Youth Empowerment, Sustainable Livelihoods, Care for Nature
By Jane Rasbash
Inle Lake fisher-folk catch fish as well as tend to floating islands that they build on the lake and plant with crops. Their way of life is endangered and the watershed degrading due to overuse of chemical farming in agribusinesses and pressures of tourism as Myanmar opens up. Farmers are in debt to the chemical companies and have few opportunities for economically and ecologically sustainable livelihood. Youth have limited options with many leaving as migrant workers to Thailand.
A new collaboration between Ecologia Youth Trust and Kalyana Mitta Foundation funded by the UK Big Lottery Fund – a 3-year youth-led project – aims to support environmental rehabilitation and community resilience in Inle Lake Communities through increasing sustainable livelihood options, reducing vulnerability to adverse weather conditions and encouraging participation in the governance and management of common pool resources.
The 12-day set up included team-building; participatory monitoring and evaluation training; developing action plans and tracking systems to monitor the project and a project launch event.
The Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) workshop introduced tools and skills for field workers to facilitate a strong sense of ownership amongst themselves and targeted beneficiaries. This will enable participatory gathering of information and utilising project results for long-term sustainability. The group discussed and presented on key words like self-reliance, natural resource management, sustainable livelihood, sustainable land use that showed they already had a good understanding of how to care for the lake side environment. They will repeat this and other exercises as part of the participatory rural appraisals to define baseline data and engage primary stakeholders and beneficiaries e.g. farmers and fisher folk in target villages, youth groups etc. in the project. This will be followed up with regular interactions to ensure that all involved contribute to realistic information of project strengths and weaknesses and input adjustment of project activities can be made.
On 20 March the project was introduced to local stakeholders with short presentations on KMF Inle Lake initiatives engaging young people in natural resource awareness for more than five years; the history of the project and the role of Big Lottery and Ecologia Youth Trust. Local leaders spoke of how encouraged they were by the enthusiasm and engagement of the young people KMF have trained in youth empowerment and natural resource management over the last 5 years. They mentioned the importance of conserving the unique, natural beauty and ecosystems of this very special place.
The morning ended on a high note with many stakeholders offering support and encouragement to the young project team and all enjoyed a traditional Inle Lake lunch served on lotus leaves!