Doha, 4 December 2012. Three civil society organizations, Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) from Haiti, Conservation Efforts for Community Development (CECOD) from Uganda and the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA) of Turkey took home international recognition and financial awards totaling 100,000 United States dollars and medals at an evening gala held in Doha, Qatar.
They won the global Land for Life Award that attracted over 100 applicants, and were recognized for their innovative, inspiring and transformative work to increase the natural health of soils and restore its productivity.
The annual soil loss of 75 billion tons translates into that a loss of 4 and 10 tons of soil loss per person per year. And every year, 12 million hectares of land – an area equal to the size of Benin or the Dominican Republic – are lost to desertification or drought alone, and with it, the opportunity to produce 20 million tones of grain.
“Tonight we are celebrating three of the many hidden champions of this 21st century - those who have chosen, at their own expenses, to be the guardians of our soil, to take care of the health of our land for the sake of present and future generations,” said Mr. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, at the award gala.
“We can create laws to protect the soil. If our children can be agents of change, why can’t we? Poverty is not an excuse – even in the worst of conditions, opportunities exist,” he said, referring to the achievements of the winners.
SOIL, the first prize winner of US$40,000, has made specially designed toilets – ecotoilets – to collect human waste, which is then treated and turned into safe, nutrient-rich compost that is well-suited to regenerate depleted soil that can increase agricultural production.
Coming from Haiti, the innovation is particularly notable and timely because not only is all the land in Haiti seriously degraded and in need of repair, but sanitation facilities are in short supply, the people depend on the land, as will the nation’s recovery from the 2010 earthquake disaster.
“We will use this award to develop an integrated agricultural livelihood learning center that will have a full-scale composting operation, fruit tree nursery and solar-powered drip irrigation demonstration farm,” said Ms. Leah Nevada, who received the award on behalf of SOIL.
CECOD and TEMA tied as runner-ups. Uganda’s CECOD won the award for mobilizing school children to be the agents through which new innovations on land-use are disseminated. It has mobilized 34,700 schools and over 12,000 households.
“We will use the US$30,000 we have received to launch our own Green Flag Award to recognize schools and communities that are leading efforts in collaborative sustainable nature resource management,” said Robert Isingoma, Country Director of CECOD.
TEMA’s achievement was the mobilization of 1million signatures to petition Turkey’s Parliament for a law to protect Turkey’s soil. It got 450,000 volunteers to do so, and has filed 158 successful legal cases in favor of environmental conservation.
“The prize of 30,000 dollars will contribute to our awareness-raising activities,” said Mr. Sedar Sarigul, TEMA’s General Manager.
Chief Guest at the event, Mr. Fahad Bin Mohammed Al- Attiya, Chairman of Qatar Nation Food Security Programme – one of the Awards’ sponsors – said these achievements support global food security, an issue of great interest to Qatar, which imports 90% of its food.
Qatar has an ambitious vision – to be food secure by 2024 – which Mr. Al-Attiya compared to America’s 1960s aspiration to land a man on the moon.
In a country that has no rivers or fresh water, “to produce our food does not seem feasible…. For us, it will be revolutionary and will help other people, including those who have no sources of food and water. The solution will spur a lot of unintended multipliers that will spread to other regions and help those like us who have food and water shortages,” he said.
Mr. Gnacadja announced that the 2013 Land for Life Award will have two new prizes. A special prize will be designated for gender, to recognize the contribution of women. A new prize will be established targeting action in Africa, a region with highly vulnerable soils and where restoration of degraded land is urgently needed.
At a subsequent press conference, Mr. Gnacadja said “what the winners have done is particularly notable because it one of the new and hot issues on the agenda of the global Climate Conference under way in Doha because the restoration of degraded land boosts adaption, and has the added benefits of alleviating poverty as well as mitigating climate change by sequestering carbon into the soil.”
“Carbon is a pollutant in the air, but it boosts the fertility of the soil, and these three organizations show how we can channel it there. Land use and land use change, deforestation and agriculture are all major causes of global warming. Often, they are drivers of land degradation and soil erosion,” he says.
“The restoration of degraded land, increasing soil fertility and land use techniques such as sustainable land management can reverse this process,” he added.
Also speaking at the press conference, Sheikh Hamad Bin Ali Bin Jassim Al-Thani, Vice-Chair, QNFSP, said Qatar has had an overall strategy for food security under the Global Dry Land Alliance, and when the Award was launched they found the kind of new, innovative and creative initiative focused at the grassroots that they were looking to support.
The award, he said, shows some “thinking outside the box” that addresses the big global challenges facing humanity, like hunger and food security.
The Land for Life Award was established last year at the tenth session of the Parties to the UNCCD held in Changwon, Republic of Korea. It is part of the Changwon Initiative spearheaded by the Government of Korea, which has committed to provide a contribution towards the Award for five years.
The 2012 Land for Life Award attracted 109 applications from all regions of the world. The 2013 award was launched on 3 November 2012 and nominations will close on 15 March 2013.
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.
Notes to Editors
Pictures of the award ceremony are available on request at the email address below.
For additional information on the Award go to: http://www.unccd.int/en/programmes/Event-and-campaigns/LandForLife/Pages/default.aspx
For more information contact:
Cell: +974 5584 6163 (in Doha)