by Skye Mallac

Are you looking for a way to participate in active change-making, hands-on project that can catalyse a shift in the natural environment around you? We invite you to dig deep, into the soil and discover the power of eco restoration camps to shift perspectives and heal people and the environment.

In 2018, lauded film-maker and ecologist John D. Liu co-founded a global movement of change-makers with his Ecosystem Restoration Camps, which are now scattered across the globe – with more sprouting up every month.

The camps are active learning centres able to train the new generation in techniques for land restoration and add to research. They function as innovation hubs attracting new talent into the field and are active in implement techniques for carbon sequestration, water retention and improved soil health, and to uplift and improve the livelihoods of those directly engaged in land management. They also enable a flow of volunteers from around the world to participate. It’s a pivotal hands-on approach to tackling the environmental crisis from the ground up.

Their end goal is self explanatory: to restore degraded and broken ecosystems into once again thriving natural habitats. According to renowned ecologist Alan Savoury, the biggest contributor to climate change today is the desertification of environments. Assisting in returning these environments to their former diversity, rebuilding soils, and sowing the seeds for succession is according to John D Liu the great work of our time.

With over 30 camps established so far, their goal is for one million people to experience Restoration Camping by 2030 – and it’s not as big of a feat as you might imagine. There are multiple ways to become involved with the camps. Whether you have the time and stamina to carve out several months of hard graft, or just a day in time you want to make a difference, these camps have options for every change-maker out there – and they are as accessible as they inspiring.

John D. Liu built his acclaimed career on the back of restoration projects in China and Mongolia in the 1990’s and is now director of The Environmental Education Media Project (EEMP), which he founded in 1997, as well as ecosystem ambassador for the Commonland Foundation and a visiting research fellow at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Despite these responsibilities he regularly visits, oversees and manages the burgeoning Ecosystem Restoration Camps across the globe. Back in 2019, he spent some time in South Africa as he joined forces with leading Cape Town based reforestation NPO Greenpop. Now 2021 sees Greenpop’s first event in tandem with the Ecosystem Restoration Camps: the Eden Festival of Action.

A week-long immersion into ecosystem restoration in the Garden Route of South Africa, the Eden Festival of Action is going into its third year running now (minus the wonky grace period that was 2020) and was first established as a response to the impact the devastating fires of 2017 had on the area.

This year’s festival aims to plant several thousand indigenous trees, remove alien vegetation, paint environmental murals, and provide a deeply educational experience through a series of workshops which will cover the likes of mycology, herbal medicine, permaculture, natural building techniques and eco-enterprise. All this led by a dynamic team of volunteers dedicated to the cause.

Free and keen to join the force? The Eden Festival of Action will take place from 19 – 26 September 2021 at Wild Spirit Backpackers Lodge in the Garden Route, South Africa. Open to all ages of change-makers keen to get their hands in the soil and their hearts in the game, it’s an experience worth having, and a first foot forward on the path to making a difference.