The Wasteland – Graced Land Project, which took its first fledgling steps in April 2008 in Melkhoutfontein in the diverse and beautiful Hessequa region in the Western Cape of South Africa, has recently been recognized globally as a best practice sustainable model for poverty relief, community development -and environmental management projects.

According to the Dreamcatcher Foundation’s founder, Anthea Rossouw, the ‘Wasteland – Graced Land’ model is geared to provide solutions to local problems using local resources as far as possible to created sustainable work. This project blends tourism and environmental sustainability with helpfulness by introducing a new, meaningful tourist visitor destination with the chance for visitors to engage and get involved with the locals to innovate and create together locally.

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Where Wasteland – Graced Land is

Geographically situated in the Hessequa region in South Africa, Melkhoutfontein lies within The Gouritz Biosphere Cluster Reserve, a UN declared biodiversity region. It is also in one of the top 4 tourist destinations in South Africa, namely the Garden Route, in the Western Cape.

Situated close to the N.2 one of the major visitor travel routes linking Cape Town with the Garden Route and Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. It’s also situated close to where the Blombos cave was discovered in 1991 sharing significant insight into the expression of humanity through art and artefacts found in the cave.

Some residents of Melkhoutfontein through DNA testing, have been found to be descendants of the Hessequa KhoeKhoen, the first nation living in the South West Cape. The KhoeKhoen were the first people with whom pioneers engaged and bartered for cattle, grazing and food.

The Wasteland – Graced land Experience

An alternative to mainstream resort stays and travel routes, Dreamcatcher has spent years in communities inspiring new ways to offer inclusively local experiences which benefit local communities and which contribute tangibly to the greater good of society. Wasteland – Graced Land is situated in Melkhoutfontein, close to the N.2 between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, in the Hessequa, Garden Route region. Visitors get involved in the ‘inside story” to become part of the power of innovation for sustainable living and sound environmental stewardship.

A visit to the La Bloemen botanical garden in Melkhoutfontein, Hessequa, is a journey into the resilience of nature and the people indigenous to the area. A walk-about tour with a local guide will share an amazing story with you as this garden is developed on a waste dump site where waste and invader plant species posed a real threat to the local people and the environment. Besides seeing stunning fynbos (spectacular indigenous shrubs, flowers and trees), in its natural surrounds, visitors are instrumental in enabling a community and nature to thrive. Visitors are afforded the chance to join the Kamammas and other local residents to plant and conduct a census of the number of prolific specie of fynbos, birds and other fauna has returned, help to develop areas and leave their footprint.

The project was launched officially by the Dreamcatcher Ambassador, Karin Bloemen and the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Hon. Amb. Marisa Gerards in March 2016. Within less than 6 months and spring in the air, over 211 specie of fynbos have returned naturally, and with it, an abundance of fauna insects and birds. Today over 300 indigenous plant species, some of it most rare, are to be found here.

Visitors visit and view the garden and plant an indigenous tree or shrub to restore habitat tin this unique rewilding project which has earned the national ‘Greening the Future’ award by Mail & Guardian. It is offered as part of our Wasteland – Graced Land experience. Visitors enjoy rubbing shoulders with the locals, leaving behind a tangible legacy when the depart.

On this inclusively local experience, formerly unemployed youth, now proud local tourist guides, share knowledge of the environment, history and culture. The community is involved in developing a sound environmental and cultural stewardship and share fascinating local history and stories. As visitors go ‘walkabout and talkabout’, around the welcoming community they drop in for a quick laugh and pass houses transformed into murals depicting their significant history.

Visitors report that they soon feel part of this empowering, positive experience, with some calling it visionary, with some opting to lend a handwith a brush-stroke and plant indigenous plants on a former waste dump site, now a botanical garden at the historical St Augustine’s grounds, where the restored calcrete church now serves as a Centre for Arts and Humanities. CookUp Kamammas invite visitors to pick their own organically grown salad, vegetables and herbs for their meals then they cook together and eat together.

There are 6 ‘Homestay with Kamamma’ accommodation established, growing from humble beginnings of 1. One can even stay over at a ‘Homestay with Kamamma’ built from recycled building material! The Kamamma host and husband spent 2 years removing disposed building was from the waste dump site which was destined to be burned and landfilled. Back on their proudly owned land, they built a guest bedroom and bathroom with all usual home comforts, from scratch.

Wasteland – Graced Land contributes to the environment, solves unemployment through entrepreneurship, is re-awakeing ancient cultural hitory and tangibly contributes to the environment, eliminating global warming. Authentically locally connecting visitors report that they see and know they have left their footprint behind, and taking this legacy with them, many vow to return.

How is that for a rewarding local experience when next you visit or travel around in South Africa?

You can be part of the inside story of Wasteland – Graced land. The story of Wasteland – Graced Land, experience is a fun, educational, participative and interactive local community based experience offered in Melkhoutfontein, Stilbaai, in the Hessequa region of the Garden Route. Dreamcatcher has been working in communities across South Africa to help improving self-sufficiency, quality of life and environmental rehabilitation.You can be part of the inside story of Wasteland – Graced land.The story of Wasteland – Graced Land, experience is a fun, educational, participative and interactive local community based experience offered in Melkhoutfontein, Stilbaai, in the Hessequa region of the Garden Route. Dreamcatcher has been working in communities across South Africa to help improving self-sufficiency, quality of life and environmental rehabilitation.

With special focus on women and youth. Dreamcatcher has re-imagined the way international visitors travel in South Africa and over the years has deliberately re-designed itineraries to facilitate geographical spread, channelling visitors into the communities to engage with, experience the culture immerse themselves in day to day lifestyles in the communities on routes across South Africa called ‘Go truly Local’ ™ .

With growing numbers of tourists contributing towards community and environmental well-being on their visits, Dreamcatcher has developed unique destination -and sustainable tourism experience development skills and is addressing the 17 UN2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Developed with the community of Melkhoutfontein, over a period of 20 years, the experience was named ‘Wasteland – Graced Land’ because the community was situated between 2 waste dump sites with significant impact on health -and the local environment.

On a typical day, tourists are met by qualified local guides called ‘Walkabout Kamammas’, they embark upon their tours and experiences which range from one, to a few days, weeks or even months, in the community. On intra-cultural encounters they learn about the history, meet the locals, get involved in activities around social engagement -and environmental rehabilitation project, education and skills transfer.

Experiences also include the opportunity to plant indigenous plants at the botanical garden ’La Bloemen’ they have redeveloped on a former waste dump site, and which is today part of the UN declared Gouritz Biosphere Reserve. Joining in to PaintUp with Kamammas and local residents, is ever popular. This projects adorn homes with stunning murals depicting the history and cultural legacy of the community. Visitors also engage and transfer life skills and knowledge to youth on the Dreamcatcher Future kids development programmes.

The experiences are further complemented by healthy, wholesome food experiences and the option to stay overnight in the community. ‘CookUp with Kamamma is an interactive, fun local food-making -and sharing experience. Homestays with Kamamma‘ both legally branded accommodation services, which Dreamcatcher conceptualised and set out to develop over 2 decades ago with women living in South African townships across South Africa.

Lately the pioneering ‘Waste is Mine its Yours‘ crafting workshop, has launched where visitors meet the crafters, to view and purchase unique, beautiful crafts locally made and designed from recycled waste by a group of women and youth. They have been empowered with skills and knowledge in waste management, re-use waste materials, design and crafting. Some visitors choose to go ‘Walkabout’ into the community, with the Recycling Collectors’ dropping in at residents, to collect their recycling and share knowledge, often hilarious, fun exchanges the order of the day.
Visitors experience directly how this pioneering multi-dimensional integrated programme of local enterprise empowerment is contributing to address the global challenges of poverty health – and environmental impacts, emotional, social and economic well-being one visitor at a time at ‘Wasteland – Graced Land’ Melkhoutfontein.