Biodiversity conservation has become a major development issue in the world, particularly in Africa. Over the past two weeks, world leaders have gathered in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, for the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Their objective was to discuss, among other things, challenges and efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 15, namely how to "sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss."
Astrid Aulanier-Rebeschini (France) and Gilbert Kilimo (Kenya) are UN Volunteers working to combat accelerated nature degradation by promoting biodiversity conservation strategies.
Astrid, who is 23 years old, supervises biodiversity management with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Benin. Her passion for issues related to biodiversity and global warming brought her to Cotonou. Her role as a UN Volunteer is to make a lasting impact on the lives of people through the implementation of projects to protect biodiversity.
In March 2022, Astrid took part in the ProSel project on the protection of mangroves in the coastal city of Ouidah, by helping women salt farmers to use other sources of energy than mangrove wood. In fact, these women were not only dependent on this source of energy, but also participated in the destruction of their natural environment and living space.
Astrid immersed herself in the communities to listen to the concerns and needs of salt farmers women. This enabled her to set up an effective local action plan and help them understand the importance of safeguarding biodiversity, while also improving their living conditions, by abandoning their traditional mangrove wood ovens.
I think it is essential to have young people in the team, especially when it comes to issues related to the fight against climate change. As future generations will be the ones most impacted by the consequences of climate change, I feel it is essential that young people mobilize to stem its effects. --Astrid Aulanier-Rebeschini, UN Volunteer Biodiversity Management Officer, UNDP
Through this project, Astrid was able to help 50 women, by orienting them towards a new type of oven that will allow them to use palm fruit shells rather than mangrove wood. Based on its results, this project will be extended to the communes of Grand Popo Comè Kpomassè and Sèmè-Kpodji.
Gilbert Kilimo is a UN Volunteer Environment Officer with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). He oversees the formulation and implementation of the mission's environmental policy. In the framework of its peacekeeping mandate in the Central African Republic, one of MINUSCA's objectives is to integrate environmental measures into its planning and operations to avoid and minimize the impact of its activities on the environment.
As part of this effort, Gilbert has led a variety of initiatives to broaden MINUSCA's impact. These include: the first annual Environmental Awards held on December 28, 2021, clean-up campaigns and the MINUSCA Broader Impact Project.
Gilbert has been able to promote sustainable water collection, consumption and treatment, avoiding water-borne diseases, managing wastewater risk and ensuring proper management of solid waste and hazardous materials.
He has contributed to biodiversity conservation by introducing tree planting as a key element of the broader impact pillar and ensuring that all military contingents are committed to it. Through tree planting, landscaping and gardening, they are transforming bare land into thriving ecosystems.
We are very grateful for the initiative Gilbert took to start the annual Environmental Award. It inspires us to be more responsible for our environment, which has a positive impact on our health. --Statement of the Commander of the Bangladesh Medical Contingent
For Gilbert, the most rewarding experience to date is having contributed to the design and development of MINUSCA's Wider Impact Project (MWIP). The MWIP is another project the Mission has put in place that aims at sustainable solid waste management and environmental pollution prevention; capacity development and institutional strengthening: improving alignment, coordination and collaboration on environmental sustainability during and after conflict; environmental conservation and increasing resilience of vulnerable communities (adaptation); promotion of alternative livelihoods; and climate change mitigation.
This project responds to the UN Secretary General's urgent call to action under the UN Climate Action Plan. Peace operations are the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions within the UN Secretariat. MINUSCA's Wider Impact Project allows the mission to offset its greenhouse gas emissions and become the first carbon-neutral mission, while benefiting the host country environmentally and socio-economically.
Friday marked the last day of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, where the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme had deployed 71 UN Community Volunteers to support the event.
Biodiversity remains a major issue for the development of communities and presents many challenges. Through the results delivered by Astrid and Gilbert, the community volunteers in Côte d’Ivoire and so many other UN Volunteers, UNV is once again proving its commitment to the fight against climate change and the protection of biodiversity and wildlife.