Global development efforts will not be successful without the meaningful participation of young people. As we mark International Youth Day 2021, under the theme "Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health", we reflect on the service of six young and talented UN Volunteers, focusing on the difference they are making through their assignments with WFP in Sri Lanka.
UN Volunteers Frans Elinder (Sweden), Sohee Lee (South Korea), Usitha Rajeevan, Prabuddha Boralugoda, Sanaaree Manoratna, and Sathsara Deyalage (Sri Lanka), are from different countries and regions but have one thing in common: they are all serving with the World Food Programme (WFP) in Sri Lanka.
They support WFP’s work to address food insecurity, ensure resilience building, support livelihoods - especially for those affected by recurring climate shocks - and provide communication and research support for awareness and social behaviour change.
Improving the lives and livelihoods of rural smallholder farmers through the R5n project
Together with the Government of Sri Lanka and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), WFP in Sri Lanka commenced the R5n project in August 2019. With US$ 6 million grant from KOICA, the project spans over four years to strengthen the resilience of communities against the impact of recurring climate shocks, especially drought. The project will directly support 21,600 people living below the poverty line in five climate shock-prone districts in Sri Lanka.
Frans, with his background in geography and urban planning, took a role in overseeing the progress of the project and interviewing beneficiaries to better understand how the project impacted their lives and what challenges of the pandemic they experience.
My most rewarding experiences were the opportunities I was given to take the lead on high-profile projects. I believe responsibility builds character, and if done right, it can leverage the UN Volunteer experience many times over." – Frans Elinder, UN Volunteer Resilience Building Junior Officer, WFP Sri Lanka
Sohee, a UN Volunteer Resilience Building Assistant with WFP Sri Lanka, has been supporting the R5n projects as well as the Last Mile Climate Services (LMCS) project for over a year. She has led the overall design of the village context analysis and logical framework development to collect quality data and to monitor project targets, while ensuring efficient project implementation. Sohee also kept the donors abreast of developments in a fast-changing environment.
She recalls, "As a UN Volunteer, I got the opportunity to witness the step-by-step positive differences WFP is making in the lives of the vulnerable Sri Lankan communities with the support of KOICA and the government of the Republic of Korea. I look forward to fulfilling my aspirations, continuing to be part of positive changes."
Monitoring the outputs of resilience-building efforts
Sanaaree, UN Volunteer Research, Assessment and Monitoring Assistant, monitors project outcomes and asset creation. Her work includes ensuring farmers have access to water during dry seasons by monitoring the rehabilitation of minor tanks, farm ponds, and micro-irrigation systems.
“I have engaged in surveys and assessments which capture positive changes in our resilience-building programmes. It has given me immense pleasure to witness the improved levels of awareness and enthusiasm on climate change and resilience within communities," Sanaaree explains.
Sanaaree is also part of the working group developing a concept note for the next phase of the project.
During my assignment, I have also had several training opportunities to learn and explore the concept of resilience, which has broadened my understanding of the importance of resilience-building activities in any development agenda. I am extremely grateful for such a life-changing experience at WFP, which will remain with me in years to come." - Sanaaree Manoratna, UN Volunteer Research, Assessment and Monitoring Assistant, WFP Sri Lanka
Providing reliable and timely climate-related information to farmers
Usitha and Prabuddha took on the roles of Project Associates in two different districts in Sri Lanka - Mullativu and Moneragala.
They are working on a project titled ‘Last Mile Climate Services (LMCS),’ which aims to strengthen last-mile access to reliable and timely climate and weather information, by introducing tailored climate services based on community needs in the local language.
Recently, they were deployed to the field as focal points to implement the project activities, train local officers, monitor, report and communicate project findings, particularly at the local level.
Usitha hopes that she can help farmers make climate-informed decisions and adapt to the impacts of climate change, and she encourages others to volunteer.
“If you know about climate change or other environmental issues, get yourself involved in projects like this one, where you can use your knowledge and skills. It may start small, but will benefit society in the long run,” Usitha shares.
Identifying and addressing the gaps of food security and knowledge on nutrition behaviour
Sathsara has assisted several WFP projects, such as the Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme, the Social Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) programme or the Rice Fortification programme, and has supported surveys and research to address gaps between different groups of people.
The Home-Grown School Feeding programme links the School Meal Programme (SMP) with local food production to go beyond educational objectives and ensure access to nutritious school meals. This approach secures local food systems, delivers safe, fresh, nutritious and diverse food to school children, and promotes better eating habits.
She has also contributed to the research conducted in three areas in Sri Lanka to identify nutrition-related knowledge gaps in school children. This research is part of a communication campaign that aims to positively influence the nutritional habits of school children in the country.
I consider this UN Volunteer assignment as an invaluable learning opportunity that has broadened my knowledge. It benefits the beneficiaries and gives us a plethora of skills and experiences that can be applied to our own lives." – Sathsara Deyalage, UN Volunteer Nutrition Assistant, WFP Sri Lanka
Like Frans, Sohee, Usitha, Prabuddha, Saanaaree and Sathsara, UN Volunteers across the world are contributing in many ways to address crucial challenges on the path to achieving the 2030 Agenda in their home countries and beyond.
I express my thanks to the UN Volunteers for a great partnership over the years and for the enthusiasm and commitment displayed towards the WFP in all our activities. The UN Volunteers at WFP have integrated themselves well into the respective teams, engaged with beneficiaries on the field with great passion, and have become a part of the WFP family." - Andrea Berardo, Deputy Country Director, WFP Sri Lanka