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Semi-Finalists 2014

Abellon CleanEnergy, India

The Indian state of Gujarat is globally ranked first in cotton production. Cotton produces lots of post harvested agricultural residues which farmers then burn or pile in a hurry to prepare their field for the next crop cycle.  This ultimately decomposes, producing methane which is 20 times more hazardous than carbon dioxide and contributes to global warming.  According to farmers, it’s the easiest way to get rid of combustible waste from agricultural activities.

As part of finding a solution, Abellon implemented a sustainable land development method as an integrated part of their business model because they knew there was a need for the regeneration of soil health, fertility and human livelihood in the drylands.  In doing so, Abellon supports and works with rural communities to generate value from waste, provides enhanced income and employment to enable higher productivity and efficiency through agricultural best practices training.  It buys biomass from farmers to produce bio-pellets/bio-power for bioenergy generation that replaces fossil fuels like coal and lignite. The company has successfully established a global presence with its initiatives in India, Europe, North America and Africa.


Adi-Shimhabty Community, Eritrea
The remarkable village Adi-Shimhabty, Eritrea, works together to improve the environment and conditions in which they live.  Over-exploitation and removal of natural vegetation, over grazing, deforestation, inappropriate soil management, disturbance of the water cycle, inappropriate crop and range land management and climate change factors among other challenges have driven this community to make positive changes in agricultural and livelihood practices.  Using techniques which are scientifically proven to yield results, the community has established permanent land closures, all from their own land and conducts joint activities such as terracing, tree seedling planting, checking dams and land leveling.  They have converted what was virtually barren land to 95% recovered vegetation. Ordinary members of the village ranging from ages 20 to the extraordinary age of 100 years participate in this initiative.  This example of unity and action to improve their own lives has become a model for the neighbour villages to solve life threatening issues such as food and water scarcity. 
Africa Centre for Holistic Management (ACHM), Zimbabwe
The majority of rural communities in Zimbabwe are situated on dry rangelands.  ACHM provides training and support to local and international communities in Holistic Land and Livestock Management (HLLM) programs to properly manage livestock for the restoration of degraded range and croplands suffering from severe degradation and drought. 

Agro-pastoralists who depend upon these lands for survival use HLLM to improve the quality of their soil, raise the water-table, increase crop yields and raise healthier cattle. This programme operates on a large scale reaching a total population of 21,600 by providing knowledge through trained NGOs to help communities overcome difficult challenges.  For example, in some villages, people travelled long distances in search of livestock forage, particularly during the dry season and times of severe drought. They previously grazed livestock everywhere causing forage to become scarce resulting in increasing loss of livestock. When ACHM introduced HLLM practices by developing planned grazing, it helped grow more forage between wet seasons.  As a result, there has since been an abundance of forage and a significant reduction in livestock mortalities thus improving livelihoods.


Through innovative technology, AGIDE, an NGO working in sustainable management of the environment, fights against land degradation in Togo to help farmers and agricultural producers restore and improve the fertility of their land. Before, slash and burn farming and extensive use of mineral fertilizers and chemical pesticides had led to the destruction of soil in Togo, particularly of fungi, thus reducing the ability of plants to use nutrients. Added to this was the problem of environmental pollution and food poisoning related to consumption of contaminated vegetables.  To change these patterns, AGIDE demonstrates the overwhelming benefits of mushrooms in making natural fertilizer. 

Mushroom cultivation and consumption was a traditional aspect of rural life in parts of Togo that had almost died out until AGIDE began training villagers, particularly women, on how to grow mushrooms and make compost and biocide.  This approach further improves soil fertility and crop yields and creates a natural biocide that improves pest and disease resistance. 

Carbon Green Africa, Zimbabwe
The turmoil in Zimbabwe’s agricultural production and population growth has led to significant damage to forests from overexploitation.  In Northern Zimbabwe, fertile land is increasingly at risk as a result of this phenomenon and is slowly transforming into degraded land. 
Carbon Green Africa’s project Kariba RED+ has been addressing deforestation risks through food security conservation farming, fire management, participatory territorial planning, alternative livelihood generation, and wildlife protection for ecotourism. 

The local communities operate the project and within its first few years had already succeeded in improving agricultural productivity by 30%, reducing deforestation by 50% and stopping soil erosion on agricultural land. Aside from the direct benefits, the project also mobilizes local communities for participation on all levels, rehabilitating several schools and clinics, and avoiding around 5.5 million tons of carbon emissions.

Chirapaq, Centro de Culturas Indígenas del Perú 
Chirapaq incorporates sustainable technologies with ancient knowledge for the production of Andean crops, ensuring a way for comprehensive food security with sovereignty for the indigenous Ayacucho Quechua families.  They produce organic fertilizer to increase soil quality and conservation of rainwater in the soil.  To improve the land, Chirapaq build live fences to protect the crops from bad weather and use locally found natural resources and medicinal plants which help counteract pests and diseases.  

They have also introduced fertilizers to facilitate water retention resulting in greater agricultural production of an improved quality.  Much of their success in sustainable land management has been achieved through the exchange of experiences among participants referred to as "runa a runa" meaning "person to person" in Quechua, the local lingua franca.  Using this method, knowledge will remain in the communities and deepen with each exchange, ensuring durable practices for the next generations to come. 
The Conservation Organisation for Afghan Mountains Areas (COAM), Afghanistan  
COAM Afghanistan has made outstanding achievements under the challenging conditions of a country in transition. COAM uses ‘clean cook stoves’, which not only reduces the pressure for natural resources on vulnerable arid rangelands by 50%, it also provides health and livelihood benefits for women and families.

Decades of war, extreme poverty and severe climate conditions have resulted in severely degraded range-lands in Afghanistan which are at risk of desertification. COAM’s multiple activities have made a significant difference in changing these conditions, including community interventions, solar water heaters, bio-briquettes, tree planting, gravity-fed irrigation systems and watershed management planning.   Their work is driven by experienced youth and values the important role that women have in sustainable land management.  COAM’s green technology solutions have been distributed to over 300 villages in two districts of Bamyan province, directly benefiting more than 3000 households.

Drynet, Turkey  
Drynet brings together different actors to generate outcomes on a larger scale.  It has created a bridge between local communities, scientists, national and international policy makers and provides sustainable development tools for dryland communities.  Drynet's working approach has led to many positive results in the countries where it has been active. Some of these include the development of vibrant CSO networks in countries with a history of weak civil society participation in policy debates on sustainable land management, land degradation and desertification. 

Drynet disseminates information about successful local initiatives for sustainable land use and the restoration and conservation of drylands.  It also disseminates accessible information on inspiring local initiatives, national policies, UNCCD National Action Plans and international policy debates to CSOs, policy makers, scientists and broader audiences by publishing newsletters, making radio programs and via the Drynet website.
Excellent Development, UK
Transforming countless lives in drylands across East Africa, Excellent Development offers technical support for rural communities to build sand dams. Sand dams are benefitting communities in water use for livestock, domestic use and crop production and in coping with drought. The way that it functions is the water held in the dam spreads horizontally, recharging the aquifer, allowing trees and other fauna to grow and restore degraded lands.
In rural dryland Kenya, They have provided solutions to water and food insecurity to as many as 379,720 people. Through cost-effective sand dam technology, 91.5% of farmers supported now practice climate smart agriculture. They are restoring degraded lands and producing food for consumption and sale. Their work has not only restored land, increased yields and reduced malnutrition, but the production of clean water near community settlements has reduced ill-health among the population and as a result allows for time to be focused on education and productive activities.
Green Asia Network (GAN), Republic of Korea 
In Mongolia, 78% of the country is currently being affected by desertification. For Mongolian people, especially given that Mongolia depends on a considerable extent on livestock farming, desertification is life threatening.  To achieve sustainable development, GAN concentrates its activities on three areas -the environment, society and economy - by promoting self-reliance through a variety of economic opportunities for locals affected.  Some of the participants are eco-refugees, who come from the urban areas after leaving the countryside. Upon their return, many of them were astounded at the transformation of the land they had once abandoned.  They returned to find the amazing results GAN had achieved - a greener and happier environment which they then became a part of. 

GAN provides its participants with a wage and has trained thousands of locals in forestry practices and sustainable agriculture as well as engaging as many as 25,000 volunteers to plant trees in the region among other activities.  GAN also operates eco-tours, giving an upfront look at climate change impact and allows participants to work on forestry project initiatives. They plan on expanding their work to Myanmar in developing its infrastructure including tube wells, generators, water tanks and fencing among other activities.
Irob Community – The soil makers, Ethiopia  
Characterized by rugged and stony mountains in this geographical location of Ethiopia, there is little land suitable for farming.  Through hard work the communities are reclaiming farmland from valleys and gorges by building check dams and bench terraces.  Using indigenous techniques, the Irob Community has managed to generate almost non-existent farmlands and transformed them from a predominantly vulnerable pastoralism to a more resilient livelihood based on flood trapping and irrigation based agriculture in the face of overwhelming challenges brought by climate change.

Some researchers call this community ‘the soil makers’ due to their outstanding results in soil fertility.  Geologically, the soils in the area are too salty on which to grow plants. However, through diversion of river flood and siltation, the community has managed to cure it and is able to grow diverse vegetables and crops, both rain-fed and irrigated. The scale of irrigated land is growing from year to year, from 114.49 hectare in 2011, 127.5 hectare in 2012 to 183.3 hectare in 2013. 
Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), India
NCF works with agro-pastoralists in the high altitude of the Himalayas, a region that is home to unique plant and animal species which are at risk due to the rapid degradation of land.  Overgrazing in these water-limited ecosystems has led to catastrophic shifts in vegetation and even after several years of protection, the level of degradation would not allow the vegetation to recover to its original and more productive state.  To address this challenge, NCF is cooperating with agro-pastoralist communities to implement holistic and sustainable land management practices.

One of their many initiatives is the successful building of two artificial glaciers. This helps maintain water security for the entire village, is a strong tool for climate change adaptation in the region, improves the soil moisture and in turn the vegetation.  NCF’s research in rangeland health has also informed national policies and led to innovative community-based programmes to improve soil health, increase water security, reduce livestock grazing pressures and protect this unique ecosystem. They have succeeded in leading the development of participatory land management plans, and are currently scaling up their programmes to cover a 4000 sq. km landscape. 


Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE), Pakistan
Tharparkar of Pakistan is a drought prone region where a failed rainy season can cause a drought situation resulting in massive crop and livestock failure. Since its creation, SCOPE has carried out many activities in this region which include rainwater harvesting, rangeland management and enhancing agro forestry practices and has alleviated some of the suffering caused by food insecurity and malnutrition.

SCOPE has formed local community groups to work against land degradation and have since successfully restored rangelands through planting trees as well as bushes that are needed as fodder for livestock particularly during the drought hit periods. They have trained 1415 male and female community members in different skills training to improve their livelihood.  The training has helped the community tremendously to integrate back into social mainstream and to involve them in managing natural resources.

Taking Root, Canada
For a long time, there was little incentive for agroforestry in Nicaragua due to the lack of missing markets for forest and non-timber forest products.  Since Taking Root was established, agroforestry has now become economically viable for smallholders.  This project takes a landscape approach and considers how all the farms can work together within the landscape to reforest critical watersheds.  Smallholders are encouraged to reforest the under-utilized and degraded parts of their farms in exchange for direct payments over time as the trees deliver ecosystem services.

From 2010-2014, Taking Root have collaborated with over 300 smallholder families to plant 1,233,300 trees.  The sale of carbon offsets generated by the project has contributed over 1 million dollars to a community fund that provides direct payments to smallholders and creates hundreds of jobs. They have set the bar for land-use projects by planting 400,000 trees annually over hundreds of hectares, generating new and diversified income for more smallholders.
For more information:
Mary Kapiniaris
Land for Life Award
P.O. Box 260129
53153 Bonn
+49 (0) 228 815 2830



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