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Ephraim Sibiya (1949 - )

The Order of the Baobab in

Ephraim Sibiya (1949 - ) Awarded for:
Outstanding contribution to nature conservation and dedicating his life to creating social consciousness especially among young people about the importance of nature conservation in disadvantaged communities.

Profile of Ephraim Sibiya

Ephraim Sibiya was born on 14 July 1949 at Komatipoort in the then Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumulanga). He trained as a teacher but retired after 35 years of service.

While being attached to Matlhari High School outside Tzaneen, he realised that the environmental status of the greater Tzaneen was degraded and in 1993 he started to form eco clubs in schools. Sibiya thought the youth could play a role in promoting environmental awareness as the environment should not only be conserved in protected areas but also within communities. He believed in the importance of teaching schoolchildren about nature conservation, as they are the future.

Some of the clubs have won national environmental awards and their former members are pursuing careers in nature conservation and related fields.

Sibiya started the following projects:
• Plant-a-Tree to combat deforestation. It teaches children about the negative impact of deforestation, soil erosion and littering.
The programmes also highlights the importance of recycling to reduce the impact of waste material on the environment.
• Clean-up-Tree to combat pollution.
• Collect-a-Can to protect flora and fauna in the communities.
• Promote Tourism to relieve stress and to know one’s own country.
• Permaculture for poor communities to produce food on any available land.
• Junior Honorary Rangers Training for South African national parks.

His endeavours have spread to the whole of the Mopani District and the various communities are realising the value of conservation to reduce global warming and many learners are interested in pursuing the same career.

Sibiya has achieved so much in his endeavours. In 1997, he was a finalist in the Sowetan, SABC and Old Mutual Community-Builder of the Year. In June 2001, he was the Sowetan Read Educator of the Month. In 2004, he was selected to represent South Africa at the 10th Anniversary of Democracy in Switzerland. In 2006, Sibiya won the Limpopo Premier Award and the Kudu Award in Environmental Education from the South African National Parks (SANParks). He is also an honorary ranger at SANParks.

Last year Sibiya retired from teaching and established a tourism club which organises trips to the Kruger National Park for schoolchildren and community members. He is also recruiting young volunteers to work for SANParks as junior honorary rangers and has already guided some 120 junior rangers towards graduation.

He has represented South Africa in various projects across the world (Costa Rica 1999; Sweden 2000; Pietermaritzburg 2001), and at various other youth conferences in South Africa.

Ephraim Sibiya has made an indelible mark on many in his community through involving them in the ways of preserving and protecting nature; by so doing he has helped in the conscientising of a sometimes indifferent community to the virtues of embracing and caring for our common heritage, nature.

Sibiya lives in Nkowakowa Township in Tzaneen, and is married to Maria. They have six children.