2019 Land for Life Award Winners

2019 L4L winners

The Award recognizes excellence and innovation in efforts towards a land in balance, in line with achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 15.3 Life on Land.

Since UNCCD celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this year, we focused on organizations and individuals qualifying for long-term dedicated actions and tireless efforts to improve land management in sustainable ways. 

The 2019 Land for Life Award winners are:

The 2019 Land for Life China Award goes to:

  • Mr. Yun Dan, incumbent head of the Department of Finance of Tibet Autonomous Region

The winners will be invited to the Award Ceremony on 27 July at the Seventh Kubuqi International Desert Forum in Ordos, China. 

In addition, they will be invited to the Fourteenth session of the UNCCD Conference of the Parties (COP14), which will be held in New Delhi in early September, to present and highlight their work and accomplishments.

First Prize: MERET (Managing Environmental Resources to Enable Transition) Project Ministry of Agriculture of Ethiopia

It was difficult for me to believe it at the first instance. It is not because MERET Project does not deserve this honor, but because fairness and justice rarely prevailed in this world. But now I know that truth and justice still exist in this world. Certainly, I was excited and thrilled by the news. It inspires me for further dedication and commitment for the betterment of our environment and society.

— Betru Nedessa, Coordinator/National Project Coordinator 

MERET’s origins lie in the emergency operation that responded to food crises in the 1970’s, this remarkable large-scale project is fully owned and operated by the government of Ethiopia. WFP (World Food Programme), the World Bank, and donor nations support the government, and communities. 

Since more than three decades, they estimate having restored more than 2.5 million hectares of degraded watersheds in more than 72 districts in Ethiopia, reducing food shortages by 50%. Farmers successfully escaped poverty and the beneficiary communities were and still are empowered for decision making in all development stages, guaranteeing sense of ownership and sustainability of the intervention. So far, 1.5 million households benefited this project and since the best practices are being replicated and scaled up, we can expect this number to rise in the following years. 

It’s not only my living standard that has improved but also of my 220 follower farmers. I’m proud of MERET!

— W/ro Worke, Lemo woreda of SNNPR

The area closure and reforestation activities have proven that degraded lands can be changed again into productive forest areas. Here the benefiting communities are getting forest resources for fuel and construction wood by providing them with economic benefit.

— Mrs. Carla Elisa Luis Mucavi, Ambassador of Mozambique

MERET approach is simple and cost effective that assures a good level of successful community mobilization, achievements on poverty reduction by creating collective wealth, sustainability by extensive ownership. 

— Dr. Yaya Olaniran, Ambassador of Nigeria

Seeing is believing: MERET is almost a miracle, seeing degraded land where people are now making a living is impressive.

— Mr. Sylvain Bayalama, Ambassador of the Republic of Congo

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Second Prize: Mathieu Ouédraogo, President of Réseau MARP, Burkina Faso 

Ce prix est pour tout le monde : Paysans, Paysannes et tous ce qui ont cru en ma capacité d’accompagnement des producteurs/trices et m’ont fait confiance en me dotant des moyens nécessaires. Si j’obtiens ce prix, c’est grâce à eux et pour eux. Aujourd’hui, si on constate une amélioration des conditions de vie de certaines communautés, c’est certainement grâce à leur capacité d’adaptation aux innovations et je suis convaincu que nous pouvons encore faire mieux dans les années à venir.

— Mathieu Ouédraogo
President of Réseau MARP, Burkina Faso 

Mathieu Ouédraogo has shown a lifelong commitment in the Sahel to restoring degraded land to productivity.

He began working in the early 1980s for the OXFAM-funded Agroforestry Project in Burkina Faso’s Yatenga region. In 1983 he became its director. Mathieu and his project developed and promoted contour stone bunds, a simple water harvesting technique, which has spread widely on the Northern part of Burkina’s Central Plateau. In combination with the improved planting pits (zaï) for which Yacouba Sawadogo received a Right Livelihoods Award in 2018, the contour stone bunds have produced a significant impact on crop yields, food security, tree growth and groundwater recharge. Mathieu has systematically and successfully promoted the use of both techniques. In 1992, Mathieu created the Réseau MARP, which was the first organization in Burkina promoting participatory research techniques. MARP is the French acronym for Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA). This network was supported by International Institute for Environment and Development(IIED). At the same time, Réseau MARP continued to be on the frontline of restoring degraded land to productivity. In 2009 it became the first organization in Burkina Faso to experiment at farmers’ level in 6 provinces with small quantities of mineral fertilizers (micro-dosing).

Whenever I need advice on how to approach a particular rural development issue in the Sahel, I talk to Mathieu Ouédraogo.

— Chris Reij, Senior Fellow Global Restoration Initiative, World Resources Institute 

According to Reij and Thiombiano (2003), women highly benefit from the different impacts of amenities. They no longer walk long distances to obtain water and, thanks to the increase in agricultural yields, they have greater food security, which allows them to devote more time to income-generating activities (small trade) and purchase of livestock (source of accumulation). Community gender equality and resilience, as well as their ability to cope with change, is more perceptible.

By 2030, Mathieu Ouédraogo, along with the innovative farmers he works with, wants to achieve "Fin de la faim" ("End of Hunger") by regreening Burkina Faso. He envisions that dryland ecosystems of sub-Saharan Africa, especially the Sahel, are regenerated and that rural communities are socially and ecologically resilient, supported by inclusive governance and leading to large-scale land restoration and increased productivity and crop production, food and nutrition security, household incomes and biodiversity.

Land for Life China Award: Mr. Yun Dan, incumbent head of the Department of Finance of Tibet Autonomous Regiond

To protect the ecosystem of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is to contribute my part to the sustainable development of China. Achieving economic growth at a price of damaging eco-environment would lose its significance.

— Mr. Yun Dan, head of the Department of Finance of Tibet Autonomous Region

Believing that a beautiful Tibet with a well-preserved, sustainable environment would offer a reinforced shield for China’s ecological security and help Tibetan people to live a better life, Yun Dan put forward a new approach to Tibetan forestry modernization in the new era during his tenure as the leader of the Tibet Forestry Administration.

He is one of the first local officials in China that acknowledged the role of ecological compensation in poverty alleviation.

Yun Dan also proposed a new afforestation strategy that promoted large-scale afforestation projects, prioritized the creation of mixed forests, and encouraged the use of elite native tree species.

Thanks to Yun Dan’s efforts, a host of tree breeding bases were set up and operated by the newly incorporated Tibet Land Afforestation Group Co., Ltd., thus removing a long-standing barrier to rapid expansion of afforestation in Tibet. 

Yun Dan managed to bring investment from large-sized forestry-related ecological enterprises headquartered outside of Tibet, such as Elion Group Co., Ltd. and Inner Mongolia M-grass Ecology & Environment (Group) Co., Ltd., to support ecological forestry development projects in Tibet.