Equipping youth with green skills

November 16, 2023

Nodumo Gwebu receives her certificate from UNESWA Vice Chancellor, Prof. Justice Thwala, and UNDP Team Leader - Environment Portfolio, Excellent Hachileka

UNDP/Ayanda Nhlabatsi

The second cohort of 30 participants under the UNDP-supported Youth Leadership and Sustainable Energy Academy has been empowered with essential clean energy technologies and entrepreneurship skills to help them establish small businesses. 

 

The training programme was developed through a partnership between UNDP and the Centre for Sustainable Energy Research (CSER) under the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Eswatini (CSER-UNESWA). The programme aims to address the high youth unemployment rate, which is 58% between the ages of 15 and 35. It also responds to the unprecedented energy crisis, exacerbated by climate change, which has created a global demand for skilled workers in the renewable energy sector, known as green skills. These workers are needed to install, maintain, and operate renewable energy technologies. They are also needed to develop new technologies and policies to support the growth of the renewable energy industry.

 

The second cohort comprised 21 women and nine men selected across the four regions of Eswatini and underwent intensive three-week training at UNESWA’s Kwaluseni campus. The first cohort of 14 women and 16 men was conducted in 2022. 

 

Nodumo Gwebu (29) holds a B.Sc. in Animal Science from UNESWA, and since graduating in 2018, she has been unsuccessful in getting a job. She has since started a small business selling fruits and vegetables. She applied for the Youth Leadership and Sustainable Energy Academy training and sees an opportunity to expand to processing using solar hydration, a technique she learnt through the programme. She also aims to open a 100% solar-powered fruit and vegetable shop.

 

“I’ve also acquired skills on how to effectively run a business through the entrepreneurship component of the training,” she said. 

 

The participants posing with the equipment they used for their training.

UNDP/Ayanda Nhlabatsi

Speaking at the second graduation ceremony held at UNESWA, UNDP Team Leader – Environment Portfolio, Excellent Hachileka, said the youth and women are disproportionately affected by poverty and unemployment. He added that they also face more challenges, such as gender discrimination and limited access to education and training.

 

“Green skills can help youth and women overcome these challenges and participate in the growing renewable energy sector. These skills can also lead to higher wages, better job opportunities, and improved livelihoods,” said Hachileka.  

 

This training programme was supported under the Empowering Youth and Women with Green Skills for Accelerating NDCs for Eswatini project and made possible through the UNDP Nature, Climate and Energy Funding Windows

 

Addressing the participants at the same event, UNESWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Justice Thwala said that, while the programme is at an entry-level, he did not doubt that it has laid a strong foundation and opened opportunities in the subject of sustainable energy. He added that the skills and knowledge will empower the young leaders to make a difference in their communities and the nation. 

“You have demonstrated exceptional dedication, perseverance and a remarkable aptitude for learning throughout this intensive programme,” he said. 

 

He further expressed his gratitude to UNDP for its unwavering support of the academy, which he said has been instrumental in providing marginalised youth with an opportunity to acquire skills and knowledge to become leaders in the sustainable energy sector. He said UNDP also supported the university and young people by providing the tertiary institution with internet services so students could continue learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“We hope you’ll continue supporting the academy as well as similar initiatives for the betterment of the livelihoods of emaSwati,” said Thwala. 

 

Participants pose with their certificates.

UNDP/Ayanda Nhlabatsi

Speaking at the same event, CSER Acting Coordinator Dr Gcina Mavimbela said the academy was established at the right time because the country is witnessing a significant increase in Solar PV installation. 

“In just two years, the country has witnessed a 10-fold increase in privately-owned Solar PV plants, increasing to 18.5 MW by early 2023. With more Solar PV plants in the pipeline, skills to tap into the green economy will be even more important,” he said.   

 

Mavimbela said the training covered three renewable energy technologies, namely:

 

  • Off-grid and Hybrid Solar PV Installation; 

  • Biogas Digester Design and Operation; and, 

  • Solar Hydrators for Food Preservation.   

 

In addition, the training also covered the basics of electricity, energy efficiency and conservation, food handling and safety, business leadership, business planning and basic accounting, basic economics, tax compliance and professional communication skills. The participants were also exposed to some projects on sustainable energy by visiting the 1Mega Watt solar plant at RFM Hospital in Manzini and Gogo Mngometulu’s biogas digester at Ndzevane. 

 

The second cohort of participants under this programme was drawn from the pool of applicants under the first group, which attracted over 500 interested young people, but only 30 could be accepted for the training due to limited resources.