Parks and People: South Africa

The Parks and People program integrates teaching, research and service across multiple disciplines related to the management of protected areas, community social and economic development, and public education in ecosystem services.

The  program takes place on the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast and integrates experiential learning with on-going faculty research and outreach programs in nature reserves and their surrounding communities.

The Eastern Cape program is a 10-week, 15-credit, program offered in the spring semester.  We begin in Cape Town with a visit to Robben Island and then spend several days driving to the Eastern Cape—learning about the physical geography and the colonial and apartheid history of South Africa as we go.  We then spend eight weeks in the Dwesa-Cwebe nature reserve (with several multi-day trips to other nearby reserves or places of interest).  Dwesa-Cwebe is located in one of the poorest regions of South Africa where communities have limited infrastructure in terms of paved roads, electricity and running water, and livelihoods are dominated by pastoralism and subsistence agriculture.  The reserve is internationally known for its high biodiversity, particularly tree and bird species

While in the reserve we continue classes in the political ecology of South Africa, forest ecology, and community livelihoods and resilience and conduct research and service projects with Penn State, scientists from the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, and staff and students from the University of Cape Town and several Eastern Cape universities.  At the end of the program we drive back to Cape Town spending a day in Addo Elephant Park and a couple of days in Wilderness National Park.

The program is open to all majors and to students of any semester standing.  It provides 15 of the 18 credits necessary for the Science, Society and the Environment of Africa minor, or 15 of the 18 credits needed for the minor in Geography.

You can find more information on the program under the Programs tab at the Parks and People: South Africa Wild Coast page.

Applications for the program are on-line through the Education Abroad web site at the Cape Town: South Africa, Parks and People page.  This page provides details on the application process and the costs.  Note that for students living on campus with a standard meal plan, the total cost of participation is little more than the cost of attendance for the spring semester on the University Park campus.

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