United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) says young people can play a significant role in combating desertification in Nigeria and other African countries troubled by the environmental crisis.
But, this can only happen if they harness the relevant knowledge, science and technology for their land restoration endeavors.
According to the UN agency, youth-oriented programmes should be inclusive, not limited to academia or young professionals but extended to young farmers and entrepreneurs, indigenous and vulnerable groups, such as young people with disabilities.
‘’Agro eco-tourism and other innovative approaches could bring young job seekers back to their communities, giving them an opportunity to create sustainable livelihoods while addressing the impacts of climate change, depletion of natural resources, waste disposal and land degradation’’, it says.
UNCCD is working to mobilise the youth to take care of land while creating a sustainable future for all.
Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management.
The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
The new UNCCD 2018-2030 Strategic Framework is the most comprehensive global commitment to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) in order to restore the productivity of vast expanses of degraded land, improve the livelihoods of more than 1.3 billion people, and reduce the impacts of drought on vulnerable populations to build.
The Convention’s 197 parties work together to improve the living conditions for people in drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought.
UNCCD is particularly committed to a bottom-up approach, encouraging the participation of local people in combating desertification and land degradation, and its secretariat facilitates cooperation between developed and developing countries, particularly around knowledge and technology transfer for sustainable land management.
As the dynamics of land, climate and biodiversity are intimately connected, the UNCCD collaborates closely with the other two Rio Conventions; the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to meet these complex challenges with an integrated approach and the best possible use of natural resources.
Today, there are 1.8 billion people in the world between the ages of 15 and 35, a quarter of the global population and the largest generation of youth the world has ever known.
These young people are also the most educated generation ever. Young women and men are invaluable assets that no country can afford to waste.
They bring to the job market their energy, talent and creativity together with cutting-edge skills and the motivation that enable companies to grow, innovate and prosper.
However, the social and economic integration of young people remains an ongoing challenge.
In Africa, the young population is rapidly growing and expected to double to over 830 million by 2050. Of Africa’s nearly 420 million youth aged 15-35, one-third are unemployed and discouraged, another third are vulnerably employed, and only one in six is in wage employment.
And the young women that make up over half of the youth unemployed are finding it harder than ever to close the gender gap.
Thus, creating opportunities for rural youth remains a particular challenge. Countries have a critical choice to make: create employment opportunities, especially in rural areas, and reap the demographic dividends of a young vibrant workforce or face the social unrest and political instability that high rates of youth unemployment may bring.
The secretariat is working closely with the Desertification Youth Caucus to support the engagement of the youth in the work of the Convention.
Young people together with the secretariat and the respective host countries have organised two youth fora on the sidelines of the last sessions of the COPs to channel the input from young and future generations into the official outcomes of the COPs.
However, the first-ever UNCCD Youth Forum with the theme Land, Youth and Sustainability was held during the 13th session Conference of Parties to UNCCD, in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China. On September 8, 2017, the Forum, which was attended by nearly 200 participants from 25 countries around the world, was inaugurated by guests of honour: Zhang Yongli (Vice Administrator of State Forestry of Administration), Ms Monique Barbut (the Executive Secretary of UNCCD Secretariat), Xu Xiao (Person in-Charge of All China Youth Federation), and Jiři Hlaváček (Chief Environmental Governance and Convention Branch, Law Division of UN Environment).
During the opening ceremony, the significant role of young people in combating desertification was acknowledged and concurred by all guests of honor. The participants were also urged to harness the relevant knowledge, science and technology and to be bold and innovative in their desertification-combating endeavors.
The interactive dialogue between panelists, participants, and exchange of innovative ideas, and success stories also generated positive feedback from participants.
In addition, the forum adopted the youth declaration on “Global Youth Initiative for Combating Desertification.” The declaration was presented by Yang Liu on September 11, 2017 at the High Level Segment Opening Session and was accepted by the parties to be included as part of COP13 decisions.
Andrew Lesa, who represented the Youth Forum participants, also presented the ‘Youth opinion on land and climate” at the Civil Society Organisations’ Open Dialogue held on 9 September 2017.
Lesa emphasized that consultations with youth should be inclusive and not limited to academia or young professionals but extended to young farmers and entrepreneurs, indigenous and vulnerable groups, such as young people with disabilities.
He called for “ruralisation” intervention that would bring young job seekers back to rural communities and give them an opportunity address impacts of climate change and land degradation on the ground.
The forum ended with the youth field trip to the Hobq Desert, which is an agro-ecotourism & technology park that showcases the success of rehabilitation and restoration programs.
As Confucius said, “the will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”
Hopefully, restoring limited land resources is not impossible: where there is a will, there is always a way.