Young Eco Leaders

At Iracambi we believe that saving forests and changing lives starts with opening minds. Everything that we do is connected with education, from informal discussions with local and international volunteers and students, to conversations with visitors as they discover our forest trails, from informal chats with farm families who participate in our Forests4Water program, to our program of Young Eco Leaders.

Children in our remote rural area live in one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots, yet their level of understanding and appreciation for the forests is very low. Traditionally, forests are considered barriers to progress, trees are cut and animals eaten or simply killed because they are “dangerous.”

Lack of knowledge is one of the principal drivers of ecosystem destruction which in the case of the Atlantic Forest is approaching the point of no return. As forest cover disappears, springs dry up, soils degrade and valuable biodiversity is lost, sometimes for ever. Healthy forests benefit everyone, regulating our climate and supplying clean air and water and leisure opportunities. If we are to save the last great forests, we must focus on the younger generation, helping them to understand their place in the web of life and learn to love and value the forest ecosystem.


So what’s the challenge?

Most of the land in the area of fragmented rainforest round Iracambi belongs to smallholder farmers who, in the absence of guidance and incentives, are unsure how to adopt sound conservation practices. Local government lacks the resources to provide leadership, soils are exhausted, water resources are stressed, and the forest is cleared. Due to lack of opportunities, many local youth no longer see a future for themselves in the rural areas,frequently dropping out of school and drifting to the towns to take unskilled and often unsatisfying job.

And the solution?

The program aims to equip students to become environmental leaders focusing on four things: critical thinking, science-based learning, practical field experience and learning to love nature. Every week we bring forty middle school students out of the classroom to embark on a rainforest adventure, using all their senses to explore their place in the web of living things. They then share their discoveries with friends and family. speaking not only from the head but also from the heart.

Potential Long Term Impact

Young people everywhere complain of not having enough to do – yet when they are involved in programs that inspire them and stimulate their creativity they can become the change makers of the community! As their skills and confidence increase, our Eco-Leaders become ever more excited about encouraging and working with hundreds of farm families and adopting better land management practices to increase productivity, enhance sustainability, and protect the forests, soils and water that benefit us all.

This program is supported by GlobalGiving and Microsoft YouthSpark