Ghent- Belgium -- For the second year running, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has announced the winners of the 2013 Land for Life Award with a USD 100,000 cash award, to shine the spotlight on organizations that show tangible evidence in combating desertification, land degradation and drought. The announcement was made as part of the worldwide celebrations of the World Day to Combat Desertification taking place today.
The first prize award of USD 40,000 goes to Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), a non-governmental organization in India, which was ranked top of the 137 applicants from 62 countries.
The second place was a tie between Consejo Civil Mexicano para la Silvicultura Sostenible (CCMSS) from Mexico for its work in the Amanalco Valle Bravo Basin in central Mexico and World Vision Australia for popularizing Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration in the Sahel region in Africa.
Mr. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, announced the winners this morning at the Conference on Desertification and Land Degradation from the City of Ghent, Belgium, which is hosting the World Day global observance.
'These three winners exemplify the type of leadership and initiatives that make the difference at the grassroots level. They improve livelihoods while fostering good land stewardship. Much of what they offer is simple, but transformational,' Mr. Gnacadja said.
'We recognize innovative community initiatives that can be replicated to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable and affected populations. What is needed now are policies to attract investment to scale them up and roll them out,' he added.
The organization Rehabilitation of Arid Environments in Kenya received special mention from the jury for their achievements in drylands area of Baringo County, helping rural communities to regenerate degraded land.
During the event, Gnacadja also announced that Eritrea, Hungary, Kenya, Portugal and Thailand were unveiling their Drylands Champions as part of the worldwide observances to celebrate the Day.
He said their zeal, drive and sacrifice keep alive the hope for a productive land heritage for children yet unborn. They 'are the global land heroes of our time,' he said.
The jury for the Land for Life Award is independent with experts drawn from the field of sustainable land management. It includes personalities like Ms. Yolanda Kakabadse, President of WWF, Dr. Vandana Shiva, a renowned environmental activist from India, Dr. Dennis Garrity, former executive director of World Agroforestry Center and Dr. Mary Seely from the Desert Research Foundation in Namibia, among other respected experts from academia, government, and civil society.
'We are recognizing organizations that have innovated techniques that have jumped the gap and are being applied with large scale impacts and potential for replicability globally as well as nationally,' said Dr. Garrity, speaking on behalf of the Jury. 'Each of these initiatives has engaged thousands of rural people and they work at the community level, motivating smallholder farming households to actively engage as stewards of the soil.'
Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), India
When land is shared by everyone, who is responsible for its well-being ? Working through traditional democratic institutions in more than 4,000 villages, FES has motivated communities to actively engage in land stewardship, changing how people gather firewood and graze their animals on common lands. By using the land restoration techniques introduced by FES, soil fertility, biodiversity and ground water availability has improved in over 200,000 hectares of common property rangelands, with benefits to an estimated 1.7 million people across India. Their work has also influenced national laws for common land management.
Consejo Civil Mexicano para la Silvicultura Sostenible (CCMSS), Mexico
CCMSS was recognized for its work in the Amanalco Valle Bravo Basin in central Mexico, which provides vital water and forest resources to millions of people. But the land in this valley has suffered environmental degradation recently due to population pressures and unplanned development. CCMSS has built the capacity of 1,500 smallholder farmer families to carry out sustainable agriculture and forestry management over 15,200 hectares. They are also piloting carbon finance (REDD+) and payment for ecosystem services programs in Mexico.
About World Vision Australia and Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration in West Africa
World Vision Australia has popularized the concept of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) in West Africa and beyond, changing how thousands of farmers manage their land. In many degraded environments, the naturally-occurring trees and shrubs have been cut for firewood, building materials and to plant crops, but the roots remain under the ground - an 'underground forest'. By managing this underground forest back to maturity, degraded forests are restored, thereby reversing biodiversity loss and reducing vulnerability to climate change. When FMNR trees are integrated into crops and grazing pastures there is an increase in crop yields, soil fertility and organic matter, soil moisture and leaf fodder. There is also a decrease in wind and heat damage, and soil erosion. Over the last 20 years, World Vision Australia has trained thousands of farmers in FMNR, resulting in the restoration of thousands of hectares in 14 countries.
About the Land for Life Award
The Land for Life award programme is a collaborative initiative between the UNCCD and the Korea Forest Service, Elion Resources Group, China, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Global Environment Facility, International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Qatar National Food Security Programme.
About the UNCCD
Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment, development and the promotion of healthy soils. The Convention's 195 signatory Parties work to alleviate poverty in the drylands, maintain and restore the land's productivity, and mitigate the effects of drought.