Dr Hans Merensky was a very generous man who, instead of building himself a new house on his farm, donated money to universities, schools, libraries, hospitals, charities, cultural organisations and people in need. He was a pioneer in establishing agricultural schools in southern Africa and made it possible for the University of Stellenbosch to create a forestry faculty, which greatly boosted the large-scale forestry industry in the country. He also funded the establishment of the Merensky Library at the University of Pretoria, among other projects at the institution.
Dr Merensky allotted the larger part of his fortune to the Hans Merensky Trust to ensure that his projects in agriculture and horticulture and his forestry operations on Westfalia Estate would be continued after his death. On 26 November 1973, the Trust was converted to the Hans Merensky Foundation.
According to the 1949 founding document, “the objective of the Hans Merensky Foundation is to promote and assist in the development of the resources of the Republic of South Africa, and neighbouring territories, particularly such resources as soil, water, minerals, flora and sauna, and to promote the health of the inhabitants, particularly through research, experimentation and demonstration and through the correlation and application of scientific knowledge”. The Foundation awards scholarships for forestry and agricultural training at various levels and in respect of the related manufacturing or processing fields. For this purpose, the Foundation works with government organisations, various universities and agricultural colleges. A special fund (the Stipendien-Stiftung fund) entrusted to the Hamburg Senate awards scholarships to German students interested in studying in southern Africa on one of the research interests supported by the Foundation. Moreover, the Foundation runs its own research programmes on forestry, the timber industry and subtropical fruit. Since 2008, the Foundation has been an anchor funder of a research programme at the University of Pretoria aimed at elucidating the interaction between avocado and its most important pathogen, Phytophthora cinnamomi.