned open spaces and unofficial dumps into ecologically healthy places. His work is vital to South Africa’s environment and to its economic development after apartheid.

Working with youth, “new” public space – now called the Soweto Mountain of Hope – has evolved into lush ground, reversing the pervasive decay. The physical transformation has given rise to a dramatic social transformation: the space now saves as a hub of community activities and hosts sports events, festivals, and markets. The transformation has been so successful that the City Council agreed to lease the land to Mandla and his organisation.

Mandla’s first successful restoration is central to his plan to focus urban communities across South Africa on similar projects in their own cities. By linking cities in restoration efforts, he is building the infrastructure to support environment awareness and education efforts throughout South Africa and neighbouring countries. He has also created a system of knowledge exchange he calls “Enviroshare “where township residents share knowledge of their environmental rights and increase consciousnesss.

The Enviroshare program continues to mobilise, engage,educate,and inspire communities through  - out Soweto, Gauteng and SA. About 20 000 young people, woman and youth has been directly involved and participated in the program.

By engaging youth and other citizens, Mandla is turning forgotten land into a hub of activity in South Africa’s townships.

Speech Topics:

  • Urban Restoration
  • Community Economic Development
  • Youth Development
This article was originally published on May 13, 2016
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