SNV participated in the recent UN climate change conference COP25 on 2-13 December. One of the panel discussions we hosted focused on youth employment and climate change. In this session, we discussed different approaches and how best we can support green jobs for climate change, mitigation and adaption.
The following interview is with Joshua Amponsem, one of the participants on this panel and Founder of the Green Africa Youth Organisation.
Joshua, you are the founder of the Green Africa Youth Organization, can you tell me a little bit more about this organization?
The Green Africa Youth organization is an organization focused on community-based development. The main objective is to work with communities to reduce the vulnerabilities of women and young people who have less adaptive capacities to the impacts of climate change. We work with communities on environmental projects with a particular emphasis on helping to build their capacity and to earn more income while protecting the environment. We’ve been working with communities over the past four years mainly on educational initiatives and recently, over the past two years, we have started focusing on capacity building for young people and women.
So what was your motivation for establishing this organisation?
My motivation for establishing the Green Africa Youth Organization was largely because I saw how vulnerable women and children can be in a very patriarchal society. In these cultures, men have a leadership role in households and they have access to resources which children, young people and women do not have. This was my motivation in the beginning. Coupled with that, is the fact that I strongly believe that the environment is a shared resource and something that we need to keep alive. We seem to forget that we actually form part of the ecosystem and the health of an ecosystem is our health. We are a mirror of the health of the ecosystem. This is very important to remember.
And lastly, I have a very strong connection with water so I also felt motivated to act when I saw water bodies being polluted in my community. This is why I decided to start a project where young people and women can better understand the impact the ecosystems have on our livelihood. Also, I wanted to grow their capacity to help them to overcome the challenges that climate change can bring - for example, overcoming droughts and floods which are threatening our healthy ecosystems while, at the same time, making a livelihood out of it.
In your view, are young people really interested in green jobs?
Yes, I believe so. The Green African Youth Organization has established a community based circular economy project which looks at converting agricultural waste into raw materials. Some of the components of the project include converting agricultural waste into charcoal briquettes which are used for cooking so households no longer have to cut wood to use as fuel. A second component of the project involves converting plastic waste into useful materials, and the last component of the project focuses on converting organic waste into compost to supplement or regenerate soils that have been impacted by flooding and droughts. The project is largely led by young people in the community. Why? Because this project provides them with jobs and security but also because they care about the environment.
Therefore, I would say that young people are really interested in green jobs and implementing green projects, as long as they have the capacity, the resources they need, and also, an enabling environment.
In your view what really is the potential for green jobs in the developing world?
I think green jobs in the developing world are crucial. If you look at the developing world, unemployment levels are very high. In my country, Ghana, many young people don't have access to jobs but at the same time they are very concerned about the environment and in many areas, they have high exposure to environmental pollution. In the developing world, green jobs provide a solution to tackle environmental challenges while at the same time providing young people with employment.
What do you see as the main bottleneck in terms of green jobs and how can we stimulate investment in this area?
That's a very difficult question to answer because I think that there are multiple bottlenecks. Skills are one that is at the top of my list. Young people need skills, knowledge and understanding. Without these skills, their green jobs might not be as clean and as green as they would want them to be. We can help provide young people with the necessary skills they need to implement green projects. In terms of your second question, to drive investment in green jobs, I think national governments need to have a better understanding of the role young people can play in this debate. They also need to have the comprehension that the money they put into these projects will first of all provide young people with jobs and also help to take care of the environment.
To drive investment, we need the capacity to undertake market-based or value-based entrepreneurship. This means that every project should be demand-driven and should have value in multiple ways. Projects should be able to support the NDCs, the national adaptation plans, feed into the SDGs touching on all the different initiatives that are needed for the community or the country at large. The last bottleneck I see is that, with start-ups, the money itself can be very difficult for young people to access therefore there should be more financial schemes which help to finance young people’s green initiatives.
What is your message for COP25?
My message for COP25 is that while it is important to engage the private sector in the conversation of climate action but we should also emphasize that the future belongs to communities, not corporations. The private sectors and investors can play a facilitator role in supporting communities to have the appropriate skill to take ownership of their project and help them to decide what they want to do with their profits. It should not be the case that companies or the private sector go into communities implementing green projects and then the benefits and the profit goes to corporations and not the communities. Young people in communities are doing a lot and they have plenty of ideas. Let's prioritize these ideas, help them to access finance and support them to acquire the appropriate skills but give them the freedom to do what they want to do. And finally, ensure that the money and the profits are community-owned.
Let’s focus on that.