As part of its mission to empower youth to become future environmental experts, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) today launched ‘Murshed’ - its Youth Eco-Rangers programme which motivates young people to volunteer as eco-rangers. The programme aims to train a group of cycle 2 and 3 Abu Dhabi schools’ students aged 14 to17 annually to understand the role of eco-rangers in protecting and preserving the environment.

‘Murshed’, which is implemented in coordination with the Emirates Schools Establishment (ESE) and the Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), is an EAD educational programme that seeks to inspire and engage students who are committed to, and interested in, protecting, and preserving the environment

The programme also provides adequate opportunities for the young rangers to receive guidance and develop their leadership skills and to gain experience in the field of environmental education. They will also participate in environmental conservation activities and interact with experts from EAD to learn about the public and private responsibilities of eco-rangers to reinforce youth’s efforts in eco system restoration in line with UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-203 initiative, which aims to halt global ecosystem degradation.

Interested students can now register to join the first cohort, which starts on December 12th, and is sponsored by TotalEnergies. During this cohort (2022-2023), around 20 students will be trained in Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, while the next edition (2023-2024) will see 20 students trained at the Mangroves National Park.

Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, EAD Secretary-General, said: “Connecting youth with the natural heritage of the UAE, educating them about the most prominent environmental issues and efforts exerted in Abu Dhabi and providing them with opportunities for academic and professional development, will enable young people to participate in the protection of nature through their endeavours, whether personal, academic or professional.”

Her Excellency indicated that the programme aims in the long term to introduce young people to career opportunities in the field of environmental education and wildlife conservation, and is a platform that offers leadership activities for professional development as they train to become eco-rangers. It also raises students' environmental awareness and introduces them to the natural history of the UAE through field visits to the nature reserves in Abu Dhabi.

Khansa Al Blouki, Director of Outreach, Environmental Information, Science and Outreach Management Division, at EAD, commented: “The programme seeks to improve youth programmes and opportunities for schools participating in EAD’s Sustainable Schools Initiative by introducing a new generation to professional, academic and career opportunities in the field of environmental protection, preservation and sustainability.

“Students will be introduced to the multi-faceted roles and responsibilities of eco-rangers, including spells acting as tour guide, visitor assistant, inspector, patroller, researcher, and reporter,” Al Blouki explained.

She added: “They will be trained in the skills and knowledge required to inspire others and safely guide groups of younger school children through Al Wathba Nature Reserve, as well as other protected areas in future years, including Mangrove National Park. Students will also undergo training sessions with a focus on team building, communication, active listening, critical thinking, planning and development, decision making, monitoring, and assessing, problem solving, negotiation, operations, and service.”

Elias Kassis, TotalEnergies Country Chair in the UAE, said: “TotalEnergies Foundation aim to direct its citizenship initiatives to youth to contribute to the company’s community engagement. TotalEnergies has set itself the ambition of achieving Net Zero by 2050 together with society and through TotalEnergies Foundation partnerships on environmental protection associations and institutions such as Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.”

He continued: “Murshed programme is a demonstration of TotalEnergies Foundation’s commitment to raise awareness on biodiversity among young people. By actioning such initiatives along with Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi , we are proud to empower Emirati youth and we remain committed to be a proactive player in the UAE.”

In addition to learning new skills and acquiring knowledge, other benefits of the Murshed programme include opportunities to communicate with the community, participate in outdoor activities, increase environmental awareness, connect with nature, and identify career paths in the field of environment.

Following the training, participants will go through a full field assessment prior to earning their badge and appointment as a Junior Ranger. Assessment protocols will include shadow sessions, practice with peers, leader feedback sessions, and confirmation from the trainer and EAD staff that the participant has met all requirements and criteria.

The graduate rangers will commit to a dedicated number of volunteer hours, guiding younger students around Al Wathba. These guided tours will be scheduled in line with EAD's visiting school group calendar and help cement Abu Dhabi Government’s stated aim of providing more volunteering opportunities.

Participants' volunteer hours will be recorded and after successfully completing all training sessions, participants will receive a certificate of achievement. Once participants are assessed as successfully completing their practice tours, they will receive a uniform vest and eco-ranger badge.

Additional opportunities for recognition include school credits for participating in Murshed eco-ranger training, invitations to networking events, and adventure activities organised by stakeholders. Moreover, this programme identifies key professional and academic opportunities to help students grow, as well as to continue with the programme in a mentor and/or participant capacity year on year.