2017 Land for Life Award Winners

The Land for Life Award is dedicated to recognizing individuals, groups, organizations and business corporations for their innovations and efforts of achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 15.3 Life on Land.

With the theme “Land and Human Security” the 2017 Land for Life Award is awarded to nominees whose work has demonstrated tangible evidence of transforming the lives of communities suffering from the impacts of land degradation.

The 2017 Land for Life Award winners are:

The 2017 Land for Life China Award goes to:

  • Ms. Yingzhen Pan, Director General of National Bureau to Combat Desertification, State Forestry Administration 

The 2017 Land for Life Special Mention is:

“The winners show that restoration of degraded land can halt distress migration that is driven by unproductive land resources. Families and communities are transformed and become more resilient towards climate change when job opportunities are created. When practices like these are amplified globally, sustainability, stability and security of all is possible. It only requires political will and decisive action against losing more productive land to desertification,” said Ms. Monique Barbut, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Summaries about the winners

Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR)

WOTR is an NGO founded in 1993 and currently operating in 7 states in India. WOTR has implemented extensive work in reclaiming degraded lands, particularly in semi-arid regions, by undertaking participatory watershed development (WSD). WOTR has helped restore 8,913 square kilometers of degraded lands, with particular focus on vulnerable communities and has impacted 1.38 million people across 7 states in India.

Besides their SLM approach, water budgeting and micro irrigation has made communities in drought prone areas more resilient and benefited at least 355,832 people. In addition, WOTR’s works have contributed to the reduction of rural to urban migration and has created substantial local employment opportunities in rural areas. It has also trained over 300,000 people from India and various countries across the world in natural resources management and watershed development. WOTR works not only in land restoration, poverty reduction and climate change adaptation, but also leads in capacity building, empowering vulnerable communities and women, and advocating its WSD approach at the state and national levels.

Soil conservation and plantation works


Water harvesting structures

Dr. Marcella D’Souza, Executive Director of WOTR said, “Combating desertification can be achieved! Team WOTR is thrilled that we have been able to prove it conclusively. Thank you UNCCD for recognizing the years of silent, committed efforts of my team and villagers, through this prestigious award. We thank our enablers and funders – the Indian Government, the German Government (through KfW and GIZ), the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development and our many donors, who have helped us realize this. WOTR renews its commitment to continue Combating Desertification in India and elsewhere.”

Short film of WOTR: The New Beginning 


UN Environment and Practical Action Sudan

The Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (ECO-DRR) in North Darfur, a pilot project, was implemented by UN Environment in partnership with the State Government of North Darfur, Practical Action Sudan and community-based organizations in 2012-2015, with support from the European Union. The interventions have resulted in a dramatic increase of 17.5 times of water retention, expanded irrigation and cultivated land from 364 ha to an approximate 6,300 ha annually. As consequence, 4,500 farmers gained access to more land for cultivation of agriculture produce including animal fodder. This has helped to reduce the grazing pressures on already degraded rangelands. In addition, the rehabilitated waters structure also reduced 17,500 people’s vulnerability to drought and increased the coping capacities of 5 communities in preparing for and managing drought and water scarcity. The demarcation of a 10 km migratory pastoralist route reduced potential conflict between pastoralists and farmers. The original 10 km route will be expanded up to 120 km. Besides, 24.3 ha of degraded forest areas were rehabilitated with the establishment of 5 community forests managed by a women's group. It is expected in the next 3-4 years, the rehabilitated forests can serve as additional income generation activity for women.



Agricultural yields are higher in fertile wadi soils

Quotes from the Practical Action Sudan and UN Environment team

Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment said, “I’m immensely proud of the work UN Environment is doing to help improve people’s lives in North Darfur and around the world. Winning this award proves that by working together in effective partnerships and hand in hand with communities themselves, we can make positive and lasting change, even in some of the most difficult situations.”

Awadalla Hamid, Practical Action, North Darfur, said “Practical Action and all our partners are delighted to have won the global Land for Life Award 2017. Ecosystem-based approaches to disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR) are certainly an effective approach for bringing together beneficiary communities and relevant state institutions as partners in building local resilience. Winning the Global Land for Life Award 2017 was made possible by the successful collaboration between Practical Action, the UN Environment, the European Union and all other partners."

Abdalla Latief, Director General, State Ministry of Agriculture, North Darfur, said “Excellent news on the occasion of Ramadan. It is extremely rewarding for the Eco DRR project in North Darfur to be awarded the Global Land for Life Award 2017 by the UNCCD Secretariat. It is a great accomplishment for our communities, the UN Environment, the state government of North Darfur, Practical Action and the Voluntary Networks. I had faith that the exceptional devotion and efficient coordination towards implementing Eco-DRR projects was leading us to success.''

Short film of ECO-DRR: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsX_Nv6LZzY

For more information, please visit: http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/Eco-DRR/EcoDRR_casestudy_Sudan_Wadipartners.pdf


Ms. Yingzhen Pan

Ms Yingzhen Pan, the Director General of the National Bureau to Combat Desertification of State Forestry Administrative, China, began her story on combating desertification in 1984. Under her leadership, the restoration of the Three North Regions Shelterbelts, which is globally recognized as Worlds’ Ecological Restoration Work, has successfully covered afforestation of 29.2 million hectares of degraded land. As a result, the shelterbelt now generates forest economic value of 120 billion Yuan, which has helped alleviating 15 million people out of poverty. In addition, her achievement also includes counteracting the encroachment of sand and soil erosion of 336,200 square kilometers and 450,000 square kilometers of land, respectively. Besides, Madam Pan also took the initiative to coordinate the relevant departments and intensified the support for the rehabilitation of the desertified lands that covers 1.3 million hectares across 71 counties in China.



Ms. Pan

Ms Yingzhen Pan, Director General of National Bureau to Combat Desertification of State Forestry Administrative said, “Thank you UNCCD for awarding me the Land for Life China Award. I am very honoured. This is a recognition not only for myself but also for those who have worked hard to fight desertification. The award also gives affirmation to our government’s commitment to combat land degradation and encouragement to people to restore degraded land. As the China National Focal Point of Combating Desertification, I will continue together with my colleagues to lead and realize the work of rehabilitating degraded land. Let our land be alive again, giving more hopes and opportunities!”


Florencia Escudero Fonseca: Special Mention

A 75-year old lady, from Spain who has transformed abandoned farmland and created job opportunities for vulnerable communities. She successfully mobilized communities of all ages to restore and rehabilitate degraded land with limited resources. Two thousands trees were planted in the given 40 hectares of degraded land and her team intends to plant one thousand trees per year in the future. Her simple innovative ideas and dedicated support to the community have also won her the Spanish Ministry of Innovation Award and The Women of the Earth Award from the Yves Rocher Foundation.



Yves Rocher

Short film: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1ijNPlT37u91vl7Y0eXfHw

For more information: www.elcolletero.org