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Regional Environmental Education Program by Southern African Development Community

Southern African Development CommunitySouth Africa

Topic(s): Sustainability
Regional Environmental Education Program (REEP)
Project Start Date:
Funding Source:
University, Government
Research Institute, Higher Ed - Public, NGO, Government
Type of Institution:
Highest Degree Offered:
Project Contact Information:
Southern African Development Community (SADC), Regional Environmental Education Program (REEP)
PO Box 394
South Africa
Email Address:
+27-33-330 3931

The purpose of the Regional Environmental Education Program by Southern African Development Community is to enable environmental education practitioners in the region to strengthen environmental education processes for equitable and sustainable environmental management choices. The program consists of four major areas with different sub-projects: training environmental educators for sustainability, developing resource materials, supporting policy initiatives, and networking. The Course Development Network, consisting of higher education institutions and other organizations, plays a significant role in the program.

Project Description

In 1997, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) initiated the Regional Environmental Education Program (REEP) to support environmental education processes in the 14 countries in the southern African region. Coordinated from a regional center based in Howick, South Africa, the program is mainly financed by the Swedish development cooperation agency Sida and the Danish development agency Danida. 

The main objective of REEP is to support environmental education processes through enabling decentralized networking of environmental education practitioners within the SADC region. This is achieved through enhanced and strengthened environmental education policy, networking, resource materials, training capacity, and research and evaluation. 

SADC REEP has established a broad decentralized regional environmental education network which consists of the SADC Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources directorate, National Network Representatives, the Regional Environmental Education Center and other environmental education practitioners in the region. Many SADC countries are establishing or have established national environmental education committees with a coordinating role at a national level (e.g. Botswana, Namibia and Zambia). SADC REEP is also supporting the development of environmental education networks in the SADC region.

One of the significant networks the program has created is the Course Development Network. Given its complexity, sustainable development requires an interdisciplinary response. Academics are thus asked to engage on this issue. Six universities in Southern Africa participate in the Course Development Network of 13 institutions aiming to include sustainable development aspects in their curricula. The weight of these universities within the network shows the importance of higher education in contributing to the improvement of sustainability in general, including factors affecting the development of Southern Africa in particular, such as the region’s marginal economic position in the global context, the close relationship between poverty and environmental degradation, and HIV/AIDS. These factors not only have a devastating impact on social, economic and health systems, but also on education.

Changing curricula is more than a way of teaching environmental issues; it can contribute to the broader issue of making new policies by effecting changes in thinking and practice. Therefore, higher education institutions have a double role: teaching development issues through curriculum transformation, and contributing to policy changes. However, practice shows that existing national needs and policies are the main motivation for engaging in curriculum reform, which leads only to policy implementation with little policy critique. The experiences of the Course Development Network highlight the problems that higher education institutions face when implementing new curricula.

Project Results

One of the most notable achievements of REEP has been the development and implementation of at least 12 new courses in environmental and sustainability education. In 2005, an external team evaluated the first eight years of the REEP and published its recommendations, and the overall assessment of the Course Development Network was positive. Interaction among course developers, which creates long-term synergies, was seen as helpful towards achieving the desired impacts. Pedagogical transformations were also found in some cases. In one of the participating universities, new partnerships involving university, government and civil society were created and multidisciplinary approaches were established.

The positive results of the Course Development Network cannot hide the obstacles higher education institutes face in engaging in a much-needed change process, which would make it easier to adapt to new social requirements and make it possible to influence broader policies. In this sense, effective environmental education should be seen in a wider context, reaching from the specific problems of curriculum transformation to the need for reforms on an institutional level.

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