08 May 2003
United Nations Volunteers (UNV) and the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) today launched a joint initiative harnessing voluntary action to tackle youth unemployment and land degradation leading to desertification in Cape Verde.
"In an arid country like Cape Verde where over 60 per cent of the population is under the age of 25, the Government is keen at mobilizing the youth to address issues of environmental degradation and poverty. This project combining volunteering for the environment and income-generation is most certainly on target. It will greatly contribute to ongoing efforts aiming at integrating environmental protection into national poverty reduction strategies," said Joseph Byll-Cataria, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Cape Verde. "With UNCCD and UNV both on board, we are confident that we will see tangible results to help ensure poverty reduction and environmental sustainability -- the first and seventh Millennium Development Goals," he added.
"As a pilot project, the involvement of unemployed youth, which make up 36 percent of the population, in the rehabilitation of degraded land is significant as it tackles at once both poverty and desertification, which are mutually reinforcing," said Hama Arba Diallo, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD Secretariat. "This is exemplary of how inter-agency cooperation can directly help people most vulnerable to environmental degradation to improve their livelihood while also conserving the environment."
Working with the Government's Youth Secretariat, national UN Volunteers and local education institutions supporting youth centres will instruct Cape Verdean trainers on how to start up pro-environment small businesses that protect the fragile biodiversity of the islands, which are situated off the west coast of Africa. These enterprises may include irrigation, coastal palm tree plantations, recycling, rubbish removal, handicrafts and ecotourism.
New trainers will also learn about social mobilization techniques and about how volunteering plays an important role in development efforts, including those to preserve the environment.
With their newly acquired knowledge, the trainers will offer instruction to young unemployed people in practical ways to start up enterprises that promote conservation. They will also encourage community participation through volunteerism and increased public awareness of environmental protection measures.
In addition to helping create jobs, the UN Volunteers will also promote a national debate on volunteerism as an important activity to nurture as part of efforts to achieve sustainable development. Raising awareness among communities through these debates, volunteer mobilizers will also work to transform existing youth centres into volunteer centres, with a longer-term goal of setting up a national volunteer corps.
The project will serve as a catalyst and road map for replication in other countries of Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean affected by land degradation.
The two-year project, "Promoting Volunteerism for Sustainable Management of the Environment in Cape Verde", is being funded with nearly $300,000 from UNV's Special Voluntary Fund (SVF), $100,000 from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and $100,000 from CCD.
Desertification affects more than 110 countries worldwide and threatens the livelihood of over 1.2 billion people. If left unchecked, arable land is expected to shrink by one-third in Asia, two-thirds in Africa and one-fifth in South America, exacerbating food insecurity, economic loss and mass migration from dryland rural areas where the world's poorest reside.