Orissa’s Women’s Federation Leads the Way in Reducing Poverty by Conserving Biodiversity

13 May 2011

Bhubaneswar, Orissa - “Conservation of olive ridley turtles is critical to the livelihood security of Orissa’s coastal communities” said Honourable Chief Minister of Orissa, Shri Naveen Patnaik. He was speaking at a felicitation ceremony to honour Samudram Women’s Federation in Orissa, one of the twenty-five winners of the Equator Prize 2010. “The success of such groups reveals the significant potential of women’s groups to take the lead in environmental conservation efforts,” he added. According to the Minister, Orissa remained committed to environmental conservation which is reflected in the state having been the first to finalise a state action plan on climate change. The Prize was announced by the UNDP Equator Initiative, a United Nations-led partnership that supports local efforts in biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation. The Chief Minister acknowledged the contribution of UNDP in drawing global attention to community-led conservation efforts in Orissa. The UNDP Equator Initiative is a global partnership aimed at supporting local communities that are seeking to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. It was a response to the need to improve the livelihoods of people who live among the world’s greatest concentrations of biodiversity, yet often lack the capacity to convert this natural wealth into better health, education, agriculture, and social development.

Caitlin Wiesen, Country Director, UNDP noted, “Globally, natural resources have shrunk by at least one-third over the last 50 years. If we are to reverse this trend much will depend on the abilities of local communities to build sustainable livelihoods while conserving the environment for future generations. Commending the Federation on its achievements in this area she said “Initiatives such as these that empower women and communities that are reliant on natural wealth to think globally and act locally must lie at the cornerstone of our poverty reduction efforts.” According to Shri Debi Prasad Mishra, Forest Minister of Orissa, “the efforts of the Samudram Federation demonstrate that women can work as effective environmental managers.”

UNDP is committed to promote low carbon, climate resilient and inclusive development that enables communities to build sustainable livelihoods. In Orissa, UNDP is partnering with the state government to mobilize local communities to conserve natural resources, particularly outside protected forest areas through building sustainable ecosystem based livelihoods and social capital. A recent UNDP study in the state has identified close to 6,000 community conserved areas i.e. conservation areas outside protected forests and a UNDP project on medicinal plants has shown plant-based traditional medicines have reduced the health care cost of rural communities by 60-80 percent in the state. Samudram brings together over 160 women’s groups, composed of 1,500 members and spanning 50 villages across the east coast of India. The organization has the twin objectives of empowering local women and protecting the threatened nesting sites of the Olive Ridley Turtle. Capacity building, microfinance, and disaster risk reduction planning all complement turtle monitoring and conservation activities. Artificial reefs, eco restoration zones and “fishing holidays” have been introduced to improve fishing productivity, diversify marine life, and allow natural breeding and regeneration cycles.

Local fisherwomen are provided with storage facilities and market access support, which improve their incomes. The Federation has been ably supported by the United Artists’ Association, Ganjam. The event was attended by Shri Naveen Patnaik, Honourable Chief Minister of Orissa; Shri Debi Prasad Mishra, Forest Minister of Orissa; Aurobindo Behera, Forest Secretary of Orissa; Ms. Caitlin Wiesen, Country Director of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Mr. Srinivasan Iyer, Assistant Country Director, Energy and Environment, UNDP. On 20 September 2010, representatives of winning communities attended the Equator Prize 2010 Award Ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History in New York during a high-level event entitled, Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Climate Change: Scaling Up Local Solutions to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The event, which was held in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly and MDG 2010 Review Summit attracted over 500 participants. Photos, video footage, and speeches from the event are available here or at www.equatorinitiative.org.

UNDP is the UN’s global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. We are on the ground in 166 countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges. As they develop local capacity, they draw on the people of UNDP and our wide range of partners. www.undp.org

The Equator Initiative is a partnership that brings together the United Nations, governments, civil society, businesses, and grassroots organizations to build the and raise the profile of local efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Partners to the Equator Initiative include: Conservation International, Convention on Biological Diversity, Fordham University, The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Nature, The Nature Conservancy, the Government of Norway, Rare, Government of Sweden, Television Trust for the Environment, United Nations Environment Programme, and the United Nations Foundation. www.equatorinitiative.org

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