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COP11 Delegates celebrate heroes of drylands and land restoration

​23/09/2013 – Windhoek, Namibia.  On Monday evening delegates and conference participants took a break from negotiating text and making speeches, to celebrate the achievements of individuals and organizations around the world that have made an impact restoring degraded land and preventing desertification.

At a meeting where hours are spent talking about the many challenges people and ecosystems face as a result of land degradation, desertification and drought, the stories presented by the prize winners offered signs of hope, and pointed the direction towards further action.
The award ceremony honored three civil society organizations, winners of the Land for Life Award and a total prize of 100,000 USD.  Now in its second year, the Land for Life Award is an annual competition open to civil society, academia, government and others who have had success restoring degraded land and combatting land degradation.

The UNCCD also recognized five Global Dryland Champions, an honour designated by the UNCCD Executive Secretary, Mr. Luc Gnacadja, and conferred to individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of sustainable land management and the work of the UNCCD.

The winners were awarded their prizes during a reception held at the eleventh Conference of Parties of the UNCCD, currently taking place in Windhoek, Namibia.

The first prize of the Land for Life Award of USD 40,000 was granted to Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), a non-governmental organization in India, which was ranked top of the 137 applicants from 62 countries. FES has mobilized people in more than 4,000 villages in India to care for common land, improving the eco-systems of 200,000 ha of rangelands.

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. Both organizations will receive USD 30,000 for their efforts.

“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,” said Mr. Gnacadja, addressing the crowd of ministers invited to the award reception.

“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.

During the event, Mr. Gnacadja also appreciated the lifelong dedication of five Global Drylands Champions.  The awardees include:

1) Mr.Yacuba Savadogo is a farmer and champion of the fight against desertification in Burkina Faso.  His transformative work has been profiled in the film, the “The Man Who Stopped the Desert”. 
2) Mr. Wang Wengbiao, the founder of the Elion Group in China, a private business which has invested 500 million USD to combat desertification in the Kubuqi desert.

3) Mrs. Zakiya Wadada, a civil society advocate from Trinidad and Tabago, spent years organizing participatory processes for people in the Caribbean to become involved in the UNCCD.  She also successfully pushed governments to implement the convention on the ground through sustainable land management programmes in partnership with civil society organizations.

4) Dr. Chris Reij, for his research on re-greening initiatives in the Drylands especially in the Sahel and his outreach and advocacy for scaling up and dissemination in Africa and beyond.

5) Prof. Rattan Lal is a Professor of Soil Science in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University.  His research in sustainable management of soil and natural resources have made invaluable advancements in the field and contributed to the UNCCD research for a land-degradation neutral world.  (In absentia)

Mr. Gnacadja will conclude his term as Executive Secretary of the UNCCD at the end of September. 

Reflecting on his experience, he closed the festivities by saying that, “these awardees, and others like them, inspired to do everything I could to pursue good global land stewardship. Never let the light of your candle of good land stewardship – however small – die out.”

Notes to Editors:

Photos of Land for Life Award winners for Media use:
Land for Life Award:
More on COP11:
Videos of the Land for Life Winners:

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