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WWF Prince Bernhard Scholarship
© Wonga Masiza

The increasing and complex nature of environmental challenges coupled with issues of human wellbeing requires creative and innovative responses. Creating various platforms and scholarships that enable the development of these skills not only benefits the environment but also upskills individuals, and contributes to society at large.

What is the issue?

Complex environmental issues, increasing daily at an alarming rate, threaten the integrity of natural ecosystems and in turn threaten the livelihoods of some of the most vulnerable communities in the world. Creative and innovative leaders are needed to tackle these issues, for the benefit of the environment and people. However, a major limitation factor is the shortage of the necessary environmental skills.

By providing support for professional development of mostly in service environmental professionals, the WWF Prince Bernhard Scholarship (PBS) promotes the development of local environmental leaders; improves contextual responses to local environmental issues; supports networking and developing partnerships and enhances the impact of WWF’s environmental efforts.

What are we doing?

WWF PBS provides early to mid-career environmental professionals with an opportunity to advance their skills and knowledge, by sponsoring their environmental studies and training.

How do we do this?

The scholarship provides financial support to individuals who wish to pursue short-term professional development training and / or formal studies (for up to one year) to assist them in contributing more effectively to environmental efforts in their country. The training programme supported through the scholarship should have a direct link to WWF’s environmental priorities, and would include support for various disciplines related to improving environmental integrity, such as media, law, and education, amongst others.

On completion of training, the scholars are required to integrate their strengthened knowledge and skills into the work that they do in their work institutions and so share their evolving insights with colleagues and other stakeholders.

Who do we work with?

In South Africa, WWF works with environmental organisations to identify promising individuals whose career progression might benefit from further professional development supported through the scholarship.

How did we start?

The WWF PBS was established in 1991 by the late H.R.H Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, the Founding President of the World Wildlife Fund in 1961. His aim was to build the next generation of conservation leaders. The PBS is supported by “The 1001: a Nature Trust’’ whose contributors consist of influential philanthropists who are committed to developing innovative and creative capacity to respond to complex environmental challenges and secure the wellbeing of future generations.

What are the big wins?
  1. Since its establishment, the scholarship has helped hundreds of professionals in the field of conservation in advancing their skills and knowledge. Between 2010 and 2018, 437 professionals from developing countries were supported through the scholarship.

  2. In South Africa, eleven  people have been awarded the scholarship since 1993. These range from Environmental Scientists, Scientific Technicians, Freshwater Technologists, to Project Managers, Project Coordinators and Senior Administration Officers in various environmental institutions.

  3. In 2015, two South Africans who received the scholarships went on to work with WWF South Africa. Kholosa Magudu, a Water Health Scientist with the Duzi Umngeni Conservation Trust, now works with WWF-SA’s Freshwater Programme, since 2016. Lameez Eksteen joined WWF as an intern in 2012 before joining the organisation as a Skills Development Researcher. While employed by WWF, she undertook her Master’s Degree in Environmental Education at Rhodes University, funded by the scholarship. Her research focused on career pathing of the Resource Economist, a highly scarce and emergent skill in the environmental field.