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.
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.
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. Otis Jeffers from Saint Mary's Biosphere Reserve in Saint Kitts & Nevis is one of the selected participants to implement his own youth project. With 'Bee the Buzz of the Reserve', Otis will 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.
The other selected projects are:
- Strengthening capacities to provide ecotourism services for young people in the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta Biosphere Reserve (Colombia).
- Integral management of plastic waste generated on the banks of the Napo River through the strengthening of youth groups in the Limoncocha area of Yasuni Biosphere Reserve (Ecuador).
- Strengthening the Xiriualtique-Jiquilizco biosphere reserve brand and the conservation of sea turtles through ecotourism (El Salvador).
- Creation of a radio program to promote effective communication of ecological initiatives and environmental activities oriented towards young people in the Huayabamba river basin (Gran Pajaten BR - Peru).
The developed local and regional projects by the participants are linked to the core topics of UNESCO’s Natural Science Sector. It is important to note that the selected projects are not only on youth, they are also led by young people.