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    LAC Wins Two of Five UNDP Equator Awards

    By Keith R | May 23, 2007

    Topics: Biodiversity, Economics & the Environment, Environmental Protection | No Comments »

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    Five tropical communities were honored yesterday at United Nations Headquarters in New York with the Equator Prizeand two of the five were from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The Prize, awarded biennially by the Equator Initiative led by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), recognizes “extraordinary work to diminish poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.” The goal is to promote the idea globally that healthy, biologically diverse environments can go hand-in-hand with sustainable livelihoods.

    The Equator Initiative was launched in 2002. It brings together UN entities (UNDP, the secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity), conservation nongovernmental organizations [Conservation International (CI), the World Conservation Union (IUCN), The Nature Conservancy (TNC)], governments (Canada, Germany) and others [Fordham University, Television Trust for the Environment (TVE), Ecoagriculture Partners, United Nations Foundation]. The goal is to help community-based efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

    The Prize itself focuses on initiatives found between 23.5 degrees latitude north and south of the equator. One Prize apiece is awarded to each of three regions — LAC, Africa, and Asia/Pacific — plus one for a project associated with a UNESCO World Heritage Site and another to a project “that best exemplifies sustainable biodiversity-based business.” The winners receive US$ 30,000 plus international recognition (which presumably will also bring them more financial support).

    For this round, the five winners were picked from 25 finalists chosen from more than 300 nominated projects from 70 countries.

    “The Equator Prize recognizes the devoted work of men and women to the cause of saving our planet from ecological disasters. Through their work, they are demonstrating that good ecology is also good business. Thus they serve as torch bearers of the movement for sustainable human happiness,” declared Professor M.S. Swaminathan, Equator Prize jury member and former president of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences of India. Other jury members include Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Princess Basma Bint Talal of Jordan, Dr. Mohammed El-Ashry [the former CEO of the Global Environment Facility (GEF)], and Ms. Yolanda Kakabadse Navarro, Chair of GEF’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel.

    The two LAC winners, and the UNDP press blurbs describing them, are:

    Alimentos Nutri-NaturalesAlimentos Nutri-Naturales,Guatemala

    The Maya nut was once a staple food for the ancient Mayans but is threatened with extinction due to the spread of logging and conversion of land to agriculture. In the buffer zone of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala, 56 women own and manage a business which employs over 650 community members to process Maya nut to feed their families and earn income. The Maya nut is not only an important source of nutrition for humans but 85% of endemic wildlife also rely on the Maya nut forests for food, shelter, and general habitat. The project has resulted in the conservation of 90,000 hectares of Maya nut forests and the planting of 150,000 new trees across Guatemala. Alimentos Nutri-Naturales has created a local initiative to resolve malnutrition, rural poverty and dependence on imported foodstuffs by marketing Maya-nut-based school lunches to local school districts. Through a partnership with the local government, Maya nut snacks will be distributed in schools as a healthy alternative to cookies at lunch time.

    Asociación de Mujeres de Isabela “Pescado Azul”Asociación de Mujeres de Isabela “Pescado Azul”,
    Isabela Women’s Association “Blue Fish”, Ecuador

    This women’s cooperative on the Island of Isabela in the Galápagos Islands is providing jobs for unemployed women and sustainable economic alternatives for fishermen. Traditionally, the fishermen have relied on declining coastal sea cucumber, lobster, and shark populations for their livelihood. The Mujeres de Isabela association provides an alternative by creating a market for tuna, a migratory species, which is processed, smoked and sold to tourists. The project also contributes to the conservation of the Galapagos by using guava wood, a destructive invasive species, to smoke the fish. This small-scale business is decreasing pressure on the already overexploited fishery by focusing on added value rather than scale in its production of smoked fish delicacies.

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