Portfolio Learnings with Youth Climate Leaders and Climathon: Bioeconomy Challenges in the Amazon Region

Created in 2018 by four Brazilian women, the Youth Climate Leaders (YCL) offers solutions to two of the main challenges of this century: the climate crisis and structural unemployment. At YCL, young people are trained, qualified, empowered and connected with networks and opportunities to build a career in the area of climate and sustainability. This is because the organization believes that it is possible to catalyze the professional insertion of young people through climate education and linking with organizations that already work in the sector, thus generating greater knowledge and information on the subject.

In this sense, the climathon, carried out in partnership with UNLEASH and supported by PPA, was a program whose main objective was to mobilize and empower young people in the Amazon region to lead solutions that could address local bioeconomic challenges, promote justice and forest conservation. Through the program, young people have gained innovative tools and skills, while developing initiatives that can be presented to relevant stakeholders and can address the challenges of climate change and biodiversity.

Aiming to contribute with ideas that strengthen the bioeconomy and sustainable development of the Amazon, the PPA has carried out - within the scope of the campaign Paths to the Amazon – the “Learnings from the Portfolio” box. In this activity, spokespersons for the initiatives supported by the Platform are interviewed. In the first interview of the series, they were invited Karla Braga (UN Youth Ambassador, Environmental Engineer and Climathon Organizer by Youth Climate Leaders) and Jósimo Kadeyruya (Leader of the idea Ka'Pa Puyanawa, one of the Climathon winners) to discuss the initiative and the importance of supporting ideas from local youth, for strengthening businesses in early stages that address solutions to Amazon challenges. 

Check out the full interview below:

Karla, you are a sanitary and environmental engineer and a member of different participatory forums, including instances of the United Nations, COJOVEM and other important ones. How do you think your experience contributed to the structuring of the Youth Climate Leaders (YCL) Climathon? How was it for you to get engaged and involved in organizing this initiative?

Karla: Engaging and getting involved in Climathon was, above all, a way of strengthening not only me, but also the youths I connected with throughout the initiative. In addition to the role of organizer, I also played the role of mobilizer, engaging the crowd and inviting them to participate. We managed to have a reach of Climathon, precisely because we have access to this network of forums.

These opportunities do not always exist for youth. It is a great move to break this bubble so that we can enter these spaces, not only debating these themes, but also being heard and having the opportunity to share our points of view for the construction of our territories. We cannot separate the youths from these territories, mainly because we are not the future, we are the now. All this added me a lot as an organizer, mobilizer and articulator in the Amazonian territories.

PPA: Jósimo, you were the leader of the idea Ka'Pa Puyanawa, one of the solutions awarded during the last Climathon, which is a program to generate income from the cultivation of corn in an agroforestry system. The goal is to promote food sovereignty for the Puyanawa people, but how did this idea come about? Can you share with us a little of your trajectory and identity with this culture?

Josimo: I am from an indigenous people that I consider to be very small. We have suffered a great extermination from our traditional practices. Today, as an indigenous anthropologist, I delve into our true roots and cultural elements. Since I was a child, my father always told me some stories, including the one about corn. Back in the 80s, 90s, my father and others were big corn producers here. We had some meetings and celebrations with corn. For some time now, corn has completely disappeared. I proposed this idea, under the name of Ka'Pa Puyanawa, with the aim of recovering this memory, this knowledge, these traditional techniques of how the Puyanawa people cultivate corn. Within this story, two more pillars enter. The first is to promote food sovereignty, as we are now very dependent on cities. And, also, the generation of income within the people themselves. We still have a lot of knowledge, a lot of talented people, who are getting to know some of this memory and history. This is the first project I'm developing with the young people of my people, who were not aware of this narrative. They are now worrying about it. Corn is not just a rescue, there are other factors involved. I also see that they are willing to work on this issue of income generation. 

One of our members will attend the YCL course. This is a way to give back and do something for my people. Without a shadow of a doubt, Climathon came to contribute with this autonomy and give this prominence. That means the survival of a people, the survival of a story.

PPA: We know that Climathon and Youth Climate Leaders are primarily focused on the young audience. From your point of view, what is the importance of young people leading the generation of innovative solutions that promote the bioeconomy of the Amazon and the conservation of the forest? What have YCL and the program actually offered to support this mission and how have partners, including PPA, been supporting them in this regard?

Karla: Why the youths? It starts a lot with my inner self. I see youth as a state of mind, to stay engaged, to have the strength to follow through. Youth is about that, engagement, courage, it's about this disruptive space that exists in our society and needs to be cultivated. When you stop to think about the Amazon aspect, you realize that the development of the Amazon biome was not consistent with our territory. Generating degradation, looting our resources. This generates degradation for the territory and, above all, for those who live here and love it. And he builds his life amidst struggles and resistance. As part of the most vulnerable audiences, you find youth. And, often, without opportunities to build effective changes that can create new realities.

Our youth had more access than previous youth. We want to break bubbles, bring with us other young people and other Amazonians, to create with us the change we want to see in our territory. We need to embrace young people, keep them engaged in order to have the opportunity to build new perspectives. 

But it must be said that we have many vulnerabilities. Economic, social, access to education, internet, technology. This makes it impossible for us to have access to the tools so that we can innovate. That's where partners come in. The youth need to lead, but for that we need to form a great coalition in favor of the Amazon, through a multi-sectorial perspective.

Climathon's partners, including PPA, are a very beautiful place, which has made possible, through financial resources, training, the materialization of the transformations we want to see in the territory. 

PPA: We know that challenges are commonplace in the execution of any project that involves the theme of the environment and sustainability, especially in the Amazon. Can you list some of them and what lessons have you drawn from your experiences in the territory?

Josimo: The challenges are huge when it comes to the Amazon, specifically. The biggest challenge today is to keep the forest standing. But keeping the forest standing, too, is knowing how to work with it. For example, my people, like other indigenous peoples, have known how to work with her for millennia of years. Today this is one of the biggest challenges. 

Another challenge, specifically for my people, is being able to involve the youth in this project. External factors are others here among our people. There is a great lack of interest in younger people in terms of the memory and tradition of the people. 

Climathon came, in this sense, to make this greater contribution, as it was an event organized by young people, protagonists. For me, I see it as a great opportunity to bring Puyanawa society closer to these other knowledge and institutions. After we won Climathon and I made a publication, some other young people asked me about this program and are wanting to participate with me in this project. I am very happy.

Karla: A challenge we noticed during Climathon was the issue of connectivity. Climathon took place predominantly virtual. Within the accentuated vulnerabilities caused by Covid-19, this ends up excluding many people and young people from creating new perspectives for the territories. 

We have 3 million Amazonians on the fringes of the full exercise of their citizenship. This is a very worrying thing when we relate to the mission of keeping the forest standing. Connecting with other young people and developing this awareness of common is important, as this brings together Amazonian youth and this is where we recognize our pain. 

PPA: What are your expectations regarding the legacy left by this experience? What would you like to develop and/or improve going forward?

Karla: The fruits started to be harvested even before Climathon happened. It's like an “acupuncture” in youth. You have a problem and start to engage young people around this issue. This is essential. One of the main results of Climathon was the engagement of more than 150 young people in the cause. One difficulty was to engage Amazonian youth in bioeconomy, but we need to understand that we already have youth engaged in this agenda. What we really need is to join these movements in favor of territorial organizations.

Another incredible result is this interest. Inevitably, when a young person is awarded, they receive an incentive to continue with that idea and awaken the desire to engage and participate in these opportunities in other young people. We strengthen other youths who are in a satellite perspective and on the sidelines of this initiative is another gain. Training with the YCL course and mentoring, for example, open up other opportunities. Jósimo, for example, had the opportunity to negotiate a computer for a young woman to have access to the YCL course. This engagement touches other people who are tuned in to this cause. We have several other gains, from a monetary perspective, for example. It is necessary to invest in our ideas so that we can get them off the paper. It's disruptive. We need to financially strengthen these initiatives, groups and youth. We have four ideas engaged with micro investment to make this happen. 

One last important result is to foster the dreams of Amazonian youth and give them the leading role. We have difficulties breaking bubbles and reaching this place of prominence. Fostering dreams, struggles, constructions and narratives is one of the main gains.

Josimo: My expectation has become bigger and bigger. I am very attached to the memory of my people. Today, we are part of a cultural rescue, in which we intend to bring many elements, knowledge, from our ancient traditions. The greatest expectation is that our story, our narratives and our elements do not die. 

More and more, we have engaged youth, knowing our values, within our history. A protected, demarcated territory is essential to further guarantee the rights of the Puyanawa people, guarantee the digital inclusion of the people, open horizons and new expectations, especially for the youngest. We want to promote a dialogue between indigenous and non-indigenous societies… Until recently before Climathon, we were not strengthening this larger dialogue. My expectations go much further. I have a big dream of building a traditional house in our community, to live what belongs to our world. For me, as an indigenous person, this will be the greatest result.

To follow more interviews from the series “Aprendizados do Portfolio” and PPA's Paths to the Amazon campaign, visit: www.ppa.org.br/caminhosamazonia