Trekking for peace in Afghanistan
Kabul (Afghanistan), 9 August 2010 – Afghanistan's alpine landscape was the backdrop for a community event organised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as part of a campaign leading-up to the International Day of Peace on 21 September 2010.
UNEP's environmental awareness campaign began in the Central Highlands province of Bamyan with "Trekking for Peace". The event brought together local children, government officials and UNEP staff for a nature walk in the Shah Foladi Conservation Area.
The Central Highlands area also includes Band-e Amir, one of Afghanistan's most remarkable natural landscapes and the country's first national park, as well as the Ajar Valley Wildlife Reserve.
Among its projects in Afghanistan, UNEP is working with the government, local communities and international partners to nominate Shah Foladi as a protected landscape and establish it as a demonstration site for conservation education and protected area management.
Environmental education is a pillar of UNEP's country programme in Afghanistan where peace remains fragile.
Today, environmental insecurity still threatens the long-term well-being and livelihoods of many Afghans.
Forests now occupy just two percent of Afghanistan's overall area and the country's once-plentiful pistachio forests have almost disappeared in just three decades. Less than one third of households have access to safe drinking water.
UNEP's Afghanistan-based Protected Areas expert, Andrew Scanlon, said initiatives like the Shah Foladi project are encouraging better community management of natural resources, biodiversity conservation and the sharing of environmental education programmes for all Afghans.
"By bringing communities together to consider issues of common interest, community-based natural resource management is proving to be a worthwhile post-conflict reconstruction tool that can restore trust and collaboration," Mr. Scanlon said.
The theme of Peace Day this year is youth, peace and development. In the countdown to Peace Day, UNEP will lead further events with youth and other community members to increase awareness of the significance of the Central Highlands environment and celebrate renewed hope for peace.
UNEP has been promoting and supporting sustainable environmental management in Afghanistan since 2002, working closely with national environmental authorities to make the environment one of the essential building blocks of peace.
UNEP's activities in Afghanistan are made possible though the support and cooperation of a range of donor governments, civil society and partner institutions, including the European Union and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).