Peace Corps Celebrates Earth Day

Volunteers carry out environmental projects in 30 countries

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 21, 2009 - Peace Corps Volunteers are commemorating the 39th anniversary of Earth Day by working with developing communities throughout the world to implement projects aimed at protecting the environment. From farms to classrooms, these grassroots projects help economies and communities thrive as Peace Corps increases environmental awareness and activism.

Peace Corps has one the largest environmental workforces of any international development agency. Of the 7,876 Volunteers currently serving, twenty percent of all Volunteer projects focus on environmental or agricultural improvements in 30 countries. Peace Corps Volunteers work directly with teachers, farmers and small businesses to build capacity in sustainable environmental stewardship and to teach valuable technical skills. Volunteers working in other sectors such as education, health and HIV/AIDS also carry out secondary projects related to environmental concerns.

"Peace Corps Volunteers work on environmental and agricultural issues to help improve conditions for people in the communities in which they serve," said Peace Corps acting Director Jody K. Olsen. "Volunteers work collaboratively with community members on improved harvesting, reforestation, soil and water management; carry out habitat and wildlife surveys; and conduct educational programs to help provide new economic opportunities. They also work to raise awareness about the environment, encourage gardening, and promote ecotourism."

Examples of recent environmental projects include:

  • In the Dominican Republic, Volunteer Jake Browder of Beaverdam, Va., has been working with his community to reforest the mountainous terrain with fruit trees and to improve local farmers soil conservation practices. Over 40,000 fruit trees have been planted since the project first started. As a result, the regions farmers and their families have better nutrition as well as the means and knowledge to sustain fruit tree growth.

  • In Cape Verde, Volunteer Alexandra Alper of Austin, Tex., has assisted Government of Cape Verde staff working on the Serra Malagueta integrated participatory system management program with the development of "fog harvesting nets" that collect and condense water off of the Serra Malagueta ridge, without the use of energy or even moving parts. One of these fog catchers, with about 120 square meters of netting, can produce over 1,000 liters per day (approximately 1 ton) of water in this semi-arid region that typically receives only about 900mm of rainfall each year.

  • In Malawi, Volunteer Jamie Lewis of Dallas, Tex., formed a beekeeping club to eliminate destructive beekeeping in a national park and to help teach local residents how to create Standard Hives. In only two months, community members had completed 20 low cost hives and 8 Malawi Gold Standard hives. So now the farmers are able to manage their own environmentally beneficial honey hives and create much more income for their families, said Lewis.

  • In Mauritania, Volunteer Christopher Paul of Chapel Hill, N.C., has introduced a variety of activities like trash clean-up day and planting trees near three local primary schools to teach students about the environment. One of his most successful strategies is called the "photosynthesis relay" in which students have to identify and collect the building blocks of plants carbon dioxide, water, sunlight that can be used to make food.

  • In Jamaica, Volunteer Dylan Bellisle of Sarasota, Fla., worked with a group of students to raise awareness about garbage management and recycling. What began as a mere presentation in a local school soon developed into a music video (featured above) entitled, "Dash Weh Yu Trash," a spin off of a song by dancehall artist Mr. Vegas. Copies of the music video promoting proper garbage disposal and recycling habits were provided to local schools and members of the Environmental Club, which was established by Bellisle to promote a cleaner environment.

As the Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, the agency\'s service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world. Historically, over 195,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries in which they have served. Applications to serve in the Peace Corps have increased 16 percent this past year, the largest boost in the last five years. Currently, 7,876 Peace Corps Volunteers are serving in 76 countries. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

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