In Colombia, youth build skills to overcome adversity
On Colombia’s Pacific coast there is a region that enjoys a privileged status on account of its natural resources. The tropical wet forest of Nariño, in the west of Colombia, is home to thousands of species that are unique on the planet, so much so that it has come to be regarded as a nature reserve.
At the end of the 1990s, however, the department ceased being a haven of peace due to the intensity of armed conflict. The African communities living on the Pacific coast have historically experienced high levels of poverty and inequality, and these facts are reflected in the high unemployment rates, especially among young people and women.
- UNDP, the Canadian Embassy and the local government of Nariño have been implementing the “Growing Together” programme in nine municipalities since 2010.
- 2,300 young people between 15 and 26 years old have participated in training programmes, building capacity in technical fields, leadership and gender equality.
- 57 associative companies have been established, 14 of which are currently operational.
Faced with this scenario, the UNDP, the Canadian Embassy, and the local government of Nariño have been implementing the “Growing Together” programme since 2010. The objective of the initiative is to support young people facing conditions of social vulnerability, and to increase their awareness when it comes to the exercise of their rights. The project helps young people build leadership skills and business capacities and offers support for local institutions and the creation and strengthening of productive initiatives.
The Growing Together project seeks to address the structural effects of the conflict, generating options for dignified living for young people between 15 and 26 years old living in rural areas as well as for their families. The programme has been developed in nine municipalities and is equipped with schools offering training in technical fields, youth leadership and gender equality.
Some 2,300 young people have participated in various training programmes, building capacity in the protection of their rights, leadership, gender equality and political participation, in addition to technical training courses in sustainable agricultural production, foodstuffs, transport services and the administration of agricultural companies. At least 1,900 young people realized their dream of graduating from a technical training programme.
Furthermore, 57 associative companies have been set up, 14 of which are currently operational. These organizations include manufacturers of foodstuffs, carpentry, livestock production and pig rearing, maritime and river transportation, baking and cake-making enterprises, water purifiers, packaging systems, water distribution devices, the production of cocoa and the management of solid wastes.
In the region of El Charco, in the north of the country, two livestock initiatives have changed the lives of 70 young people who have become the owners of companies relating to the production and sustainable trading of broiler chicken and laying hens.
“This programme amazed me because over these 4 years I have learned more and more new things. For example, I learned to be more patient so as to realize my dreams and value and care for living things. To care for, feed and watch these small animals grow was something that was truly incredible for me,” says Jhonatan Estupiñán Hurtado who is 24 years old and who will graduate as a technician in livestock production.
Young people have become rural entrepreneurs, In addition to technical training, each receives investments for machinery, equipment, supplies and working capital in an amount of US$ 1,500, funds they use for the implementation of livestock, agricultural and agro-industrial initiatives.
Mininyer Tolosa also participated in the programme and says it changed her life in that it enabled her to set up her own company. “This project improved our quality of life, my own finances, and also increased my family’s income. If the programme had not existed, I don’t know what opportunities I would have had because the situation in my region is extremely complicated,” she says.
“The Growing Together programme is a strategy launched by the UNDP that seeks to provide young people living in the countryside, and who have suffered from the consequences of armed conflict and the effects of drugs trafficking in their regions, with viable options for sustainable lifestyles that will result in dignified lives,” says María Lizarazo, coordinator of Inclusive Economic Rural Development for UNDP in Colombia.
After leaving the programme, young people have acquired the leadership skills that will help them guarantee their own inclusion in their country’s economic development.