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Now climate change is affecting jobs NGOs need to nurture 'green-skills'

The Guardian, 07 Sep 2015 - A report shows extreme weather is affecting youth unemployment in south-east Asia. Is training the answer?
Now climate change is affecting jobs NGOs need to nurture 'green-skills'

Extreme weather is affecting fishing in south-east Asia. Photograph: Martin Godwin

Climate change is making it more difficult for young people in south-east Asia to find a job, according to a report released on Monday by Plan International (pdf).

Livelihoods in countries such as Indonesia, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam are dependent on ocean and coastal environments for food, building materials and medicine. These countries face frequent extreme weather – intense rains, droughts and cyclones – and are exposed to floods and rising sea levels.

Ikun, a 14 year old who lives in Lembata, a village in Indonesia, has first-hand experience of the effects of climate change on job security. “The effects of climate change are failed crops. Out of a field, farmers can only harvest one bag of corn, because the leaves turn yellow … and fishermen can’t sail, because fishermen heavily depend on the wind direction.” According to the report, green-skills training could help to tackle the effects of climate change in these countries.

‘Green skills’ are the skills needed to work in an environmentally friendly way, and have been shown to improve productivity. However, as most young people in developing countries don’t have access to sustainable work practices, the report argues that all NGO-led training programmes should involve green elements to equip the next generation with skills to tackle the effects of climate change.

“Young people across the world are concerned about the impact of climate change and want to do something about it,” says Kelly Hawryshylyn,Plan International’s disaster resilience adviser. “Helping young people acquire green skills strengthens their ability to find a job, lift themselves out of poverty and have control over their future.”

Sven Harmeling, climate change advocacy coordinator for Care International, says: “Building knowledge and skills, particularly among women, is just as important as trialing new seeds and fertilisers when it comes to tackling the impacts of climate change. In Asia, Africa and Latin America, our work to improve people’s resilience to climatic conditions shows that integrating climate risks across development programmes is a no-brainer – particularly around the issue of food security.”

So, at what level should green-skills training work? Hawryshylyn says: “We are working with multiple stakeholders, including government, the private sector, media, donors, schools and of course the people in the communities where we work, to make sure that green skills are prioritised.”

As the people whose jobs are most likely to be affected by climate change, young women could benefit the most from environmental training. “As women are often the main food producers, NGOs should provide training so they can work as effectively as possible to improve their chances of growing enough food in the face of increasingly extreme and erratic weather,” says Robin Willoughby,Oxfam’s policy adviser.

Harmeling adds: “To be truly effective, new green skills must go hand in hand with promoting gender equality and the equal participation of men and women in all development programmes from the outset.”

An issue with this approach is training: often teachers in these countries lack knowledge of green skills and, according to the report, most feel ill-equipped to deliver training. It is therefore essential that international NGOs embrace green-skills training in their work if they wish to combat the effects of climate change on the world’s most vulnerable. With greater knowledge and understanding of the issue, young people in developing countries are empowered to make their work more sustainable and ensure greater job security for future generations.


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