Selected in light of their notable contributions to environmental protection efforts within the Velondriake community-managed marine protected area, Joelison (16) and Ody (22) made the two-day journey to Ranomafana (one of Madagascar’s best known protected rain-forests) in order to participate in a ‘face-to-face networking and knowledge sharing’ event organised and hosted by UNICEF Madagascar. As part of a campaign to raise the profile of youth participation in conservation throughout the country, the workshop was geared specifically towards those aged between 15-24, and required each of the 20 participants (representing 7 regions across Madagascar) to deliver a presentation on their conservation activities, including details on how to successfully generate enthusiasm and participation of peers as conservation advocates. All were encouraged to share these experiences using a variety of mediums including dance, song and theatre.
The workshop provided a valuable platform for sharing information and experience. All participants were encouraged to expand on lessons learned from their personal experiences concerning both biodiversity protection and efforts to tackle and adapt to the impacts of climate change. In this vein, networking was encouraged to help facilitate future information sharing with emphasis placed on the potentially important role of ‘self-help’ groups within conservation and climate change adaptation initiatives throughout Madagascar. The inclusion of participants from diverse backgrounds and regions enabled the groups to learn about and identify with different contexts and perspectives, generating increased awareness, understanding and acceptance between the participants, whilst simultaneously promoting the necessity for more ‘youth-led’ activities to address and overcome the critical issues and challenges posed by climate change in Madagascar.
Joelison and Ody with fellow participants in Ranomafana
About his experience, Joelison Tahandrazana said, ‘It’s been amazing! Not only have I had a chance to meet new and interesting people but as my first trip away from Andavadoaka, I have experienced the totally different environment of the rainforest – so many trees compared to Andavadoaka! And it’s cold!’
Outcomes included the compilation of an essential, yet ‘youth-friendly’ information package on climate change and biodiversity conservation for future dissemination to youth groups throughout the country, as well as laying the foundations for a ‘youth Malagasy framework’ to help outline successful strategies to encourage increased participation of children and young people in biodiversity conservation and climate change adaptation activities.
This workshop highlights the very important yet often understated role that youth members play in conservation and influencing perceptions of environmental issues at a national level. Often instigating conservation activities through their families and associations, youth participation in conservation in Madagascar is exceptional. The increased integration of young people into decision-making now represents a shift towards a more inclusive planning system, whereby management objectives can cater for the collective issues and ideas raised by youths from diverse backgrounds on a national level. In many ways, the youth of today will bear the brunt of the resulting impacts of the environmental changes currently taking place; it is thus essential that this generation has a voice within policy development and decision-making—due recognition for the valuable contribution that they have, can and will continue to make to conservation and climate change adaptation efforts now and in the future.