Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary

Youth and the Environment

Federica Meneghetti

Federica Meneghetti reports on an innovative project involving young people in the three countries of Argentina, China and Mozambique.

The author works with the UN Convention to Combat Desertification as a liaison officer with the Italian Government providing assistance and support in the development of bilateral activities and pilot projects. Previously she worked with UNESCO and the Food and Agricultural Organization.

In 1994, aware that the livelihoods of over 1.2 billion people were threatened or are at risk because of drought and desertification, the Parties to the Rio Convention adopted the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

The UNCCD mandate attempts not only to tackle the impacts of desertification but also to mitigate the effects of the resulting droughts. This process is undertaken through policies and measures to be directly implemented in dry land areas which are vulnerable to over-exploitation and inappropriate land-use as a result of poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and poor irrigation techniques.

Over the past two decades, the problem of land degradation in dryland regions has continually worsened. The Convention represents, therefore, a much needed political and operational consensus on the measures for preventing and rehabilitating degraded land.

In recognition of the principles of participation, partnership and decentralization, the Convention advocates a spirit of partnership as the basis upon which the states affected by desertification and donor countries should cooperate. The Convention requires its parties to guarantee that all relevant ‘actors’ will cooperate in setting priorities, developing long-term programmes and implementing them. These ‘actors’ comprise of local communities, women and youth groups, non-governmental organizations, national governments, donor agencies and scientific research institutions.

The bottom-up approach of the Convention helps to significantly strengthen relationships between governments and local communities, particularly in larger countries. This approach favours the decentralized involvement of the stakeholders and the end users of natural resources.

Experience gained so far in trying to tackle poverty, land degradation, climate change and loss of biodiversity, suggests that synergistic approaches are the most effective in the development and implementation of activities that would help to meet the broad objectives of the Rio Conventions. It has been widely recognized that forestry offers a good deal of opportunity for a synergistic approach. It is important, therefore, to promote carefully designed forestry activities to enable the fostering of cooperation and coordination among these Conventions. It is important also to identify synergies as a tool to achieve sustainable development as stated by the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

In view of the foregoing, the Italian Ministry for the Environment and Territory and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) agreed to launch an innovative experience in Argentina, China and Mozambique. The initiative is to target job creation for youth and to seek to strengthen synergies in the forest sector between the three Conventions of Biodiversity, Climate Change, and Desertification.

The objectives of the projects are to rehabilitate degraded land, create income-generating activities, to sequester carbon and to restore and protect biodiversity. At the same time, the projects will endeavour to raise awareness and strengthen the role of youth and civil society organizations through the promotion of sustainable development in these fragile ecosystems.

In a broader view, the general objective of the projects is to enhance the capacity for implementing sustainable development policies at the local level. This will promote community awareness and will involve the participation of young people in safeguarding the environment. To achieve this objective, a bottom-up approach has been adopted which will mobilize the youth to undertake the reforestation activities at the same time as providing them with experience and employment opportunities.

The projects will also increase the capacity of these communities for implementing sustainable development policies, particularly those related to the UNCCD process under the participating countries' National Action Programme to Combat Desertification and Drought.

Through the afforestation and reforestation of an average of 3,000 hectares in each country with native species, the projects will specifically contribute to:

The projects will be implemented in areas where they can address, through the implementation of reforestation schemes, the issues of poverty, land degradation, carbon sequestration and loss of biodiversity at the same time.

The areas are the Province of Santiago del Estero (Argentina), Aohan County of Chifeng Municipality of Inner Mongolia (China) and Tete Province (Mozambique). All three areas are severely degraded in one way or the other. This degradation is due to either heavy agricultural use, overgrazing and uncontrolled clearing, or natural land degradation. Furthermore, all three projects are located in poverty stricken areas.

Environmental Youth Groups, Santiago del Estero Province, Argentina

The goals of the project are:

The project will be implemented in the province of Santiago del Estero, located in the north of Argentina, in one of the poorest and least developed areas in the country.

The region suffers from the effects of El Niño. Large saltpans of calcium carbonate are evidence of severe land degradation due to poor irrigation practices. Intensive agricultural exploitation, overgrazing, and deforestation have contributed to the degradation of further vast tracts of land.

The irrational exploitation of the natural forests alone has resulted in the destruction of nine million hectares over the last hundred years. Wood products from these forests were mostly burned instead of being utilized. Once farming was no longer profitable, the land was set aside or simply abandoned, a practice that continues to date. Furthermore, native forests are not being managed sustainably even though the potential for non-wood forest production is very high.

Santiago del Estero Province, Argentina

Santiago del Estero Province, Argentina

© Massimo Candelori

Santiago del Estero has substantial environmental comparative advantages. There are several areas that are appropriate for the development of sustainable productive activities that would allow for the reversing of the current state of environmental deterioration and the associated poverty.

Unemployment is of great concern. Government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector are working together to meet the demands of job creation, thereby fostering income-creating activities for young people.

The project will be carried out in ten municipalities of Santiago del Estero Province. These were selected on the basis of their potential and capacity to reflect different provincial realities, with a view to progressive replication of the experience to the rest of the province. They constitute the big municipality of Santiago del Estero City, the medium-sized municipalities of Fernandez, Loreto and Termas de Rio Hondo, and the small municipalities of Beltran, Campo Gallo, Colonia El Simbolar, Pinto, Selva and Tintina. The total population of these ten municipalities is around 280,000 inhabitants.

Santiago del Estero Province, Argentina

Santiago del Estero Province, Argentina

© Massimo Candelori

The forestation activities will be carried out in the two locations of Colonia El Simbolar and Campo Gallo. Thirty-six plots in Colonia El Simbolar will be used for tree plantation activities. Small farmers own thirty-five of them. The Province owns the odd one, which is a bigger plot.

Plantations will also be established in three plots in Campo Gallo which are owned by big-size farmers. Nurseries will be established in the other eight municipalities. These nurseries will supply both the project and the local market. The total area to be forested through the project is 3,018 hectares.

Youth Participation in Plantation Establishment for Combating Desertification in Aohan County, Northern China

The goals of the project are:

The project will be implemented in Aohan County, in Northern China. Aohan lies at the southern end of the Kerqin Sandy Land. The land is a Euro-Asian grass region and includes many nurseries. The total land area of the county is 800,000 hectares which includes 13 state forest farms. The proposed project covers (but not wholly) nine state forest farms.

Agroforestry. Aohan County, China

Aohan County, China

© Xiaoxia Jia

Over the past few decades, the forested land area in Aohan has expanded to 352,700 hectares. This accounts for 42.5 per cent of the total land area. An ecology system dominated by forestry has been established in a basic form. There is, however, still over 200,000 hectares of eroded land, 80,000 hectares of desertified land and 120,000 hectares of degraded grassland that need urgent attention. Severe wind erosion and desertification have caused extensive loss of water and soil.

The ecological rehabilitation task continues to be extensive and urgent. Afforestation activities for the purpose of combating desertification will be the central task in the effort to rehabilitate the ecology over a long period of time. Good progress in the development of forestry ecology has made forestry an effective safeguard in the economic, social and ecological development of Aohan. It has helped the development of forestry, agriculture and animal husbandry progress on a sustainable and harmonious track. Plantation establishment based on national action plans has also become an extensive programme.

Apple trees on sandy soil. Aohan County, China

Apple trees on sandy soil
Aohan County, China

© Xiaoxia Jia

The plantations will result in many agricultural benefits. Intercropping with high-quality grazing grass will produce grass seeds and provide large amount of feeds for animal husbandry. The average net income for grazing grass is over 750 Yuan/hectare. Therefore, the total area of 3,000 hectares will bring a net annual income of 2,25 million Yuan.

After the trees become mature, it will be possible to harvest timber, seeds, and firewood. It is calculated that the gains will be over 750 Yuan/hectare and the average annual gains would be another 2,25 million Yuan. The proposed project will not only control sand-wind erosion as well as desertification, but will also bring economic benefits. These economic benefits are greater than they would be if the land were used for farming.

As the plantations will be established on barren land that has almost no vegetation cover in a region plagued with sand storms they will do much in preventing further erosion. They will also sequester carbon in a manner that is both compliant with the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, or that can be sold on other carbon markets which, in turn, can earn the project participants some extra income at the same time as benefiting the global environment. Furthermore, the project will employ young people which will provide them with additional job opportunities and income as well as raising their environmental awareness.

Youth Forestry Programme, Tete Province, Mozambique

The goals of the project are:

The project will be implemented in the Tsangano district in the Tete province of Mozambique. Tsangano district covers a total land area of 3,649 km2 and has a population of 106,557 inhabitants. The centre of the district is located some 191 kilometresaway from Tete, the capital city of Tete Province.

The project activities, covering some 3,000 hectares, will be specifically located in the eight villages of Bungue, Calipale, Chiyandame, Chicomas, Chiphole, Chitambe, Magumbo and Mapanje. The area lies in a mountainous zone with a cool climate. The mean annual temperature is 24°C. The average annual precipitation is more than 1200 mm. The soils are characterized as ferrasols of heavy texture and the main crops include maize, potatoes, wheat, tobacco and beans.

Creation of fodder banks on uncultivated land. Tete Province, Mozambique

Creation of fodder banks on uncultivated land
Tete Province, Mozambique

© Patrick W Matakala

The current Tsangano district was initially an administrative post within Angónia district. As an administrative post Tsangano was a new frontier waiting to be exploited for large agricultural projects by the then colonial power. The first agricultural activities started in 1953 under the colonial Portuguese government causing large tracts of miombo forests to be deforested. Agricultural expansion and deforestation continued until 1974, a year before Mozambique’s independence and when the Portuguese fled the country.

Upon independence, the agricultural infrastructure and farms that had been established under colonial rule were taken over by a para-statal company known as Complexo Agro-Industrial de Angónia. The main crops produced at the time were Irish potatoes, maize and fruits which were supplied to local markets in the whole country and also exported to Malawi. Complexo Agro-Industrial de Angonia operated until 1989 at which time the government decided to abandon the scheme.

By 1989, an estimated 15,000 hectares of miombo forests had been destroyed and soil erosion and loss of soil fertility were obvious problems. These problems continue to date. Local authorities believe that cross-border migration between Mozambaique and Malawi during the second half of the 1980s due to civil war in Mozambique also contributed significantly to deforestation in Tsangano district.

Creation of fodder banks on uncultivated land. Tete Province, Mozambique

Creation of fodder banks on uncultivated land
Tete Province, Mozambique

© Patrick W Matakala

Tsangano was seen as a new heaven for fuelwood supplies. It is important to note that most of the deforestation occurred in what is now Ntengo-Wa-Mbalame Administrative Post. According to oral accounts from local elders, the current Administrative Post of Tsangano, which covers the villages of Chiyandame and Chitambe, was never forested. It is anticipated that project activities in Ntengo-Wa-Mbalame Administrative Post will focus on reforestation while those in Tsangano Administrative Post will focus on afforestation efforts.

The project will contribute to the country’s sustainable development. The expected outcomes include the following:

Current status

Joint missions of the UNCCD and the Italian Government were fielded to all three participating countries between July and November 2003. The purpose of the missions was to establish the framework for implementing the projects under the Clean Development Mechanism rules at the same time as adhering to the mandate of the UNCCD and promoting biodiversity.

Based on the findings of the field visits, the three projects were deemed viable. Carbon sequestration is also viable, in varying degrees, in all three cases. This concurrent viability does not contravene environmental or socio-economic targets. In fact, it is in conformity with, and complements, these targets. The three projects are, therefore, categorized as “carbon sequestration through afforestation and reforestation and restoration of degraded land”. That is, sinks in the Clean Development Mechanism.

The results of the missions have been circulated in the form of mission reports. In addition, project design documents have been discussed and revised during the first Steering Committee meeting.

In revising the project design documents, the Steering Committee has recommended that project participants should strictly follow the stipulations of document UNFCCC/SBSTA/2003/L.27 on the definition and modalities for including afforestation and reforestation activities under article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol together with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2003 Good Practice Guidance on Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF).

In addition, project participants were requested to ensure that the projects are developed within the framework of the National Action Programme to Combat Desertification and Drought and in accordance with the synergistic approach of the environmental conventions. Project participants were also requested to provide a detailed description of the site preparation activities as soon as possible in order to start the implementation phase as soon as soon possible. The projects should last for five years.

Field implementation of the projects will be funded through a special contribution of the Italian Ministry for the Environment and Territory. Looking at the project’s budget over the total duration of five years (excluding the carbon modelling component), the investment for establishing the plantations ranges approximately from US$ 300 to 315 per hectare. This cost is well below those sought by forestry economists for establishing similar plantations.

The projects would allow for achievement of very substantial targets in terms of carbon sequestration. In addition, there are very significant immediate project-generated socio-economic benefits, encompassing, amongst others, job opportunity creation and direct revenues for farmers. Long-term benefits are also targeted through the expected income generation from wooden products. In some cases, the projects will also contribute to reducing the migration from unproductive areas, the illicit exploitation of natural forests, and the practice of bush burning and its negative effects.

Further information
Federica Meneghetti, UNCCD Liaison Officer in Rome. Email: fmeneghetti@unccd.int. Web: www.unccd.int.

The author would like to acknowledge the Italian Ministry of Environment and Territory, Department of Environmental Research and Development, the Italian regional University of La Tuscia – Department of Forest Environment Science and its Resources, the National Coordinating Bodies and the relevant national institutions cooperating in this initiative in Argentina, China and Mozambique, and colleagues in the UNCCD secretariat, in particular, Massimo Candelori and Goodspeed Kopolo, for the information and the support extended in the preparation of this article.