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16 Land for Life Award Semi-finalists Unveiled

Copyright Biovision Foundation

​(06/05/2013) Bonn – The secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is pleased to announce the 16 semi-finalists of this year’s Land for Life Award. The semi-finalists are from 13 countries - Australia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Portugal, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States and Zimbabwe.

From planting a great green wall in Indonesia, to building sand dams in Kenya, to growing food in the shade of solar panels in India, these semi-finalists offer innovative and inspiring lessons on how to restore and conserve land.

“As with last year, this year’s semi-finalists show that land degradation and drought are not fates. Innovative and inspiring solutions exist that we can scale-up and scale out,” Mr. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD responded when the short-list was presented to him.

“Recognizing efforts like these on sustainable land management is particularly timely because the global community is looking to create sustainable development goals that can be measured and achieved to curb land and soil degradation,” he added.

Land degradation is often an underlying factor of rural poverty, which severely impacts the ability of subsistence farmers to grow food and access freshwater.  An estimated 70 per cent of the developing world’s 1.4 billion extremely poor people live in rural areas, according to a 2011 report by International Fund for Agricultural Development.

This is the second cycle of the Land for Life Award, which was established in 2011 to recognize efforts that promote the natural health and productivity of the earth’s soils. The semi-finalists represent some of the most cutting-edge and practical solutions in global sustainable land management.

The three winners chosen from among them will share a prize fund of up to 100,000 USD. Winners will be announced on 17 June, at the global observance of the World Day to Combat Desertification to be held at the Conference on Desertification and Land Degradation in Ghent, Belgium. 

The semi-finalists were selected from 137 applications submitted from 62 countries. The Award is open to individuals, NGOs, governments, business, media and others contributing to sustainable land management.

Winners are selected by an independent jury of experts from the field of sustainable land management, with 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 government, the UNCCD and civil society.

The sixteen semi-finalists are:

Abellon CleanEnergy, India
Abellon is the only business in the world that employs landless farmers and women to practice agriculture under the shade of solar panels.  The 12 hectares of solar panels provide the community with clean energy, as well as organic fruits and vegetables grown with water run-off from frequent panel cleaning.

Ms. Bilha Givon, Israel
Working in one of the most degraded environments in Israel, Ms. Givon has dedicated her life to environmental conservation in the Negev Desert. As the founder of the NGO Sustainable Development in the Negev (SDN), she is the key initiator of environmental responsibility forums, where communities engage in regular dialogues with industry polluters, which has resulted in improved environmental standards.  Her leadership has also resulted in the first “green” ISO-certified towns in Israel.

Biovision Foundation, Switzerland and East Africa
Through popularizing the Push-Pull method, the Biovision foundation has helped 50,000 maize farmers in East Africa prevent pests, increase crop outputs and enhance soil fertility.  The foundation also supports medicinal plant-based enterprises which protect forest biodiversity, as well as communication initiatives such as publishing the only newspaper on ecological farming in East Africa.

Conservation International, Indonesia
Targeting restoration of a key watershed, Conservation International Indonesia has planted a green wall of 100,000 native trees over a 200-hectare area bordering two national parks. The wall prevents soil erosion and protects water flows for 30 million consumers downstream in Greater Jakarta.

Consejo Civil Mexicano para la Silvicultura Sostenible (CCMSS), Mexico
The Amanalco Valle Bravo Basin in central Mexico provides vital water and forest resources to millions of people. But recently the land has suffered due to population pressures and unplanned development.  CCMSS has built the capacity of 1,500 families of smallholder farmers for sustainable agriculture and forestry management over 15,200 hectares. They also are piloting carbon finance (REDD+) and payment for ecosystem services programs in Mexico.

DeCo! Ghana
Farmers in the savanna region of Ghana have low crop yields as result of poor soils. DeCo! supplies them  with organic fertilizer through a sustainable business model, collecting local waste, fruit, vegetable and other biomass residues to produce rich compost. DeCo!’s compost offers a low-cost alternative to less sustainable government subsidized chemical fertilizers.

EcoAgriculture Partners, United States
The concept of ecoagriculture means managing landscapes in a way that supports people’s well-being, biodiversity, food production and the conservation of ecosystem services. Through developing practical tools, providing trainings and conducting research, EcoAgriculture Partners acts as global thought leader in the field of sustainable land management.

Excellent Development, United Kingdom & Kenya
Working in dryland areas across East Africa, Excellent Development supports access to clean water for rural communities by offering technical support for the building of sand dams.  Sand dams are reinforced concrete walls installed in seasonal riverbeds. The technique creates a higher riverbed, which acts like a sponge to store water and replenishes the aquifer. The technique has spread largely via word of mouth, and there are currently 2,000 sand dams globally.

Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), India
When land is shared by everyone, who is responsible for its well-being? Through land restoration and establishing community governance mechanisms, FES has worked to bring sustainable land management to over 200,000 hectares of common property rangelands, forests and water resources in India. Their work has improved the livelihoods of 1.7 million people living in more than 4,000 villages, and influenced national environmental policy.

Liga para a Protecção da Natureza (LPN) Portugal
Working in Castro Verde, the region in Portugal most susceptible to desertification, LPN supports farmers to continue traditional steppe farming, practices which support eco-systems that provide over 30,000 hectares of habitat for endangered migratory birds. 

Rehabilitation of Arid Environments Trust (RAE), Kenya
In Baringo County Kenya, 70 percent of land is arid or semi-unproductive, subject to increasing soil erosion, loss of vegetative cover and decreasing biodiversity. Working with the community over 30 years, RAE has implemented a variety of land rehabilitation techniques based on harvesting rainfall as well as other programs supporting rural livelihoods. Their work has benefited 20,000 farmers and pastoralists directly, and 380,000 people in the community at large.

Royal Botanic Garden, Community-Based Rangeland Rehabilitation Project, Jordan
In 2007, the Royal Botanic Garden decided to conserve a new parcel of land, building a fence around the 200-hectare site. But the local community was not on board and every night Bedouin herders would sneak across the fence and graze their animals. So the RBG introduced a program of managed grazing, engaging with the herders and allowing them to graze during certain periods, giving the land a needed respite.  As a result, erosion has declined and soil fertility and biodiversity have increased, including the return of some plants that had even disappeared in recent years

The Savory Institute, Zimbabwe
A lifelong champion of sustainable land management, Allan Savory has pioneered the concept of holistic land management, promoting sustainable grazing particularly in the grasslands of Africa. The Savory Institute is creating a global network of 100 locally-led hubs to provide training, consulting and implementation support for land managers.

Dr. Venanzio Vallerani, Italy (In memoriam)
Dedicating his life to helping farmers in arid environments, Dr. Vallerani pioneered the “Vallerani system,” a method of land cultivation that uses a special tractor which can treat 30 hectares in a single day.  Through digging a series of half-moons, the method prepares the earth for planting and better water absorption during the short rainy season. Dr. Vallerani passed away in 2012 at the age of 88. He influenced an entire generation of foresters and land conservation technicians in the Sahel and beyond.

Wildlife Works, USA & Kenya
Wildlife Works is a for-profit company that has pioneered the first application of the UN REDD+ program and carbon credits to finance large-scale forest conservation in the tropics. By creating jobs in conservation, eco-charcoal production and at an organic clothing factory, Wildlife Works offers people an opportunity to earn an income through alternative means, reducing pressures on land. The initiative benefits 120,000 people in southeast Kenya and protects over 500,000 acres in a key wildlife corridor.

World Vision Australia
By popularizing the concept of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR), World Vision has changed how thousands of farmers manage their land, helping them cultivate buried root systems or “underground forests,” in degraded landscapes, over time restoring productivity. Over the last 20 years, World Vision has trained thousands of farmers in FMNR, resulting in the restoration of thousands of hectares in West Africa and beyond.

For more information and photos, please visit: 
http://www.unccd.int/en/programmes/Event-and-campaigns/LandForLife/

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