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Land for Life awards


Launched at UNCCD COP10 in the Republic of Korea as part of the Changwon Initiative the Land for Life awards highlights projects that recover and restore degraded landscapes worldwide. These projects showcase how to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on Land, and in particular, land degradation neutrality.


2021: ShyamSunder Jyani Familial Forestry, India
2021: Saihanba Forest Farm (Kubuqi special award)
2019: Mr. Yun Dan  (Kubuqi special award)
2019: MERET (Managing Environmental Resources to Enable Transition) Project Ministry of Agriculture of Ethiopia
2019: Mathieu Ouédraogo, President of Réseau MARP, Burkina Faso 
2017: Watershed Organization Trust India
2017: UN Environment and Practical Action Sudan
2017: Ms. Yingzhen Pan (Kubuqi special award)
2015: SEKEM Egypt
2015: Elion Resource Group (Kubuqi special award)
2014: The Conservation Organization for Afghan Mountains Areas (COAM) Afghanistan
2014: Green Asia Network (GAN) Republic of Korea
2013: World Vision Australia working in West Africa
2013: Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) India
2013: Consejo Civil Mexicano para la Silvicultura Sostenible (CCMSS) Mexico
2012: Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA) in Türkiye 
2012: Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) in Haiti
2012: Conservation Efforts for Community Development (CECOD) in Uganda 

2021: ShyamSunder Jyani Familial Forestry India
Familial Forestry of Rajasthan, India, a unique concept of Shyam Sunder Jyani, Associate Professor for Sociology at in Rajasthan that relates a tree with a family, making it  a green "family member." Placing a family at the cornerstone of society, concept ensures the success of any social campaign. Familial Forestry means transferring the care of the tree and environment in the family so that a tree becomes a part of the family’s consciousness. More than a million families from more than 15,000 villages of desert-prone northwest Rajasthan in over 2.5 million saplings have been planted in the past 15 years, with the active participation of students and desert dwellers. 

2021: Saihanba Forest Farm  (Kubuqi special award)
Saihanba Forest Farm, which is located in Hebei Province, China, was established for the prevention of invading sandstorms. After three generations and 59 years of extraordinarily hard work, with scientific and innovative techniques as well as the Saihanba spirits of ‘faithful to missions, devoted to work and green development’, the Forest Farm has successfully afforested 76,700 ha on 93,300 ha of deserts, increased forest cover rate from 11.4% to 82% and the total accumulation of timber from 330,000 m3 to 10.36 million m3. Saihanba has shifted from “birds have no trees to perch on, and the sun obscured by yellow sands” to “forests turned from deserts”, and created a miracle in the real world which will shine throughout history. Saihanba purifies water quality and conserves water resources for 274 million m3, fixes carbon for 814,000 tons, and releases oxygen for 570,600 tons every year. Meanwhile, the Forest Farm has proactively developed green and ecological industries, increased the personal annual income of its employee to USD 15,000 and become the “Green Bank” for the poverty alleviation of the local community.

2019: Mr. Yun Dan (Kubuqi special award)
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.

2019: MERET (Managing Environmental Resources to Enable Transition) Project Ministry of Agriculture of Ethiopia
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. For 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. 

2019: 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 to promote 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).

2017: Watershed Organization Trust India
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 a 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 have 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 inland 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.

2017: 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 approximate 6,300 ha annually. As consequence, 4,500 farmers gained access to more land for the cultivation of agricultural 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.

2017: Ms Yingzhen Pan (Kubuqi special award)
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 the 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 alleviate 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 cover 1.3 million hectares across 71 counties in China.

2015: SEKEM Egypt
SEKEM, founded by Ibrahim Abouleish in 1977, has been adopting biodynamic agricultural methods to rehabilitate more than 2,000 hectares of desert land in Egypt. SEKEM has successfully developed into a thriving agricultural business and was a world pioneer in developing organic cotton cultivation. It has helped to reduce 90% of chemical use in the textile industry in Egypt. SEKEM has also created 1,500 jobs through its subsidiary groups. Today, its work not only covers sustainable land management but extends to social human development. Through SEKEM Development Foundation (SDF), SEKEM has established the Waldorf kindergarten, schools, vocational training centre and also the Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development which started its operation in 2012.

2015: Elion Resource Group (Kubuqi special award)
Elion Resource Group was established 27 years ago, with a focus on eco-environmental restoration and rehabilitation work in a desert land and also degraded land in the city. The Group has carried out works based on Elion’s greening ecosystem model, which has improved the livelihoods of 100,000 farmers and herdsmen in the Kubuqi Desert. Elion has transformed over 11,000 km2 of degraded land into productive land and has been promoting the production of green energy. It has developed a “micro-coal atomization” technology that aims to minimize coal pollutants in the generation of energy. The group also launched the “Green Silk Road Equity Investment Fund”, together with other private enterprises, for the eco-environmental restoration project along the Silk Road.

2014: The Conservation Organization 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. Read more...
2014: 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 to 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 allowing 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. 

2013: World Vision Australia working in West Africa
By popularizing the concept of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR), World Vision Australia has changed how thousands of farmers manage their land, helping them cultivate buried root systems or “underground forests,” in degraded landscapes, over time restoring productivity. Over the last 20 years, World Vision has trained thousands of farmers in FMNR, resulting in the restoration of thousands of hectares in West Africa and beyond.  

2013: Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), India
When land is shared by everyone, who is responsible for its well-being? Through land restoration and establishing community governance mechanisms, FES has worked to bring sustainable land management to over 200,000 hectares of common property rangelands, forests and water resources in India. Their work has improved the livelihoods of 1.7 million people living in more than 4,000 villages and influenced national environmental policy.  

2013: Consejo Civil Mexicano para la Silvicultura Sostenible (CCMSS), Mexico
The Amanalco Valle Bravo Basin in central Mexico provides vital water and forest resources to millions of people. But recently the land has suffered due to population pressures and unplanned development. CCMSS has built the capacity of 1,500 families of smallholder farmers for sustainable agriculture and forestry management over 15,200 hectares. They also are piloting carbon finance (REDD+) and payment for ecosystem services programs in Mexico.  

2012: Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA) in Türkiye 
With nearly half a million members and active volunteers, TEMA is the largest movement for conservation, erosion control and habitat restoration in Türkiye. As a result of their advocacy, the threat of soil erosion is widely known as an urgent issue for Turkish citizens. TEMA volunteers have collected more than one million signatures, helping to pass a law on Law on Conservation of Soil and Land Management. Recognizing their inspiring efforts, TEMA has been awarded 30,000 USD. 

2012: Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) in Haiti
The people of Haiti struggle with problems as a result of land degradation and lack of access to sanitation. Through building eco-san toilets, SOIL provides access to toilets to people who have none, and at the same time creates valuable organic fertilizer for community land restoration. Recognizing their innovative efforts, SOIL has been awarded 40,000 USD. 

2012: Conservation Efforts for Community Development (CECOD) in Uganda 
Eighty-five per cent of Ugandans live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.  But schools do not prepare students to work the land, and many youths never complete their education. Through eco-schools, CECOD trains teachers in a curriculum for sustainable land management and has launched dozens of hands-on community projects, like school gardens, water collection and compost.  Recognizing their important efforts, CECOD has been awarded 30,000 USD. 

Thanks to Elion Foundation and the partners who support the Land for Life Award