Peruse the Vybzing in Guyana Climate Change Youth Forum Agenda
A vibrant VYBZING Guyana 2014 opened on Wednesday, May 21 under the theme, ‘Youth Voices for Climate Change.’
Young people from Guyana and St. Lucia have gathered in Georgetown, Guyana to examine the impact of climate change on the Region and offer solutions to the challenges it pose. Over a three day period (May 21 to 23) more than 70 young people will hear from local and Regional experts working on various Climate Change initiatives and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), about charting a future aimed at developing responses to the changes occurring.
The three day event was developed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre and is being facilitated by the Centre’s communications specialist, Tyrone Hall, and policy officer, Sharon Lindo, for the Caribbean Development Bank Youth Outreach Programme for enabling youth expression on challenges and development issues in the Region. This outreach programme is being held days before the 44th Annual Meeting of Board of Governors of the Bank where the youth grouping is expected to make a presentation.
Speaking at the opening of the Forum, Chairman of the Board of Governors of CDB and Guyana’s Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh stressed the importance of the Youth Forum as one that will examine the critical issue of climate change. “We are meeting in a room today that sits below the level of the Atlantic Ocean and we are protected by a physical wall constructed by man and maintained by man, maintained by a government at considerable cost,” he told participants. The Guyanese Finance Minister noted that because so much of the country’s economic activity, administrative capacity and population reside on and depend on the country’s coastal plain, the issue of climate change is even more critical. “One or two inches of sea level rise and the entire coast of Guyana could be wiped out,” he warned.
Dr. Singh spoke of the effects already caused by changing weather patterns in the Region. Recalling the 2005 floods in Guyana, he pointed out that a single activity can have tremendous impact on a country. “Just a few hours of high intensity rain-fall placed much of our coast, under, in some places, several feet of water and in most places under several feet of water for days and for weeks. Thousands of Guyanese had to be evacuated from their homes, hundreds of acres of crops were lost, thousands of livestock perished, and our entire economy reeled under the pressure of a single natural disaster that cost us an equivalent of 60% of our Gross Domestic Product.”
Focusing on the importance of youth in addressing climate change, the Finance Minister noted that while climate change affects entire populations, young people have the strongest vested interest in addressing the issue. He pointed out that the worse effects of climate change would probably take their toll after the present generation would have pass on and it would be the next generation of policy makers, legislators, entrepreneurs, farmers and house holders whose lives would be more severely affected by climate change.
Dr. Singh’s Cabinet colleague, Culture, Youth and Sport Minister Dr. Frank Anthony painted a picture of losses across the Region between 2009 and 2012 following several storms, hurricanes and floods. “If you look at 2009, we had nine storms, three hurricanes with six persons dying. It is estimated that those resulted in USD77 million in damage and … in 2010 the Region had 19 storms, 12 hurricanes and 287 people died with about USD12.3 billion in damage,” Minister Anthony explained. He also shared statistics for 2011 and 2012.
Both Ministers of the Guyana Government pointed to Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy which places a value on Guyana’s forest and acts as a guide that offers solutions to the world’s climate change woes. “For generations Guyanese have exercised responsible policy choices to keep our forests standing, so that today we can proudly say we serve as an important part of the lungs of the world. While many parts of the rest of the world rushed ahead and cut down their trees in the name of economic development, we acted responsibly and kept our trees standing,” Minister Singh said.
Yvette Lemonias-Seale, Vice-President (Corporate Services) and Bank Secretary, CDB, underscored the importance of the Forum by pointing out that there is no equitable development unless there are equal opportunities; hence the opening of this participatory process aimed that developing solutions. She identified global climate change as the “most serious challenge” facing the Caribbean, one that is threatening the future of the Region.
“Sixty percent of our Caribbean population lives within 1.5 KM of the coastland, making us susceptible to rising sea levels, storm surges and coastal erosion exacerbated by sea level rise,” she argued.
She added that hurricanes, tropical storms, high rain fall, floods are expected to be more frequent now with greater intensity; noting climate change related events are already impacting our economies, our livelihoods and vital infrastructure.
Vice-President Lemonias-Seale warned against becoming “climate refugees” and charged, “We need you, the youth. Our countries need you, our Region needs you to be part of the solution…and not just because I said you and your children would be impacted but because you are who you are. You are innovators, you are fearless…We want you to become advocates for climate change and to be a voice within your communities. You are the select few, the chosen few, we need to make that work for you. Your country, your Region is depending on you,” she charged the youths.
The CDB Vice-President announced that the Bank is committed to supporting young people by providing funding for Community Based Climate Change projects that are “youth led and youth developed”.
Neila Bobb–Prescott, Senior Technical Officer/Manager, Forest and Livelihoods Programme, Caribbean Natural Resources Institute in Trinidad and Tobago sought to answer one of the most pertinent questions, “why involve the youth”.
“Youth are vulnerable to the impact of climate change. The impacts of climate change decrease availability of nutritious food and clean water and destroy ecosystems and living environments. This leads to malnutrition, ill-health and migration, rendering youth particularly vulnerable, hence it makes sense to make you part of the action on climate change,” she pointed out.
Bobb-Prescott reminded the young people that they have the ability to implement changes. “When you plan your action for climate change, you need to be clear in what you want to say, so you need to figure out with your partners, with your people, what is it you actually want to say about climate change. As youth of Guyana, research your position, be sure that when you stand up to speak you speak from a position of authority,” she advised.
The youth participants also heard about climate change and its effects on the Region. Led by Sharon Lindo and Tyrone Hall of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre the presentations described some changes taking place in the Region.
Listing the losses following several disasters, participants were exposed to challenges facing some of the islands in the Region with examples from the Island of Bequia in the Grenadines where a project involving salt water reverse osmosis is aimed at providing a scarce resource, fresh water, to that island. The young people were also exposed to CDB initiatives which introduced them to the climate change negotiation processes, as well as strategies in place to address climate changes effects within the Region.
“Most of the things spoken here today are things I knew. However, the Regional and local response to climate change were particularly interesting,” Guyanese, Nkasi Fortune of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network said.
St. Lucian Jeny Gaillard, of the Choiseul Youth and Sports Council feels that the theme is appropriate for Guyana, “given its geographic location and its high forested, low development profile, there are many lessons to be learnt since climate change is a global phenomenon.”
Over the next two days, the young people will participate in discussions on climate change and community adaption, how to communicate climate change, project management and building support networks. They will also hear about community, national and Regional projects aimed at fostering changes.
The Youth Forum concludes on Friday, May 23 with a visit to Guyana’s Managrove Restoration Project.
The second day of the VYBZING Guyana 2014’s Youth Forum got underway today with participants eager to learn how they can be part of the process to help fight rapid climate change. For many of the participants who travelled from Guyana’s hinterland and riverain communities for VYBZING Guyana 2014, this is their first formal discussion on the threat of climate change and how they can be change agents.
22-year-old Jude Edwin travelled from Monkey Mountain located deep in Guyana’s hinterland, to Georgetown on Guyana’s coastland to attend the Forum. It took him two days to get to the city. One day involved walking and using land transportation before he got to an airstrip for a plane to fly him to the city.
“Listening to presentations in this workshop I realised that climate change has been affecting my village. Look we get rains around this time, May/June rains and up to now, we had no rain just hot sun shine,” Edwin explained.
He feels that VYBZING Guyana 2014 has placed him in a very fortunate position as a Community Support Officer, “When I go back to my village I feel strong to challenge my youth and elders to help fight against climate change,” he said.
Edwin is not alone. Many of the presentations made as part of the three-day training are new to the more than 30 hinterland participants. Today, many of them saw images of mangroves for the first time. The mangrove trees which serve as natural barriers and sea defense on the coastline, are not a feature in the hinterland regions of Guyana.
“I must say that the issue of climate change has never overwhelmed me like this,” said Sandro Edmund of the hinterland village of Paruima. The 25-year-old explained that his eyes are trained to recognise the many rivers, creeks and forested areas in his Region but not the sea and mangroves. “These sessions have definitely enhanced my knowledge on climate change and have given me a stronger desire to fight for our generation and the ones to come,” Edmund declared.
The participants learning about mangroves for the first time today, heard that Guyana’s coastline boasts a display of more than 22,600 hectares of mangrove.
Kene Moseley, Project Coordinator at the National Agricultural Research Institute’s Mangrove Department, explained that that more than 22,600 hectares of mangrove line the coastline from Region 1, the most north-western point on Guyana’s map to Region 6, its northeastern most point. From 1990 to 2011 there has been a massive reduction on mangroves on the coastline, the number declined from 82,000 in 1990 to 22,600 in 2012.
That decline has not gone unnoticed; the Guyana Government is funding the Guyana Mangrove Restoration Plan with technical support from the Delegation of European Union.
“Over the past three years we have been able to recruit mangrove rangers, plant more than 500 seedlings, and promote awareness within the communities” Moseley told participants.
Tomorrow, the participants will have the opportunity to visit a mangrove site in a coastline village; there they will also be exposed to a ‘spin off’ programme from this Restoration Project- the Mangrove Heritage Tour Trail. This tourism project gives a first- hand glance at how this restoration has impacted on the lives of villagers. Participants will travel on a horse drawn cart to the site, see bee harvesting deep within the mangroves, and be exposed to cultural activities including African drumming.
Day two of VYBZING Guyana 2014 also exposed participants to the intricacies involved in developing work and communications plans, as well as how and why such plans are important when pursing climate change initiatives projects. Participants added their suggestions to the discussions on this morning’s presentation on Climate Change and Community Adaptation.
The participants felt they have an opportunity to create a clean carbon footprint by encouraging recycling, encouraging the use of clean energy and promoting awareness.
The VYBZING Guyana 2014 Youth Forum ended today, May 23 in Georgetown with participants issuing a declaration of their commitment to address the challenges brought on by climate change.
The Declaration from the youths notes that, “as vulnerable Small Island Developing States (SIDS), it is imperative that we be involved in all aspects of deliberation, consultations, negotiations and policy making that address the importance of sustainable development to our future as Guyanese and Caribbean youths.
We recognise that we are faced with challenges such as a lack of adequate representation at all levels and vulnerability to flooding and other climate change related disasters, a lack of awareness in relation to youth related actions that are needed to adapt to and mitigate the actions of climate change, and lack of engagement with policy makers.”
In addressing the role of youth in fighting climate change, the 2014 Youth Forum participants committed to; “Practicing proper waste management which includes composting, reducing, recycling and where necessary reuse our waste in addition to energy and water conservation, keeping ourselves informed on current issues relating to climate change internationally and locally, sharing on knowledge to peers, family and the community at large.”
The youth Declaration calls on governments of the Region to; “Promote and incentivise the use of clean, green and sustainable technologies, translate existing policies into community based actions, facilitate behavioural change through the implementation of stronger educational and awareness based environmental activities, provide resources to vulnerable communities with minority groups, particularly those in urban communities, people with disabilities and Hinterland youth to encourage innovation and creativity in adapting to climate change.
The Declaration came as a result of a special session on project management geared at helping the participants understand how to create and activate a project. The participants were privy to vital information on how to manage possible projects they may want to pursue, doing appraisals and fostering partnerships.
To bolster the participants’ interest, two members of the Choiseul Youth and Sports Council of St. Lucia made a presentation on their Road Safety Community-based Project launched following last year’s VYBZING St. Lucia Youth Forum.
The Youth Group was awarded a USD10,000 grant by Caribbean Development Bank in 2013 to execute community-based road safety project. The focus of the group was to complete a project close to members’ hearts and one which was needed within their communities. An accident that claimed the lives of 17 people played a huge factor in the youth’s eagerness to undertake the project as they felt they were haunted by several narrow roads and sharp bends.
Starting in July 2013, the Youth Group was able to erect road signs, and most importantly, much needed protective barriers in Sab Wisha, Tou Mac and Choiseul as part their project.
They didn’t stop there, there was also a Choiseul Youth and Sports Council Road Safety Awareness Programme which reached out to schools and the public to promote safer road use.
Jeny Gaillard, General Secretary and Kina Nicholas, Assistant Treasurer of the Council used the opportunity presented by VYBZING Guyana Youth Forum to enlighten their Guyanese counterparts about their challenges, advising them to consider pooling their resources, to remain focus, plan and strategise, and to collaborate to ensure a successful project.
VYBZING Guyana 2014 was an eye-opening and rewarding experience for many of the Guyanese youth.
Youth Officer in the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, Omeshwar Sirikishun who travelled from Region 6, felt that the forum “created a quality impact” on his life.
Marlon Joseph of Region 3 said that he was able to grasp a better understanding of climate change during the three days. “I was inspired to examine myself and make adjustments, what stuck with me most is the end result of climate change, so we must ask ourselves when are we going to make a difference,” Joseph said.
Onika A. Stellingburg of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network praised the forum. “It allowed us, young people to meet and present ideas that will lead to adaptive measures being implemented by our communities,” she explained.
VYBZING Guyana 2014 ended with a tour of the one of the Mangrove Restoration Project sites along the Coast.