Community Environment Promoter

Before You Apply

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Project Description

Paraguay is a country rich in flora and fauna. Eleven different eco-regions are represented within its borders and it is a major recharge zone for one of the world’s largest aquifers--the Guaraní Aquifer.

Unfortunately, much of Paraguay’s biodiversity is threatened from habitat fragmentation. Over the past 50 years, over 90% of the forests in Eastern Paraguay have been lost. While 14% of the country has been designated as “protected”, meager resources have been allocated to the preservation and protection of these areas.

The livelihoods of many Paraguayans derive from extraction and exploitation of natural resources. Land conversion for agro-industrial use has transformed eco-systems and contributed to the loss of species. Traditional land use practices on small holdings are generally unsustainable. Small farmers have less and less productive land than their forefathers; this has contributed to rural flight to urban settings.

Urban populations have been growing by 3.6% every year with over half of the population now living in urban areas. This rural flight has generated new environmental challenges, most notably in trash management.

In general, many rural and urban citizens are unaware of the dangers of environmental degradation to their livelihoods and well-being. Often, even if they are environmentally aware, they lack access and/or competencies to improve their local environments.

To help address these issues, Peace Corps, in consultation with other Paraguayan environmental stakeholders, recently redesigned the Community Environmental Conservation Project.
The overall goal of the revised project is for Paraguayan individuals and communities to improve natural resource management for a healthy, productive and resilient environment. The project has two objectives that Volunteers work on towards the overall goal. These are:

Objective 1: Increase the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of youth to become effective environmental stewards.
Objective 2: Increase adoption of sustainable soil, water and air management practices by individuals, households, schools and/or community groups.

Objective 1 works toward developing young people into future environmental stewards, including work in elementary schools. Objective 2 is focused on concrete actions for adults and young people to contribute to improved environmental management of soil, water, and air.

More specifically, Paraguay Environmental Volunteers typically undertake any number of the following activities:
• Work in primary schools (up to 7th grade) co-designing, co-planning and co-facilitating with local teachers on environmental education topics
• Work with a local counterpart(s) on implementing a structured eco-club with young people (most likely outside of school) and/or environmental events
• Work with a local counterpart(s) on initiating or managing a tree nursery or nurseries
• Promote forestation, reforestation and/or agro-forestry with native species (and some fast-growth), while working with manageable solutions that address rural, low-resourced communities’ economic reality and needs.
• Work with a local counterpart(s) to implement improved solid waste management practices mostly focused on organics and recyclables and often in the school setting, but not exclusively.

Some Environment Volunteers will assist communities to help identify their important natural resources and devise plans for conservation of those resources.

All candidates are strongly preferred to be open and able to manage community, teacher, farmer, and youth groups as well as coordinate with local elected officials and government/non-governmental organization workers. All Paraguay Environment Volunteers are placed in communities ranging from small to mid-size rural villages (or small towns) to marginalized neighborhoods of urban areas.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have an expressed interest in promoting environmental awareness in schools and communities, and one or more of the following criteria:
•Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field
•5 years' professional work experience

Desired Skills

• At least one year of experience working in a rural area under challenging conditions
• At least one year of service to a local community
• At least one year experience implementing behavior change methodologies
• Demonstrated flexibility in work assignments
• Experience working directly in community training for environmental conservation
• Demonstrated ability to work effectively with teachers, farmers, and/or youth groups as well as work with local elected officials, elementary/high school staff and local government/NGO workers
• Interest and skills in people-focused environmental work regarding trash management, tree planting and environmental education
• Demonstrated successful experience in organizing and/or planning community events
• Background in environmental education, science, or studies
• Strong interest to learn an indigenous language
• At least one life experience as the ‘new person’ moving into a community and successfully building positive relationships with others
• Conversational Spanish skills

In addition, Peace Corps would welcome candidates with one or more of the following degrees to apply:

• Bachelor of Science/Associate degree in Forestry, Watershed Management, Natural Resources, Environmental Science or Ecology, or other related fields
• Bachelor of Science/Associate degree in any field plus three years’ work experience in forestry, nursery management, or other related fields

Required Language Skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.
A. Completed 4 years of high school Spanish coursework within the past 8 years
B. Completed minimum 2 semesters of Spanish college‐level coursework within the past 6 years
C. Native/fluent speaker of Spanish

Candidates who do not meet the language proficiency levels above can take the language placement exams to demonstrate their level of proficiency. Competitive applicants typically attain a score of 50 on the Spanish College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI).

Competitive candidates will have conversational Spanish language skills. Paraguay is a bilingual nation where both Spanish and Guarani are official national languages. In order to communicate in the capital city of Asuncion (and other large urban areas), Spanish is the most common language. However, in most semi-urban to rural areas where Environment Volunteers will be placed, Guarani or “Jopara” (a mixture of Guarani and Spanish) is the most common way to communicate. You will therefore need to learn both languages in order to be able to communicate and be effective in your work.

Since Trainees learn two languages you will need an open and positive attitude about language learning, as well as being willing to dedicate substantial time to learning and practicing both languages outside of formal language class during Pre-Service Training.

You will not be able to swear in as a Volunteer unless you meet both language benchmarks. Additionally, during training, you will be taught a basic competence in Spanish, but the focus of language training will be in Guarani. If perfecting or becoming fluent in Spanish is a main goal of your Peace Corps service, Paraguay may not be the best fit for you.

Living Conditions

• Environment Volunteers will often need to walk and/or bike up to five miles a day, as well as work in fields under hot and humid conditions (often over 95 degrees and 70% humidity).
• Communities range from rural (less than 1,000 habitants) to larger semi-urban areas (7,000-12,000 habitants).
• Conditions in rural areas can be very basic- i.e. you may have to use a latrine; water is not treated, etc. If you have health concerns about the conditions, a Peace Corps country program with more urban site placement may be a better fit.
• Houses and family living situations may be very rustic, and sometimes Volunteer housing does not have running water and depends on wells which may be shared with neighbors.
• Working situations range from outdoor manual labor to co-facilitating in front of a classroom.
• Volunteers may have limited cell phone coverage and/or internet access. Be prepared to not have internet access at site.
• Most sites are accessible by public transportation, but up to a 10k (~6 miles) walk or bike ride will be necessary to reach some sites.
• In some sites electricity is unreliable (works some days and doesn't work other days).
• Following 11 weeks of Pre-Service Training, where all Trainees live with a host family, all Volunteers are required to live with a host family for at least three months, totaling six months with a host family.
• The Paraguayan diet is heavily based on meat and can be challenging for vegetarians. The diet is also very high in carbohydrates. Many meals involve more than one starch at a time, for example, manioc and pasta or manioc and rice. Manioc and meat are eaten at least once a day almost every day. Fruits are available by season. Most sites have access to tomatoes, onions, and green peppers. There may be limited access to other vegetables. Many Volunteers have gardens in order to increase access to vegetables.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Paraguay: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

Paraguay is happy to accept cross-sector and same-sector couples, including Environment and Agriculture. Your partner must qualify for and apply to one of the following openings:

* Community Agriculture Extension Promoter
* Community Environment Promoter

Couples will live together with a host family during Pre-Service Training, but may be separated for certain field-based activities if they are in different project sectors. During service, couples will live together with the same host family. If couples are in different sectors they will be separated for workshops and conferences for up to two weeks at a time due to in-service training events.

Medical Considerations in Paraguay

  • Paraguay may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: ongoing counseling.
  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: none identified. 
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: none identified.
  • After arrival in Paraguay, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot and mandatory immunizations.

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.

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