Director of corporate communication, department of environmental affairs
Relating her passion for travel and conservation, 32-year-old Lavinia Engelbrecht says she is proud to be part of the team responsible for conserving South Africa’s natural heritage, through entities such as SANparks and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
When she first joined the department, she was only 26 and one of the youngest directors in the department at the time. Engelbrecht is also a journalist who has held several roles in government communication at national departments and a parastatal. She is now director of corporate communication at the department of environmental affairs and editor- in-chief of Environment Quarterly, its official magazine. “I joined the department shortly before it hosted the COP17 [conference] on climate change,” she explains.
“It was such a natural fit for me because I am passionate about nature and this role has given me opportunities to communicate to our people about opportunities and innovation in the sector. “My team and I have made it our mission to simplify environmental science communication into formats that young people in particular across South Africa will find interesting and relatable. We also promote environmental careers and business opportunities as much as we can.
“My career is a combination of two of my gifts — growing plants and communication. I enjoy writing, photography and my garden to such an extent that I even work after hours through my blog, TheRainQueen. com, which is all about sustainable living.” “I lead a young, dynamic team of 25 permanent staff and some interns, responsible for the department’s website, graphic design, editorial, photography, branding, exhibitions, social media and videography, among others. We provide coverage and support to ministry events and take care of internal communication needs.” At her suburban home she keeps three egglaying chickens and makes compost from their manure and her kitchen and garden waste.
“We use that to fertilise beds of fruit, medicinal and culinary herbs, vegetables, flowers and ornamental, indigenous trees. I grow my produce using sustainable permaculture methods, we harvest rainwater and are investigating solar power. “My work at environmental affairs exposed me to policy-making, sustainable development and a very high standard of performance in the areas of governance and public administration. This led to me completing my master’s in public administration at the University of Pretoria on top of a BTech Journalism. “I am currently in the first year of my PhD in public management and I will be researching and creating a model to enrich public participation in environmental projects and programmes that fall under government’s Expanded Public Works Programme. These programmes create jobs and skills for the most vulnerable South Africans.”
— Rebecca Haynes