Crossing intergenerational barriers to preserve biodiversity – the story of youth in Togo
As an important part of any society, youth have a key role to play in governance at all levels and in all sectors. This role has been recognized for young people through several development policy documents and instruments around the world. At the level of the African Union, the African Youth Charter recognizes and promotes the participation of young people in social development, along five axes, one of which relates to “Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment”. Abdel-Karim Ali Mahamane, ABN’s Regional Programme Coordinator shares experiences of how an ABN partner in Togo engages youth in support of living in harmony with nature.
From 15 to 30 August, Young Volunteers for the Environment (JVE) ran their 18th edition of the Agro Bio-Culture Festival to sensitize and involve the young people in Togo on environmental governance, as guided by the statutes of the African Union. It was held in the Village of Kpele, Grand Kloto County, on the slopes of the Atakora Mountains, a great reservoir of animal and plant biodiversity.
Organised in collaboration with local civil society organizations JVE works with regularly, mass education on cultural knowledge and practices in the protection and preservation of biodiversity took place through intergenerational exchanges drawing on a diversity of experiences of participants from Kenya, Niger, Burkina Farso, Benin, Ghana, Zimbabwe among others countries in Africa.
At the Festival, local elected officials had the opportunity to share thoughts with their communities on crucial issues relating to the management of community resources such as water, land, and forests. Involving young people in environmental governance offers an avenue for knowledge exchange between the generations, the ability to understand the issues and helps to leverage the opportunities available to them. Environmental governance means “set of rules, practices, policies and institutions that help shape human interactions with the environment and involve all parties concerned” as documented in reports of Friedriech Ebert Stiftung released in 2021. The Festival also celebrated the graduating MasterClasses where students had focused on sustainable land management, land and forest governance, financing and financing mechanisms of restoration, soil and water management, and more.
Learning in nature in theory and practicals
Held in the heart of the forest, the MasterClasses training sessions combined local scientific and indigenous knowledge. The presence of experts on each of the themes along with the Custodians of traditions and sacred sites, ensured the passing on of ideas and knowledge on the future of resources, management, protection and the role of young people in their governance.
The tutorial approach and the tools used allowed the presentation of the different ecosystem services and what characterizes them. This approach of giving theory and practical sessions simultenously broadened the understanding of the concepts. This approach is reminiscent of an African culture marked by the power of objects and reinforced by beliefs. This perspective, including digitalization and social networks, offers an opportunity for better knowledge management for continuity, greater efficiency and better management of Africa’s development issues in the long term, in particular, on issues related to natural, cultural resources and their management.
JVE, a partner of the African Biodiversity Network, implements many projects aligned to the ABN philosophy. ABN’s themes of Youth Culture and Biodiversity (YCB) and Community Ecological Governance (CEG) featured highly during the Festival. Continued collaborations such as these, with like-minded organisations and individuals, help to recognize the crucial role of the local knowledge of the Elders, youth, women and men in addressing the issues of unsustainable human development approaches, in particular, the environment as well as food and nutritional security. ABN also works on the issue of youth ownership of environmental and biodiversity issues, providing youth with the opportunity to learn, to understand and to express their concerns.
- African Union (2006). African Youth Charter. Gambia, 22p.
- Tzou, G.Scalone, P.Bell (2010). The Role of Environmental Narratives and Social Positioning in How Place Gets Constructed for and by Youth. Taylor and Francis Online
- Friedriech Ebert Stiftung (2021). Youth and Good Environmental Governance. Vienna, 8p.
- United Nations (2016). Knowledge Management in the United Nations System. Geneva, 72p.