Friday, April 17, 2015 - 10:15

Three horticulture students from South Africa have travelled to Cornwall to hone their skills at the Eden Project.

The students study with the Green Futures Horticulture and Life Skills College, based at the Grootbos Nature Reserve in Gansbaai, about 100 miles south-east of Cape Town.

They are Zokhanyo Bikani, 26, Sinovuyo Godlo, 21, both from South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, and Ntembeko Magwada, 28, from the Western Cape. Accompanying them on the placement is their mentor Thilivali Murivhami, 25, from Limpopo, the northernmost province of South Africa.

Green Futures provides educational training to eight to 12 unemployed young adults each year. The aim is to give their students the skills and confidence necessary to market themselves and become employable, while at the same time contributing to the conservation and promotion of the region’s unique biodiversity.

The annual trip to Eden by Green Futures students is designed to help reinforce the understanding of humanity’s dependence on plants and the natural world.

Eden has been working with Green Futures since it opened 12 years ago and has hosted 30 students on educational placements since then. While at Eden, Green Futures students have met The Queen, Prince Charles and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The students on the current placement have been at Eden since Monday March 30 and they are due to leave today (Friday April 17). Their time as Eden has involved working with the horticulture team in the outdoor gardens, Rainforest Biome and Mediterranean Biome.

Thilivhali is a project coordinator for Green Futures. He is acting as a mentor for the team at Eden, his role involves looking after the students and managing their itineraries, budget and spare time activities for the trip.

He said: “We are really enjoying ourselves, we don’t even want to go back home. The Eden team has shown us great hospitality, they are very friendly and helpful and are happy to share their knowledge.

“We have also been able to explore Cornwall in our spare time. We’ve been to The Lost Gardens of Heligan, which was beautiful, and Mevagissey and we tried to get to Marazion but got lost and ended up in Truro, which was a very nice city!”

Sinovuyo, also known as “Snow”, studied agriculture at school before moving to Cape Town and joining the Green Futures programme.

She said: “Since I came to Green Futures, I fell in love with plants. It’s amazing how so many things come from plants. I want to explore and learn more and I love talking to people about plants.”

Peter Stewart, executive director of the Eden Project, visited the Green Futures project in 2004.

Peter said: “We at Eden have been lucky to have been a part of the wonderful team at Green Futures College since it started back in 2003. Every year it is so special to be able to welcome our new friends from the college who not only have a great experience but also enrich our own team and visitors with their knowledge of people and their connection with nature.”

Viola Siyotywa is a former Green Futures student who now works as one of the trainers for the programme. She came to Eden in 2007. She said: “I really enjoyed a lot at the Eden Project and it was a trip I will never forget in my life. I had a great experience in seeing that nature is respected everywhere.

“I gained lots of knowledge, working in different Biomes with different plants. All in all, the picture of the Eden Project is still in my mind and it won’t vanish.”

The British High Commission in South Africa has funded this trip for the Green Futures group, the fourth time they have sponsored the trip.