Improving the socio-economic development of young people in biosphere reserves in the Latin American and the Caribbean region
In 2019, UNESCO’s MAB Programme started with a project that is the first of its kind to actively engage youth in the MAB Programme and its biosphere reserves. This project, funded by the Flemish government of Belgium, aims to improve the socio-economic development of young people living in biosphere reserves in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. UNESCO recognizes that young people are the future of biosphere reserves and through this project, and in line with the objectives of the MAB Youth Forum 2017, aims to give them an opportunity to participate in the MAB Programme and to help ensure the sustainable development of their communities in line with the Lima Action Plan. The project commits itself to developing the outcomes of the MAB Youth Forum 2017, presented in the MAB Youth Forum Declaration.
The main objective of this project is to establish an overall framework to improve the socio-economic development of young people living in UNESCO biosphere reserves. The project will work closely with youth of the Latin America and the Caribbean region to identify the main challenges they face. However, the project is fully cognizant of regional, national and local differences, as well as the fact that youth is not a homogeneous group and includes differences in age, religion, gender and education, among others. The overall framework should therefore be viewed as a guideline for use afterwards in other regions to help them identify and address their main challenges.
The project was launched during the 1st IberoMAB Youth Forum, which took place from 5 to 8 December 2018 in the Bosques de Paz Transboundary Biosphere Reserve in Ecuador and Peru. A call for 5 projects from different countries was made for young people and youth organizations of the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region, active in biosphere reserves. The developed local and regional projects by the participants should be linked to the core topics of UNESCO’s Natural Science Sector such as biodiversity conservation, green economies, climate change adaptation and mitigation, ecosystem service management, payment for ecosystem services (PES) etc. It is important to note that the selected projects are not only on youth, they are also led by young people.
The role of the MAB Programme is to support the stakeholders by providing policy advice and technical assistance through workshops and training sessions. The project will view youth as partners in this project, and as actors and knowledge holders who will form part of the decision-making process. As active participants, youth should be involved during all stages of strategic decision-making, programme implementation and evaluation.
St. Mary's Biosphere Reserve - Saint Kitts & Nevis:
Bee the Buzz of the Reserve – A livelihood project to promote pollinators for crop production and various products of honey bees.
This activity will teach young people in a practical manner how to produce honey, wax and other bi-products by creating a demonstration unit. It will contribute to the green economy by giving young people the opportunity to be entrepreneurs in bee-keeping, and will provide employment opportunities. Another goal of this project is to promote intangible cultural heritage of bee-keeping to ensure that future generations continue the practice.
Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta Biosphere Reserve - Colombia:
Strengthening capacities to provide ecotourism services for young people in the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta Biosphere Reserve.
This project seeks to contribute to the improvement of the living conditions of the young people living in the biosphere reserve, by strengthening the knowledge necessary for the design, implementation and promotion of a community ecotourism experience. It is expected that this activity will increase the recognition of the social and ecological importance of the biosphere reserve. In addition, the access of visitors to the region would generate an increase in income, not only to the young people who are part of the project, but also to all those people who participate indirectly in this ecotourism experience, which aims to energize the local economy. In this sense, an economic alternative for young people would be generated, harmonizing local development with conservation and causing a minimum impact on the ecosystems and cultural heritage of the biosphere reserve.
Yasuni Biosphere Reserve - Ecuador:
Integral management of plastic waste generated on the banks of the Napo River through the strengthening of youth groups in the Limoncocha area.
This project aims to generate alternatives for plastic waste management, economic income and develop creativity through the production of everyday objects so that it becomes a means of livelihood. Plastic is one of the most widely used materials in the world, mainly for its practicality and low cost. A clear example are plastic bottles, these are used daily and they represent a high danger to the environment. The Limoncocha community is not an exception with regards to plastic, however, good management and use of plastic bottles should help to minimize environmental impacts and, in turn, improve the image of the community, since this is frequently visited by national and foreign tourists because it is close to the core area of the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve. In this area the lack of job opportunities is evident, in this sense the project tends to generate an initial job opportunity and the income obtained can be linked to improve the educational opportunities of local youth.
Xiriualtique Jiquilizco Biosphere Reserve - El Salvador:
Strengthening the Xiriualtique-Jiquilizco biosphere reserve brand and the conservation of sea turtles through ecotourism.
The local youth will participate in silkscreen workshops with the objective of learning the technique, at the same time this will generate publicity material to raise awareness about the conservation of sea turtles and generate income for this process of conservationists. In addition, they will work with the youth networks and students of the biosphere reserve for the preparation of advertising material that generates environmental awareness on the conservation of the marine ecosystem. With the support of some NGOs, incubation actions of turtle eggs will be developed, which will help young people to participate in activities for the release of newborns and, as a secondary activity, community tourism. Young people who participate will get a percentage of the profits of printed shirts. In addition, funding will be sought to create a small screen printing company, an activity that is booming in the territory for sports activities, conservation, and rural tourism.
Gran Pajaten Biosphere Reserve - Peru:
Creation of a radio program to promote effective communication of ecological initiatives and environmental activities oriented towards young people in the Huayabamba river basin.
The Association of Protection of Communal Forests Dos de Mayo Alto Huayabamba (APROBOC), has a local radio transmitter put into operation in 2017, however the partners are elderly people over 45 years old. Therefore, it is important to generate skills for young people that represent the generational change of the association with member of the Gran Pajatén Biosphere Reserve. Radio Alto Huayabamba: the Voice of the Gran Pajatén Biosphere Reserve, has a coverage of more than 10 communities, which it keeps informed about events that occur in the biosphere reserves of Peru, about environmental problems and other issues of local, regional, national and international interest. To be able to develop tools or spaces to promote an active participation by youth that seeks to raise awareness among the population but above all motivate them to improve the relationship between man and nature in the area of influence of the biosphere reserve through radio, this first experience will allow young people to make regular updates of the program, have new members at the radio, and create a site that can be accessed by other radio projects in the communities and empower them with innovations.
This project is funded by the Flemish government of Belgium. With the establishment of the Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan (2015–2019), the Flemish government of Belgium outlined its concerns regarding children and young people and their rights, which will receive attention in ministerial policies in the coming years.
The project will cooperate closely with the existing BRESEP project, which aims to create and reinforce existing biosphere reserves on the coastal areas and islands of the west coast of Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Peru. The project also aims to promote biosphere reserves as tools for innovative projects to bring added value to local socio-economical activities, and to sensitize and build the capacity of stakeholders in the area.