GreenPaths Programme

Promoting health & well-being

Why do we need GreenPaths?

Exploring new paths towards sustainability will help humanity not just to survive, but to thrive in harmony with the rest of nature. For example walking, mountain biking, running and canoeing along outdoor paths or trails are wonderful ways to stay healthy, connect with nature, feel a whole lot better and explore new places.

Hunter-gathering was a successful survival strategy for thousands of years – clearly there are benefits to living a life connected with nature. “Some researchers believe that being in nature is essential for our health!” It allows for better quality of life, an immune system boost, lowered stress and blood pressure, increased physical activity, better mental and cardiovascular health, increased creativity and problem solving abilities. Read more on www.alive.com.

GreenPaths also have conservation and socio-economic benefits

Countries like Germany have shown that we can follow a GreenPath by converting to clean, renewable energy and still thrive socio-economically. Physical trails can also do wonderful things for conservation and local economies. For example the 800km Bruce Trail in Canada has helped preserve over 9700 acres of Escarpment, with much of the land being cared for by passionate local stewards with oversight from ecologists (www.brucetrail.org). The Bruce Trail also supports hundreds of local accommodation and campsites as well as other service providers (e.g. transport, supplies).

It is vital to build good GreenPaths to support health & well-being

Wetland restored by Kommetjie Coastal Stewards

Supporting evolution of a Green Economy through infrastructure development is high on the socio-economic agenda of many countries. For example, path infrastructure facilitates access to many nature and adventure activities, forming the basis not only for maintaining health and well-being, but of the US$263 billion dollar global adventure tourism industry and the millions of livelihoods supported by this industry.

It is therefore essential that we look after our path infrastructure.

Galeo Saintz, Chair of the World Trail Network, commenting on the Dirty Boots 2014 report on the R4.6 billion adventure tourism market in South Africa, said that most of the top adventure-earning activities were reliant on some kind of path for access (Tracey Phillips, pers com). He also pointed out that in conservation areas most interactions between people and nature were facilitated by paths, and yet very little budget is put aside to maintain paths.

Wetland restored by Kommetjie Coastal Stewards

Poorly built or degraded paths are major causes of soil erosion, habitat destruction and biodiversity loss (www.imba.com).

Well-built trails on the other hand support health and well-being, sustainable development and sustainable, non-consumptive use of our natural resources. The same applies to any other infrastructure that will help humanity to live more sustainable, connected lives.

Initiatives such as Green Flag (http://greenflagtrails.org/) are trying to put trail standards in place, but sadly the value of well-built and maintained path infrastructure is often overlooked.

Gondwana Alive’s GreenPaths programme tackles this challenge by supporting development of trail networks that maximize socio-economic benefits to communities, and help to monitor and maintain a healthy landscape and trail experience. Moreover, just as we support the development of physical trails we also support other community stewards projects exploring new GreenPaths that will help humanity to live more sustainably and in harmony with the rest of nature.

Wetland restored by Kommetjie Coastal Stewards

How does GreenPaths promote health & well-being?

Gondwana Alive’s GreenPaths programme promotes health & well-being by undertaking or supporting projects that:

Explore new paths toward sustainability, including but not limited to building and maintaining trail paths and the surrounding landscape

IMG-20141128-WA0040

One of the aims of our GreenPaths programme is to mentor and train maintenance workers and stewards to look after water, soil, biodiversity and ecosystems through the way in which they build, monitor and maintain path infrastructure – working towards Green Flag standards in practice, and if the landowner wishes, Green Flag accreditation.

Added to this through promotion of good codes of conduct, signage and outdoor classrooms we capitalize on the ability of paths to promote eco-literacy, as well as monitoring and maintenance of surrounding biodiversity and scenery so central to a wonderful trail experience.

The programme also aims to create a demand for the services of sustainable trail builders and make it easy for landowners to contribute to restoration of our planet – one path at a time.

Good examples are the Boschendal and Grootvadersbosch Trail Projects.

Create outdoor experiences that appeal to the market and are service intensive.

Projects that create networks of short “slackpacking” trails (warm beds, good food, no heavy packs to carry) can have a similar impact to the mega Bruce Trail, and are exciting because they attract the casual walker, not just seasoned hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

A good example is the regional trail network (some 200km) that Gondwana Alive helped develop to promote sustainable development in South Africa’s Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve (www.capebiospheretrails.co.za). These trails were designed to appeal to the West Coast local, domestic and international market and to be service intensive (accommodation, catering, transport, guides).

Once trails reach capacity the CWCBR Trails feasibility study commissioned by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (www.dbsa.org), shows that over 10 years a network of 5 slack-packing trails has the potential to generate R100 million in local direct and indirect spend, attract 10 000 visitors and sustain 1 000 jobs (norm 1 job: 10 tourists).

Promote nature connection

Exploring and sharing beautiful outdoor experiences in nature with you.

Read more about the outdoor trails and events we support and encourage you to experience:

Cape West Coast Biosphere Trails
Cape Peninsula Village-to-Village Walk
• The Scarborough-Baskloof Walkabout
• !Khwa ttu Mountain Bike & Walking Trail Network
• RIM of AFRICA – South Africa’s 600km mountain journey
• Grootvadersbosch Mountain Bike Trail Network
Garden Route Forest-to-Forest Trail
Silver Mountain Music festival

Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence – Henry David Thoreau (www.brainyquote.com)

Why did Gondwana Alive initiate the GreenPaths Programme?

We believe there is a disconnect between people and the rest of nature, an isolation that allows us to make decisions leading to action that nonsensically destroys our own life support system. Trails build connection in more ways than one.

“During my environmental career I have walked different paths (research, ecotourism, development) and explored many different sustainable livelihood options – they have all lead me to the same conclusion – that the root of our environmental problems lies in a lack of connectivity between people and the rest of nature, and that walking is a great way to rebuild that connectivity, stimulate local economies and take care of the landscape we walk across.” Gondwana Alive CEO – Dr Tracey Phillips

Through the activities of our green path builders and gardeners we hope to create jobs, develop skills, alleviate poverty and develop a network of gardens and paths working for biodiversity – providing food, medicine, flowers, beauty, and a home for birds, bees, worms, bugs and frogs – that promote the health and well-being of People and Planet.

How does Gondwana Alive support GreenPaths

We help community stewards to develop and implement projects exploring new paths toward sustainability. For example we help community stewards:

• Conduct trail feasibility studies
• Prepare business plans, prepare project grant proposals and help secure funding for implementation
• Mentor and / or manage implementation
• Develop trail products and build trail paths
• Develop local trail operators and guides
• Assess and monitor trail paths and the surrounding landscape
• Prepare trail management plans and build local capacity to implement these plans.

At the heart of all this we:

• Explore and share wonderful outdoor experiences to encourage people to walk and connect with nature.

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