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Andrew Scanlon
UNEP Afghanistan Programme

UNEP teams up with local communities to support environmental education in Borghason village in Bamyan Province, Afghanistan

4 September, 2012 - In the Koh-e Baba Mountains in Afghanistan’s Central Highlands, a high-altitude region dominated by rural communities, UNEP is working with a local NGO, the Conservation Organization of Afghan Mountains (COAM) to raise awareness among villagers of the environment and the importance of conserving their natural resources.

Promoting environmental education, especially in schools, is a part of a broader UNEP goal to increase conservation education and awareness in the Koh-e Baba region, where fragile mountain ecosystems are threatened by unsustainable practices such as fuel-wood collection, topsoil and turf harvesting, intensive agriculture and overgrazing.

Through the project, community members are able to share their traditional knowledge and build on it by learning about different practices and lessons learned in other areas.

COAM staff and volunteers, with support from UNEP, today visited the village of Borghason in Bamyan Province to teach an environmental lesson to students, a pilot lesson used to gauge how much the students currently know about the environment and natural resources.

As part of the lesson, the students aged from 9 to 15, participated in a game called “The Web of Life” in which each student, representing something present in his or her everyday life – wheat, bread, a person, water, a tree – passed a ball of string to something they are connected with; the result was a web demonstrating how closely people interact with, and depend on, different elements of nature.

"Look how you are all connected and how strong those links are," says Asad Asadullah, Programme Manager for COAM as he leaned on the web (see photo above).

Some of the students walk more than two hours to school every day over the mountains and the volunteers were extremely impressed by the students’ knowledge and enthusiasm.

The lesson took place in the Eco Conservation Centre, which was built in 2011-2012 by the community with support from UNEP and COAM. The Eco Conservation Centre, made entirely out of wood, adobe and other natural materials, will be a centre for community training and education in the village as well as acting as simple rustic accommodation for visitors to the region.

For the past two weeks it has also doubled as the school while the local primary school is being refurbished.

As part of their ongoing partnership, UNEP is also working with COAM on the production of environmental education and outreach materials, such as educational posters and an English-Dari environmental terms phrasebook.

To address the region’s environmental threats, UNEP is developing a long-term comprehensive Conservation Education Strategy and Plan for the Koh-e Baba Mountains in order to ensure that these vulnerable environments survive and continue to be able to support the communities that depend on them.

The Conservation Education Strategy and Plan includes both short-term and long-term approaches to increasing conservation education among different target audiences, including children.

The plan also incorporates findings from community-based natural resource management village projects carried out in the region by UNEP, as well as from other educational campaigns that have proven effective both in Afghanistan and abroad.