Peace Corps Salutes Environmental Volunteers on Earth Day
April 20, 1998Washington, D.C., April 20, 1998—Reuse, recycle, renew. While this mantra has become commonplace in the United States, particularly among school-age children, overseas it is a challenge Peace Corps environmental volunteers confront daily. In honor of Earth Day this week, Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan today saluted the more than 1,000 Peace Corps environmental volunteers who work to protect the environment in 47 countries. Environmental volunteers represent one of the Peace Corps' fastest-growing job assignments and one of the largest environmental work forces of any international development agency, with volunteers working to combat deforestation, fight pollution, save endangered species and teach environmental awareness. "While Earth Day naturally focuses our attention on the environment for a short time in April, more than 15 percent of all Peace Corps volunteers focus on grassroots environmental issues every day," said Gearan. For more than 30 years, the Peace Corps has helped improve the environment by promoting sustainable development projects.
Each year on Earth Day, Peace Corps volunteers in the Dominican Republic join with teachers, community leaders, and youth to conduct a full day of environmental education and awareness-raising activities in a number of communities. By creating a festive atmosphere with rich media events, the organizers have been able to gain considerable attention to the need for environmental care and conservation. In Honduras, Peace Corps volunteers work in the Rio Platano Biosphere, managing a sea turtle hatchery in Plaplaya, Gracias a Dios, on the Pacific Coast. This is one of the few remaining natural habitats where turtles continue to lay their eggs. The volunteers are working with the government and local residents to preserve the species and the habitat, both of which are endangered. The reserve is a tourist attraction and a site of environmental study.
Peace Corps volunteers in Kenya are introducing appropriate new agroforestry techniques to some 500 rural farmers and more than 1,000 members of women's groups in rural communities. The goal is to improve environmental protection and conservation, soil fertility and wood fuel production, as well as to introduce more efficient energy-use technologies, such as fireless and solar cookers.
In Nepal, volunteers have developed a plan for national park managers to involve residents living in and around national parks in conservation activities that address their natural resource needs.
One volunteer in Thailand worked with local residents to help create the Thea Pa Land Settlement, a cooperative nursery, which provides the community with trees not only for shade, but with fruit to generate income, hardwood for the construction of homes, and nitrogen for depleted soil.
For its size, Uganda is one of the most biologically diverse countries in Africa. Located between Kenya and Tanzania, Uganda would also appear to be competitive in the safari or wildlife business. Peace Corps volunteers are doing just that: they are trying to help develop the resources and infrastructure necessary to sustain and manage Uganda's diverse natural resources. Today, more than half of the country's volunteers focus on the environment, from environmental education and park infrastructure development to tourism.
Because interest in the Peace Corps remains so strong at home, President Clinton has proposed expanding the Peace Corps, putting the agency on the path to 10,000 volunteers serving overseas by the year 2000. The proposal is the largest funding increase requested for the Peace Corps since the 1960s.
Currently, about 6,500 Peace Corps volunteers are working in 84 countries to help fight hunger, bring clean water to communities, teach children, protect the environment, start new businesses, and preve more than 150,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.
oined the Peace Corps.