Step closer for setup of East Cape conservation think tank

NOVEMBER 24, 2016

9,500ha Patensie farm earmarked as likely site for Solve.IT as businesses pledge support

The formation of a South African conservation-orientated think tank has moved a step closer to fruition with 9,500 hectares of farmland in the Baviaanskloof Mountains earmarked as a likely site for the operation and businesses pledging financial support.

Spearheaded by husband-and-wife founders of the Eastern Cape conservation organisation Reserve Protection Agency (RPA), Scott and Greta Williams, the Solve.IT think tank is expected to be up and running in the new year.

“This is an important step forward for this initiative,” said Scott, a decorated former US combat veteran. “Although Solve.IT will be conservation-orientated, we are really keen to partner with big corporates to show them how they can integrate with environmental and conservation goals.”

Scott, who is also RPA director, said Solve.IT would be run as a trust which would focus on:

  • researching cutting-edge conservation technology;
  • education and training: bringing in students from abroad to learn and give inputs on cutting edge conservation technologies;
  • running re-integration programmes for combat, law enforcement and emergency medical veterans;
  • linking big corporates with the environment: This would not only help fund the project, but would also steer big business towards seeing the value of being involved with conservation efforts; and
  • and operating an endangered species rehabilitation sanctuary.

“I haven’t come across any other initiative of this scale in South Africa, so we’re really excited to get the ball rolling,” said Scott, who has been a speaker at corporate social investment conferences, border security symposiums, and conservation roundtable events.

Greta, who sits on the board of a major US-based environmental compliance laboratory, was the president of an alternative energy company in Long Island, New York, before the couple relocated to South Africa with their two children in 2010.

“Often conservation and business speak different languages, but with Solve.IT we have the chance to merge the two for the benefit of the environment,” she said.

Two companies that have voiced support for the Solve.IT campaign are Continental Tyre SA and sustainable solutions business Rhino Group.

According to Niel (SUBS: CORR) Langner, Continental Tyre SA marketing manager, the company was keen to get involved with Solve.IT.

“Continental wants to be involved in initiatives which will assist in conservation efforts. We do not want to steal the limelight from very urgent issues, but rather be present to help enable solutions,” he said, adding that the company was a sponsor of RPA.

Of the planned Continental Tyre SA facility at the Solve.IT headquarters, Langner said: “We would like to develop the site at Solve.IT into a premier conferencing and training facility for use by Continental Tyre SA, for 4x4 training, new product launches, dealer conferences, management conferences, as well as media events.

“Scott and Greta are making the world a better place and we want to help multiply their efforts.”

Rhino Group managing director Brian van Niekerk said the company, which has a strong focus on renewable energy and sustainable solutions, was keen to use the project for research and development purposes, rolling out the latest green building ideas and technology.

“Having built a showcase green home in the form of House Rhino at Crossways Farm Village, we are keen to continue our research into cutting-edge green building ideas and technologies. This is something we will be able to do by building the Solve.IT head office on the new site,” said Van Niekerk.

“As a national company, being involved with a unique and forward-thinking project such as this is a win-win, because we get to hone our business offerings [through research and development] while benefiting conservation efforts through our support of Solve.IT.”

Other personalities associated with Solve.IT initiative include:

  • Tanya Goodman, the owner of Cape Town-based publishers Chapel Lane Media who holds a PhD in Sociology from Yale University. Goodman will be the coordinator for social and educational upliftment programmes with the organisation;
  • Former University of Pretoria philosophy lecturer Charl du Plessis who holds an MBA in strategy and international marketing from Yale University. Du Plessis will be the associate director of education at Solve.IT;
  • Elephant researcher and author Bob Preller; Digs Pascoe, CEO of the Space for Elephants Foundation; and NMMU zoology academic Kristoffer Everatt at the Centre for African Conservation Ecology.

Image: THINKING BIG: Reserve Protection Agency founders Scott and Greta Williams are a step closer to setting up conservation-orientated think-tank Solve.IT thanks to business support. (Image: supplied)