Community Environment Promoter

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Project Description

Environment is key to Paraguay’s development. The country is home to priority ecosystems. Its economy is heavily agriculture-based. The Pantanal is the largest freshwater wetland in the world. The Atlantic Forest is one of the most biodiverse, and also protects the Guaraní Aquifer, a critical freshwater source in South America. The Chaco, the 2nd largest forest after the Amazon, is being heavily deforested, with Paraguay having the 2nd highest rate of deforestation in the world, due to land use conversion for agricultural purposes. Because of the intensive use of natural resources for agriculture, there is a growing need for a more sustainable approach. Small farmers have less and less productive land than their forbearers; this has contributed to migration from rural to urban areas.

Urban populations have been growing by 3.6% per year with over half of Paraguay’s population now living in urban areas. At the same time, rural lifestyles are also becoming more consumeristic. The combination of these two phenomena has generated new environmental challenges, mostly in trash management.

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 conserve or improve their local environment.

To help address these issues, Peace Corps, in consultation with Paraguayan environmental stakeholders, recently redesigned the Community Environmental Project. The overall goal of the revised project is for Paraguayans to improve natural resource management for a healthy, productive and resilient environment.

The project has two objectives:
Objective 1: Increase the knowledge, skills and attitudes of youth to become effective environmental stewards
Objective 2: Increase the adoption of practices by individuals and communities that lead to an increased number of trees.

Objective 1 works toward developing young people into future environmental stewards, including environmental education with teachers in elementary schools, co-facilitating eco-clubs with young people, co-implementing environmental days and co-facilitating school-based recycling programs.

Objective 2 is focused on promoting afforestation; this includes identifying interested community members, establishing tree nurseries, preparing community members for receiving saplings and supporting tree planting and follow-up care, in support of the National Forestry Institute (INFONA). All Environment Volunteers work in elementary schools and with community members. All work is done through collaborative efforts with other people. Volunteers do not work on tree planting or nurseries, etc. alone.

More specifically, Paraguay Environment Volunteers work on the following activities:
• Collaborate in primary schools (up to 9th grade) co-designing, co-planning and co-facilitating with local teachers on environmental education topics, including community-based social marketing and recycling
• Co-implement with local counterpart(s) a structured eco-club (in or out of school) and other environmental events, focusing on young people.
• Collaborate with INFONA staff and local counterparts on initiating or managing a tree nursery/ies
• Promote forestation and/or reforestation with native species (and some fast-growth), while working with manageable solutions that address rural, low-resourced communities’ economic realities

All candidates should feel comfortable working with community, teacher and youth groups as well as coordinating with local elected officials and gov’t/non-gov’t organization workers. Environment Volunteers are placed in communities ranging from small to mid-size rural villages, or small towns, to marginalized neighborhoods of urban areas.

All Volunteers in the Environment Project will have the same training and assignment description, meaning they will work on the same project framework and its related activities in their communities.

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

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following:

• At least one year of experience working in a rural area under challenging conditions
• At least one year of service/volunteer work in a community
• At least one year of 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, students and youth groups as well as with local elected officials, other elementary/high school staff and local government workers
• Interest and skills in people-focused environmental work regarding environmental education, tree planting and trash management
• Demonstrated successful experience in organizing and/or planning community events
• Background in environmental education, science, or studies
• Strong interest to learn an indigenous language
• Conversational Spanish skills

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. Therefore, Trainees/Volunteers need to learn/know both languages in order to be able to communicate and be effective. Pre-Service Training will include Spanish and Guarani training. It is important to maintain 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.

Trainees will not be able to swear in as a Volunteer unless he/she/they meet both language benchmarks. Additionally, during training, Trainees are taught a basic competence in Spanish, but the focus of language training will be in Guarani.

Living Conditions

• Environment Volunteers 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).
• Conditions 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.
• 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. Somewhere in the community there will be cell service, but it may not be at the Volunteer’s home or work location. Be prepared to not have internet access at site.
• Most sites are accessible by public transportation, but some sites will require up to a 10k (~6 miles) walk or bike ride to reach public transportation.
• 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 in their site for at least three months, totaling six months with a host family. Volunteers are expected to adjust to the host family in a respectful and thoughtful manner.
• The Paraguayan diet is heavily based on meat therefore it 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; but have limited or no access to other vegetables. Many Volunteers have gardens in order to increase access to vegetables. Many Volunteers do not have access to a supermarket near their site and should be prepared to have a routine diet that does not depend on access to a supermarket.
• In Paraguay, there is no clear separation of personal and professional life, as many on a community level are related and personal relationships heavily influence professional relationships.

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

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

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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