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Inspiring youth programs in Africa and the Middle East through conservation

The visiting delegation, YCC members, and Forest Service Staff pose for a group photo after a day learning about conservation corps efforts. Forest Service Photo by Natasha Marwah.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During the last two week of July, seven individuals from five countries in Africa and the Middle East participated in a study tour in Region 2 focused on tackling youth unemployment and water conservation through conservation corps programs. In the participants’ home countries, youth unemployment rates are on the rise and the recent influx of refugees has further exacerbated the impact on communities already struggling to deal with declining economic opportunities and overwhelmed public services. There is, in the experience of the U.S.’s conservation corps programs, one potential model to help address these issues.

This initiative was inspired by the launch of a Youth Conservation Corps Program in Honduras, a partnership between the USDA Forest Service and U.S Agency for International Development. The program in Honduras provides technical training in natural resource conservation to youth, giving youth professional development opportunities and preparing them for careers and leadership roles in natural resource management. The Honduras Youth Conservation Corps targets at-risk youth prone to gang violence and narcotics in Central America. The Forest Service promoted collaboration and exchange between the U.S. and Honduras through assistance with curriculum development, program design, and technical skill transfer.

The study tour was organized by the International Programs office. Visitors were supported and hosted by the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest’s Youth Conservation Corps program and Ouray Ranger District, R2 Regional Office as well as Job Corps staff and student leaders in Collbran, Colorado. Topics discussed during the study tour include program administration and implementation, marketing and outreach, career counseling and post program career services, and sustainable funding models.

Participants in the Colorado study tour were primarily program officers from USAID missions and offices. With ideas and experiences gained during the study tour, the International Programs office helps to catalyze creation of conservation corps initiatives in countries throughout Africa and the Middle East.

YCC crew leaders from Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest share with visiting delegation the challenges and successes associated with a conservation program. Forest Service photo by Jonathan Palmrose.