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UNCCD Announces 2015 Winners of Land for Life Award

Two business corporations from Egypt and China are recognized as true influencers in combating land degradation. Erdos, Inner Mongolia, China, 28 July 2015 – The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has announced the two winners of the prestigious Land for Life Award, who showed tangible evidence of combating desertification, land degradation and drought. The announcement was made in Erdos, China during the 5th Kubuqi International Desert Forum. SEKEM from Egypt and Elion Resources Group from China won the 2015 Land for Life Award. Unlike in previous years, this year’s, now in its fourth year, Award carries no monetary prize. The UNCCD secretariat will profile winners’ initiatives and show-case their outstanding works on sustainable land management at national and international events such as the 12th session of the Conference of Parties (COP12) to be held from 12-23 October 2015 in Ankara , Turkey. “We recognize the champions of sustainable land management in a variety of ways. Land for Life Award is one way that is dedicated to recognizing individuals, groups, institutions and businesses for their innovations and efforts towards land degradation neutrality,” Ms Barbut, Executive secretary of UNCCD, said. “These two winners exemplify the type of leadership and initiatives that business corporations could undertake in contributing to sustainable land management. Their work has not only benefitted the local communities by improving their livelihoods and creating local job opportunities, but has also contributed to conserving nature. What we need now are policies at international and national levels that recognize sustainable land management as part of the solution to climate change and other global issues,” she added. Notes to Editors:  Below are summaries about the winners accompanied by a quote from the winners and the Executive Secretary. SEKEM, Egypt SEKEM, founded by Ibrahim Abouleish in 1977, has been adopting biodynamic agricultural methods to rehabilitate more than 2,000 hectares 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.      Quote from SEKEM: "Land for Life – this is what Egypt needs very urgently. The growing desertification causes big troubles in many dimensions. Egypt is depending on imports, the country is living below the water poverty line and the nutrition of the population can’t be secured. For 38 years, SEKEM has been committed to reclaiming desert land, turning it into fertile soil for Biodynamic agriculture. Thus, we not only maintain, but also build soil fertility, which is the basis for sustainable agriculture, especially in an arid country like Egypt. SEKEM is very honored to receive the prestigious Land for Life Award, which encourages us even more to continue our efforts towards a sustainable future. SEKEM is a miracle in the desert, which would not have been possible without our partners, friends and supporters from all over the world and the international recognition. We take this Award with deep gratitude and as a motivation for our future efforts in keeping and building land for life in Egypt – not only for ecologic reasons but also to continue with our mission of promoting sustainable development that includes societal and cultural life and an economy of love." Helmy Abouleish, Chief Executive Officer of SEKEM Quote by Monique Barbut: “SEKEM’s sustainable land practice through biodynamic agriculture has successfully turned unproductive land into productivity, and benefited the locals. Their ecological and social approach business model can transform vast areas of degraded areas if replicated in other parts of world that are combating desertification.” Elion Resources Group Elion Resource Group was established 27 years ago, with a focus on eco-environmental restoration and rehabilitation work in 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 Kubuqi Desert. Elion has turned 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. Quote from Elion Resources Group: We are greatly thankful to the UNCCD for its recognition of Elion’s efforts in ecological construction and green development, as well as our spirit, experience and practice of desertification control. We are also grateful to the Government at various levels for their trust and support, and also to the projects’ communities and our partners. This honour also goes to more than 6,000 Elion people who have consistently pursued the cause of sustainable land management. ‘Turning deserts into rich and civilized ecological oases’ is the dream of Elion, and we have contributed 27 years of the best years of our lives to pursue this dream! For 27 years, Elion has created a unique and balanced green development path of ‘restoring and rehabilitating degraded land, ecology, livelihood and economy’, and we will keep walking this path to create a beautiful homeland with green mountains and clear waters. It is a great honour for Elion to receive the UNCCD “Land for Life” Award. With the responsibility entrusted by our Government and the international community, we will create more oases, starting from Kubuqi, to build desert ecological civilizations, which will benefit more people. Quote by Monique Barbut: “I had the opportunity to witness the incredible transformation of degraded land through the innovative ecological land management approach of Elion Resources Group. Their initiative in taking the lead to implement “Greening the Silk Road” can be emulated by international business corporations that are committed to conserving our limited natural resources worldwide.” About the Land for Life Award The Land for Life Award was established at the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (COP10) in 2011 as part of the Changwon Initiative. It recognizes excellence and innovation by individuals or groups involved in sustainable land management, with a particular focus on achieving land degradation neutrality. The award does not carry any monetary prize. The UNCCD secretariat will highlight and show-case the winners’ work at high level international and national policy decision-making events. Through these proven cases the secretariat aims to make known that land degradation neutrality is compelling and achievable. 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 Parties work to alleviate poverty in the drylands, maintain and restore the land’s productivity, and mitigate the effects of drought. For media coverage and interviews, contact: Ms. Wagaki Wischnewski Email: Tel: +49 228 815 2820 Resources Information on Land for Life Programme and Land for Life Award. More on SEKEM. More on Elion Resource Group.  

UNCCD Announces 2015 Winners of Land for Life Award
The Land Battle for Sustainable Development (Monique Barbut, Christiana Figueres and Achim Steiner, Project Syndicate, 13 July 2015)

As high-level political representatives gather in Addis Ababa this week for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, there are reasons to be optimistic about the fight against climate change and the pursuit of sustainable development. Investments in renewable energies have topped $270 billion a year, and clean sources of power, like the sun and the wind, represent a rising share of the world’s energy production. Meanwhile, sectors such as transportation, urban planning, and construction are undergoing root-and-branch change in terms of energy efficiency and conservation.

The Land Battle for Sustainable Development (Monique Barbut, Christiana Figueres and Achim Steiner, Project Syndicate, 13 July 2015)