Sowing the seeds 
for a green future

Young people raise their voices for nature

IUCN Asia is working with the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and Mangroves for the Future (MFF) – two of the largest grant-making mechanisms in Asia that safeguard biodiversity and promote investment in coastal ecosystems respectively – to help youth in 13 countries gain the knowledge and capacity to make the world a better place to grow up in.

For International Youth Day, here are 10 projects from Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia, the Maldives, India, Sri Lanka and China featuring young people of all ages taking action for the environment and their communities.

Waste management
in Thailand

These students have cleaned their milk cartons and are hanging them out to dry. The cartons will later be recycled and used to build shelter for victims of natural disasters.
© Siriporn Sriaram – MFF/IUCN

In Trat Province, Thailand, a 60,000 tonne pile of waste dubbed the "Golden Mountain" is a prominent feature of the Mairood sub-district. 

With support from MFF, two community-based waste management projects have empowered over 700 schoolchildren to bring home waste sorting and recycling best practices. 

The '7 Rs’ – 'Reduce,' ‘Reuse,’ ‘Recycle,’ ‘Rethink,’ ‘Reject,’ ‘Repair’ and ‘Return' – have transformed the way families in Mairood interact with consumption habits and waste management.

The programme teaches students that waste is destructive and hazardous. It also teaches them that it can be effectively neutralised and even used to save and earn money. Students bring this knowledge home and are also encouraged to participate in monthly community meetings where waste management is often discussed.

Mekong Voices: Thailand

March 2017: Young women in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand, protest plans to dynamite blast the rapids on the Mekong River © Teerapong Pomun – MCI

In Thailand, the Mekong Community Institute (MCI) Association is making young people in eight provinces the collective voice of the Mekong River.

With support from CEPF, MCI is establishing local learning centres in districts such as Chiang Khong and Ubon Ratchathani to train young people, from toddlers to teenagers, in the effective communication of environmental issues to the public. These centres strengthen the capacity of young people to be the collective voice of the Mekong River in Thailand.

Combating illegal
wildlife trade
in Viet Nam

These future conservationists are learning about the damage being caused by the illegal wildlife trade © Education for Nature - Viet Nam

You're never too young to start learning about protecting wildlife! 

Education for Nature - Viet Nam (ENV)'s young volunteers, like the one above in the green t-shirt, know that eliminating the illegal wildlife trade means not just discouraging supply, but also killing demand. They stage regular exhibitions in shopping malls and other public spaces to get their message across and call the next generation to action.

"I don't agree with using tiger bone to cure diseases under any circumstances."

– Nguyen Thi Lan Anh, 21, who pledged to help stop wildlife consumption in Viet Nam

"These incredible young people are working hard to clear Viet Nam of its reputation as a major consumer, supplier and transit hub for illegally trafficked wildlife." – ENV 

Convincing senior citizens that bear bile and tiger bone aren't 'magic cures' for illness is a challenge the volunteers have taken on. By educating young children, they can cut off such misconceptions at their root.

Investing in
Viet Nam's Future

Students at Huynh Thi Luu School, Hoi An, learn about the uses of native plant species © Tran Viet Duy – MFF

school gardens

With the increasing number of decorative plant species being introduced to Hoi An, native plants and traditional gardening techniques are more important than ever. Through an MFF project, students from eight schools in Hoi An are learning the value of organic agriculture, native flora – such as traditional medicinal herbs – and food safety. They're also getting an opportunity to practice what they've learned and bring biodiversity back to their city. 

I learn, i play, i am safe

Another MFF project in Hoi An is tackling climate change and natural disaster resilience in at-risk communes like Cam Kim.

'Green living reading corners' give young children the opportunity to read about climate change and understand how it affects them. They also learn how to live more sustainably by saving water and energy, and reducing, reusing and recycling waste. These students can then bring this knowledge home and share it with family and friends.

Outdoor classrooms
in Cambodia

A boy watches birds in Prek Toal Ramsar site during a class on local fauna conducted by OSMOSE environmental teacher Chhun Teav © OSMOSE

Teaching can be tough, but less so when the wilderness you want to conserve is right in your backyard. 

With CEPF support, OSMOSE is making nature the classroom in the Prek Toal Ramsar site, part of Cambodia's Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve, by integrating conservation into the curriculum of Peak Kantiel village. Outdoor classes immerse students in the lessons, and teacher-led activities like trash cleanups help drive home the message – and make the children feel empowered to make a difference.

Students from Peak Kantiel also have the opportunity to participate in events to help strengthen the resilience of the wetland they learn about in classes. On this year's World Environment Day, for example, OSMOSE staff led a tree-planting celebration in the village where over 20 children collaborated with park rangers, community members and village leaders to contribute to reforestation efforts in Prek Toal.

Monitoring Maldivian mangroves

Nafha, from the Maldivian National University, is passionate about mangroves © Munshid Mohamed – UNDP Maldives

In Huraa, Maldives, Environmental Management undergraduates at the Maldivian National University (MNU) conducted a mangrove ecosystem survey for MFF, gaining hands-on experience with the techniques they learned in the classroom. 

MFF benefited from the students’ enthusiasm and knowledge. The students, in turn, not only gained practical skills, but also rediscovered the passion that had led them to pursue environmentally-focused studies in the first place.

India's Young Leaders

Green Rhinos planting mangrove seeds in Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary © MFF India

Students in Rajnagar, a small town inside Odisha's Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, are getting the chance to think critically about the environment around them and have their thoughts and opinions heard. 

One of the most disaster-prone areas in India, Bhitarkanika is feeling the effects of climate change as cyclones and violent storm surges threaten to submerge it entirely. The area is also becoming choked with litter – especially plastic bags – as most residents are unaware of the hazards of waste.

Teams of students called the Green Rhinos are taught how to tackle these challenges through an MFF project that encourages creative thinking and non-traditional problem solving – like making over 3,000 reusable shopping bags out of their fathers' old trousers.

Green Rhino groups have also been working closely with their local governments to mitigate disaster risk by planting mangroves along riversides – 1,800 so far – and have been instrumental in teaching their communities the benefits of conserving and planting trees, composting for fertiliser and reducing plastic use.

Tour guide training
in Sri Lanka

A young tour guide-in-training learns bird-watching techniques on the Gulf of Mannar © GMSL

Traditional livelihoods in Mannar Province in Sri Lanka are mostly restricted to fishing and farming, but the possibility of more tourism in the beautiful and biodiverse Gulf of Mannar provides potential for local economic growth.
This would not only help people in the area, but also reduce pressure on their precious natural resources.

To help youth in Mannar take advantage of this promising prospect, MFF is working with the Green Movement of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority to help train tour guides – some as young as 18 years – in Sinhalese and English language and skills like basic first aid, bird-watching techniques, snorkeling and tour management.

The training programme, which took place over the course of three months, not only gave 30 young men and women the skills to build the area's reputation as a historically and ecologically-significant destination, but also gave them direct access to jobs and immediate opportunities to apply what they have learned.

Getting their feet
wet in China

Volunteers and students from No. 12 Qiongshan Primary School clear water hyacinth from Yangshan wetland © Squirrel School

On the island of Hainan, China, an educational facility called the Squirrel School is, with CEPF support, giving children the opportunity to learn about nature through classroom lectures and hands-on activities. 

After a lesson with Squirrel School founders Gaogao and Jakie or volunteers from Hainan University, students get the chance to go on a field trip into Hainan's critical Yangshan Wetland. Depending on the students' curriculae, activities in the wetland may include further lessons, doing simple water quality assessments or even pulling up water hyacinth, an invasive weed that pushes out native plants and suffocates wildlife.

Sometimes students also volunteer to participate in the activities beyond what is mandated by their schools. The Squirrel School promotes wetland protection through outreach materials like brochures, and also through lectures and field activities that are open to the public. On average, the Squirrel School reaches 800-1000 students per month. 

Project list:


"Waste Management of Coastal Communities" – Supported by MFF, implemented by the Community Organization Council

"Strengthening Mekong Local Youth Networks for Riverine Biodiversity Conservation" – Supported by CEPF, implemented by the Mekong Community Institute Association (MCI)

Viet Nam

"Mobilizing Public Action in Reducing Demand for Wildlife Products and Combating Wildlife Crime in Vietnam" – supported by CEPF, implemented by Education for Nature - Vietnam

"Students and community to protect ecosystem and biodiversity through school garden model" – Supported by MFF, implemented by Action Center for City Development (ACCD)

"I learn, I play and I am safe" – Supported by MFF, implemented by Live & Learn


"Environmental Education Program in Peck Kantiel Floating Village" – Supported by CEPF, implemented by OSMOSE


"Biodiversity Assessment & Ecological Valuation of Huraa Mangrove" – Supported by MFF, implemented by the Maldivian National University (MNU)


"Creating Youth Nature Leaders in Rajnagar, Odisha" – Supported by MFF, implemented by the Association for Social and Environmental Development (ASED)

Sri Lanka

"Tourism training programme for tourist service providers in Mannar" – Supported by MFF, implemented by the Green Movement of Sri Lanka


"The Squirrel School's Guided Eco-tours in Yangshan Wetland, Hainan" –Supported by CEPF, implemented by Hainan Gao11 culture transmission Ltd.

Cover photo: Children from Tamui Village, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, swim paper fish through the air on the bank of the river as a reminder that their well-being depends on the resources it provides. © Kumpin Akson – MCI