Sarah Dawn Bergs


What does your company do?

Nourish is a nonprofit organisation in South Africa, established to address the disconnect between people and protected areas. Two of the biggest problems facing South Africa are poverty and wildlife crime (poaching) and these are intrinsically linked. A legacy of apartheid has disenfranchised whole communities that live on the borders of the National Parks. These communities ) are some of the most marginalised and poverty stricken in the country where lack of access to water, employment, and basic sanitation is the norm. Poverty not only leads to subsistence poaching but contributes significantly to inclusion/recruitment in criminal poaching syndicates. Nourish NPO was founded in 2011 to address this disconnect between rural wildlife communities and the neighbouring protected areas. It is a platform linking conservation with community - finding integrated sustainable solutions to issues that indirectly impact conservation such as poverty, low levels of education, food insecurity, and unemployment. Located on tribal land in Sigagule Village, Mpumalanga, in the buffer zone of the Kruger National Park, Nourish believes that conservation and wildlife cannot exist apart from the communities and people that live on their boundaries and that the answer to stemming the poaching crisis is through providing economic opportunities for the residents of these impoverished communities. Nourish services the rural villages and communities in the area by implementing its projects through an Eco Village model focused on education, enterprise and tourism to grow resilience in wildlife communities. The journey towards sustainability lies in making tangible impacts in both conservation and community well-being. The Nourish Eco Village is an innovative solution to a complex problem. Our organisational focus is on bottom up, community-led, grassroots initiatives, based on a holistic understanding of Maslow's Pyramid of need; integrating the base (physical) needs of community members, before building to education, enterprise and then actualisation. It is through this systematic empowerment process that we realise our Theory of Change. A person does not require only one thing to enable resilience, or to unlock environmental ambassadorship, but rather requires a cohesive and focused intervention that enables cradle to career life/ livelihood improvements. This is the goal and vision of the Eco Village program.

What is your biggest success?

Our achievement is two-fold, seeing small changes at a grassroots level in our children and community, and also seeing women from these local communities rise up and champion Nourish and the cause, inspiring others and leading. Founded by me, a woman; the fact that Nourish is women-led is already breaking barriers in community landscape, where traditional authorities culturally respect and respond to male power-figures. But now this women leadership continues at our 2 Eco Villages, with women in positions of power ranging from Eco Village Manager to Creche Principal, Office Manager and Tourism Manager. Having women in positions of authority is an important way to bring gender equity to the fore by ‘walking-the-talk’. Seeing African women in these roles, providing skills, nutrition, education and support to their own communities is our biggest achievement, and I think the proof of this lies in the fact that we are wanted in more communities -because people see the sustainable and dignified difference we bring and co-create.

What has been your biggest hurdle?

Without a doubt the biggest hurdle has been navigating the funding landscape, and finding dignified and sustainable ways to generate income to allow our projects and programs to continue and to grow. But more than that to give our incredible team the stability they need to feel job security. All nonprofits operate in a funding world that is volatile, having to chase donor funds on an ongoing basis to cover project overheads and salaries. This has been our biggest challenge; but we believe this will make us better in the long run. This hurdle has 'forced' us on a journey of discovery looking into income generating projects (such as our coffee shop and craft center), responsible applied learning and internships (such as through our play-learning and enterprise internships), tourism opportunities (such as our tours and Backpackers), and so much more. It's now prompting us to look into expanding our reach to fundraise in the USA by starting our charity (registered 501c3) in America to bring in international funding and support. This hurdle will be the thing we thank for helping us be an innovative, agile, and financially sustainable organization oneday.