ERS runs a program targeting local youths with limited tertiary education possibilities, which provides contract employment opportunities for young individuals from local communities to work within their home regions under various ERS programs. These young people are largely excluded from the mainstream conservation job market, and the Ecochamps program provides in-service skills and work exposure. This has allowed some of them to secure permanent employment within ERS and with other organizations.

 Currently, there are eight EcoChamps who form an integral part of the ERS structure as full time employees, amplifying the reach and impact of the organization’s work.These Ecochamps engage directly with traditional authorities and communities, offering support in areas such as rangeland management, spring protection, livestock husbandry, and facilitating knowledge-sharing in community gatherings (indabas). 

In addition to their community-focused responsibilities, EcoChamps play a significant role in citizen-science-based research, as well as learning exchanges with other organizations and government departments, contributing to presentations at conferences, and hosting media to disseminate ERS work and promote the organization’s model.

Youth-focused approach

ERS displays a strong dedication to the youth, emphasizing a youth-focused approach. Our willingness to explore innovative strategies and our commitment to finding solutions are notable strengths. We have conducted extensive training with Ecochamps which signifies a commitment to knowledge and expertise in environmental matters, allowing these young people to contribute valuable insights to their projects.

ERS has a long-standing presence supporting youths in the landscape, enjoying a high level of trust and recognition for our work. Involving village-based youths and building their confidence and capacity is showing their incredible agency for leading change in the area and meaningful climate change mitigation actions.

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