CIFOR : The grand young age for environmental efforts
When Tabi Joda of GreenAid returned from university to the rural Cameroon villages he knew as a child, he found some of them totally abandoned because the land had become too degraded to support villagers’ livelihoods. He was horrified and asked himself, “Why did I go to university, if not to make a difference?”
Many of us engage in environmental activism because of a sense of responsibility to today’s children and future generations. And we often bring young people into these efforts with the notion of instilling environmental values in them for later life. But, “it’s no longer about the future; it’s about today,” said Tangu Tumeo, a forestry officer in Malawi’s government. “And where I’m coming from, it’s not even a choice.”
In 2016, Malawi pledged to bring 4.5 million hectares of degraded and deforested land under restoration by 2030 – almost half its total land area. This pledge is part of the country-led AFR100 initiative, which aims to restore 100 million hectares across the African continent. Speaking in a side event on restoration opportunities for young people at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany, on 1–2 December, Tumeo explained how restoration is necessary and urgent for food security in her country. The population is expanding, and youth under 24 currently comprise 64 percent. Without sustainable employment, “they’ll keep exploiting the remaining forests, making charcoal and the cycle [of degradation and poverty] will never end,” she said.
That’s why her ministry is implementing youth-focused forest landscape restoration (FLR) initiatives that incentivize restoration by providing decent wages for their young employees. And to meet the AFR100 commitments across the continent, these are the kinds of activities that need to be scaled up, said Mamadou Diakité of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD).