Global perspective Human stories

UN agencies tackle youth unemployment, land degradation in Cape Verde

UN agencies tackle youth unemployment, land degradation in Cape Verde

UNV's Ad de Raad (left) and UNCCD's Hama Arba Diallo sign project agreement
In a pilot project for later expansion to the rest of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, two United Nations agencies today launched a dual attack on youth unemployment and land degradation in Cape Verde aimed at protecting the West African island state’s fragile environment through volunteer action.

Sponsored by the UN Volunteers (UNV) and the Secretariat of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), national UNVs and local education institutions will instruct Cape Verdean trainers on starting up pro-environment small businesses that protect the fragile biodiversity of the islands, where unemployed youth make up more than a third of the population.

These enterprises may include irrigation, coastal palm tree plantations, recycling, rubbish removal, handicrafts and ecotourism.

"As a pilot project, the involvement of unemployed youth, which make up 36 per cent of the population, in the rehabilitation of degraded land is significant as it tackles at once both poverty and desertification, which are mutually reinforcing," Hama Arba Diallo, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD Secretariat, said. "This is exemplary of how inter-agency cooperation can directly help people most vulnerable to environmental degradation to improve their livelihood while also conserving the environment."

Desertification affects more than 110 countries worldwide and threatens the livelihood of over 1.2 billion people. If left unchecked, arable land is expected to shrink by one-third in Asia, two-thirds in Africa and one-fifth in South America, exacerbating food insecurity, economic loss and mass migration from dry-land rural areas where the world's poorest reside.

"This project combining volunteering for the environment and income-generation is most certainly on target,” Joseph Byll-Cataria, Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Cape Verde, said. “It will greatly contribute to ongoing efforts aiming at integrating environmental protection into national poverty reduction strategies.”

The two-year project, "Promoting Volunteerism for Sustainable Management of the Environment in Cape Verde," is being funded with nearly $300,000 from UNV's special voluntary fund, $100,000 from UNDP and $100,000 from UNCCD.