By Mario Joseph
The Caribbean Develop-ment Bank (CDB) will be awarding a youth group with a US$10,000 grant towards the implementation of a viable climate change mitigating project proposal.
This was announced at the “Vybzing” Guyana Forum, which opened on Wednesday at the Grand Coastal Inn, Plantation Le Ressouvenir, East Coast Demerara, under the theme, “Youth voices for climate change.”
“Vybzing,” an annual CDB programme, is targeted towards youths between the ages of 16 and 29 and is directed towards combating social ills in the member countries of the entity.
The opening of the workshop, which saw the attendance of some 50 participants from a wide cross-section of youth, civil society and community organisations was attended by the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport Frank Anthony and Minister of Finance Ashni Singh, who both spoke at length about climate change and welcomed the bank’s initiative.
The goals of this year’s outreach programme are to improve awareness of climate change by sensitising the youth, encouraging them to become advocates for the cause and to influence change through motivating and developing solutions. The bank hopes that the youth will return to their community with this knowledge, share it with their community members
and peers thus sparking a chain reaction of awareness. The workshop will be discussing the topic of climate change in the Caribbean, the impact of climate change on Guyana and current initiatives, regional responses to climate change, Caribbean Development Bank initiatives, practical climate change adaptation steps and how to communicate climate change. The programme will also seek to teach participants the essentials of project management and capacity building in terms of support/networks/collaborators.
At the end of the workshop the youth will be tasked to form groups with the aim of developing community-based climate change mitigating project proposals by September/October this year. The projects will be judged by a team of bank officers, to be assembled later, with the winner being selected by the end of October. The project grant of US $10,000 will be issued to the group through the relevant ministries/agencies, which is a control mechanism to ensure the youths follow through with their proposals. They will have from November to April’s end to complete implementation and join the ranks of young people who have found success as agents of change through the Vybzing programme.
This supports the bank’s goal of having a tangible impact in the mitigation of the effects of climate change by challenging the participants to develop practical and implemental solutions to the problem. This would address criticism of these kinds of initiatives of just talking about the problem since actual solutions will be derived and at least one implemented.
This happens to be the second year that such a grant has been offered after the workshops, with the pilot being tested in St. Lucia last year. The winner of the grant was the Choiseul Youth Council members, who were represented at the seminar by Jeny Gaillard and Kina Nicholas. The group proposed a road safety educational project in line with last year’s road safety theme. This project was described by Gaillard as a great eye opener and she said it has deepened her appreciation for the agencies that facilitate road safety. Citing the scope for continuity of the road project she implemented, Gaillard said she and her council is prepared to strengthen their partnership with the agencies that they worked with towards making the roadways of Choiseul safer.
Interviews with the youth participants proved them to be well aware of climate change and its global effect, since many youth group members already involved in the fight were there. Other participants included employees of the various ministries and Amerindian communities. A member of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network, told Stabroek News that climate change affects our very survival and if we want to preserve and even enjoy life, then we have to take action now. Describing the CDB workshop as a great initiative, she acknowledged that people in Guyana do lack awareness and she expects the programme to spark change.
A Community Service Officer from Kamarang, in Region Seven, told Stabroek News that he planned to inform members of his community about the effects of climate change and what they can do as individuals to minimise the effects. This he committed to doing at the various sporting events that would organised by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport in order to reach a large audience.
Two representatives from the University of the Southern Caribbean’s extension in Queenstown and the Environmental Protection Agency told Stabroek News of their plans to improve awareness and mitigate the effects of climate change wherever they go. With the knowledge they would have gained from the outreach programme, they plan to recycle more, reduce their use of plastics, conserve on energy in many ways, among other individually attainable actions. They also plan on stepping up their advocacy through social media and personal interactions. Describing the programme of the CDB as an excellent one, they said it was not just about talking anymore but educating and empowering youth and facilitating the change they want to see.
A Youth Officer from Region Two recognised that climate change seriously impacted his community as the rice it farms depends on the predictability of the rain and sun to plant and harvest. Exclaiming that the CDB initiative was well timed and an excellent youth education platform, he was happy that the programme highlighted the seriousness of the issue. He said that he plans to return home and deliver the message of the CDB to his community, and to collaborate with youth groups to do projects such as tree planting and clean-up campaigns.
A community member of Essequibo Islands, Region Three described the CDB outreach as a very good initiative because it gives the youth a voice, which he said is especially important since the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow. He said that his community has held clean-up activities in the past but he would be strengthening these efforts when he returns. As it relates to advocacy, he said he plans to raise awareness at community events, through campaigns and signboards.
The outreach programme is a build up to the Annual Board of Governors’ Meeting of the Caribbean Development Bank, which is slated to be held in Guyana for the 44th Anniversary of the bank during the week of May 26 to May 29. It has been a practice of the bank to host a programme of this nature in the host country just prior to the meeting.