UNCCD Announces 2014 Winners of Land for Life Award

Press Release

Top sustainable land management prize totaling USD 70,000 goes to development organizations in Afghanistan and Republic of Korea

Washington D.C., United States, June 17 2014 – For the third year running, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has announced the winners of the 2014 Land for Life Award with a USD70,000 cash award, to two organizations that showed tangible evidence in combating desertification, land degradation and drought. The announcement was made during the worldwide celebrations of the World Day to Combat Desertification taking place today.

Conservation Organisation for Afghan Mountains Areas (COAM) from Afghanistan and Green Asia Network (GAN) from the Republic of Korea will share the first prize award of USD 35,000 each. COAM is a non-governmental organization working in Afghanistan. Green Asia Network works in Mongolia but plans to expand its work across other dryland Asian countries.

H.E. Mr Uahekua Herunga, Minister of Tourism and Environment of Namibia and the President the UNCCD 11th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP), announced the winners at the global observance event of the World Day taking place at the World Bank Headquarters, in Washington D.C., United States.

The village of Adi Shimhabty in Eritrea received a special mention from the jury for its achievements in involving the community to regenerate degraded land in Eritrea’s dryland areas.

“The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and its partner organizations recognize the champions of sustainable land management in a variety of ways – including the Land for Life Award” said Ms. Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary, UNCCD.

“These are the people, mostly fantastic civil society leaders, who promote grassroots action and keep the land healthy and productive” she added. 

The Award’s independent jury is made up of sustainable development experts from academia, government and civil society, among them, Professor Joachim von Braun, Director of the Centre for Development Research (ZEF) University of Bonn and Dr. Mary Seely from the Desert Research Foundation in Namibia.

Notes to Editors

Below is a summary about the winners, a quote from each organization and from Ms. Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary, UNCCD.

The Conservation Organisation for Afghan Mountains Areas (COAM), Afghanistan

Decades of war, extreme poverty and severe climate conditions in Afghanistan have led to severely degraded range-lands that are at risk of desertification. COAM’s interventions include the introduction of solar water heaters, bio-briquettes, tree planting, gravity-fed irrigation systems and watershed management planning. Their ‘clean cook stoves’ and other green technologies reduce the pressure on natural resources in vulnerable rangelands by 50% and provides health and livelihood benefits for women and families. Over 300 villages with more than 3000 households located in two districts in Bamyan province have benefitted directly. These are outstanding achievements under the challenging conditions of a country in transition. The work is driven by experienced youth and values the role of women in sustainable land management. 

Quote from COAM: “COAM is greatly honored and thrilled to receive the Land for Life Award.” said the Execitive Director of COAM, Ms. Habiba Amiri.  “I want to take this occasion to thank all the people who have been supported, helped, and worked very hard to move COAM forward for the better application of its aim in Afghanistan. And of course a special thanks and appreciation to the UNCCD for selecting COAM as the first winner of Land for Life Award.”

Green Asia Network (GAN), Republic of Korea 

In Mongolia, 78% of the land is affected by desertification. This is life threatening because Mongolia depends a lot on livestock farming. GAN concentrates on three areas – the environment, society and economy. It is promoting self-reliance by creating a variety of economic opportunities for affected people at the local level.

GAN has trained thousands of locals in forestry practices and sustainable agriculture and engaged as many as 25,000 volunteers to plant trees in the region among other activities.  Participants receive a wage. GAN also operates eco-tours that provide a close view of climate change impacts and allows participants to work on forestry project initiatives.

Some of GAN’s participants are eco-refugees that return from the urban areas to the countryside. Upon their return, many are astounded at the transformation of the land they had once abandoned. GAN plans to expand its work to Myanmar, with a focus on building local infrastructure such as tube wells, generators, water tanks and fencing among other activities.

Quote from GAN: "Climate change and desertification have affected low land productivity causing poverty in local communities. Since 1998, Green Asia Network has worked to improve the livelihoods of these affected communities and to restore the ecosystem by applying a model, which we developed,” said the Secretary General of Green Asia Network, Mr. Oh, Ki-Chul, “This model can be applied to areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America that are facing similar conditions. We are honored to receive the first place Land for Life Award. It encourages the local communities we work with, our staff and our volunteers, all of whom are dedicated and committed to our work."

About the Land for Life Award

The Land for Life award programme is a collaborative initiative between the UNCCD and the Korea Forest Service, Elion Resources Group, China, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Global Environment Facility, International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Qatar National Food Security Programme.

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.