They say that the first step towards true change is through effective awareness – and what better way to increase environmental awareness than to build the environmental capacity of local youth so that they may grow and be the change their communities need.
That’s what the Samoa Conservation Society (S.C.S) had in mind as they launched their week-long ‘SGP Environmental Champions Training Course’, which is part of the SGP Samoa Climate Smart Rainforest Restoration Project (C-offset Project), earlier this month.
The project was made possible largely due to the funding of US$43,000, provided by the United Nations Development Programme – Global Environment Facility – Small Grants Programme (U.N.D.P – G.E.F – S.G.P).
The training, which was held at Togitogiga National park, saw 30 youths from the villages of Sa’aga, Saleilua, and Poutasi, take part in forest restoration activities, engage in a number of field visits, learn from various Samoan environmental experts on core elements of Samoa’s environment (including biodiversity and threats to it), and much more.
Also in attendance throughout the course were the village mayors and chiefs who showed much interest in the project.
According to the Project Coordinator and S.C.S technical officer, Christine Tuioti, the project was indeed a success with all project outcomes being met.
“Projects like these are important in providing capacity building for our youth on environmental issues,” Ms. Tuioti explained.
“Another important aspect of this project was the forest restoration. The Champions were taught how to process the soil for greenhouse, potting, transplanting, collection of wildlings and so on.”
Ms. Tuioti added that the 30 environmental champions managed to restore open degraded areas of O Le Pupu Pu’e National Park - this involved restoring/planting 10,400 native Samoan trees and approximately four hectares of native forest.
This is a great contribution towards Samoa’s Two Million Tree Campaign Pledge (2015-2020).
Furthermore, Ms. Tuioti explained that this project is important as it provides an avenue by which to empower the youth to become greener citizens and making them aware of the issues our environment faces – issues such as climate change.
So how did a project of this nature come about?
“In 2016, S.C.S ran the pilot for the Carbon Offset Concept which came about from some of its members wanting to offset their own emissions from recent overseas travels,” Ms. Tuioti said.
“From here, we went on to further develop the concept of emission off-setting through forest restoration through local projects, by Samoans in Samoa.”
Ms. Tuioti further explained that through inception workshops held at targeted villages to identify environmental threats they faced, S.C.S was able to develop a suitable training programme for them.
The training course leaned towards arming the 30 environmental champions with the necessary knowledge to be able to address the environmental issues that were identified.
Some key areas were waste management, terrestrial and marine conservation, environmental legislation, climate change and its impacts on communities, and health and climate adaptation.
“The project focused on these 30 Champions in hopes that they will share the knowledge acquired with their fellow villagers and empower others to also become green citizens,” Ms. Tuioti added.
“The training was intense with three day classroom-type courses and a one day field trip. The field trip aimed at exposing the champions to marine and terrestrial reserve settings, environmental offices as well as the waste management operations in Samoa.”
According to Ms. Tuioti, S.C.S has plans to further expand the project to other villages in the future as well as market the Carbon Offset Project further. She added that having restoration sites on island allows the public to physically see where their trees are being planted and even going as far as knowing which species are being planted.
Another great feature of the week-long training course was that it was 100% plastic free.
“This environmental training and restoration efforts would not have been possible without our key funding partners, U.N.D.P – G.E.F – S.G.P, as well as our implementing partner, the Forestry Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E),” Ms. Tuioti said.
“I would also like to show appreciation to our other partners, Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Waste Division & National Parks and Reserves – Division of Environment Conservation (M.N.R.E), Su’a & Stowers Lawyers, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, Poutasi Development Trust, Youth Climate Action Network, Falease’ela Environment Protection Society, Sinalei Reef Resort and Spa, Moata’a Village, Poutasi Village, Fa’amausili Andrew Ah Liki, Malololelei Reserve and Conservation International.”
The Environmental Champions will be receiving their formal certificates on the 29th of November for the completion of the training course as well as the full project which ran throughout the year.