In a remote part of the Congo Basin, Vie Sauvage has pioneered a holistic model for community development, conservation, and peace-building. Photo: Frans Lanting

New York, June 5 – The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and partners announce the winners of the 11th Equator Prize to recognize 10 local and indigenous communities from across the world. The winning organizations showcase innovative, nature-based solutions for tackling biodiversity loss and climate change.

For years, Equator Prize winners representing indigenous communities have been urging to adopt a more indigenous-inspired way of coexisting with nature, acknowledging and respecting the connection between human and planetary health. Now, they are reiterating that message in light of the coronavirus—how protection, sustainable use, and restoration of nature can secure well-being and livelihoods for communities all over the world.

“Our community of 3,000 people have swiftly responded to the impacts of COVID-19 to save people from starvation. We are providing over 7,500 people each week with basic food necessities from our own first model community-garden. The objective now is to motivate the villagers to replicate the idea.  Ensuring food security by increasing our conservation efforts is vital”, says Nelson Reiyia, Director at the Nashulai Maasai Conservancy, which is one of the new Equator Prize winning organizations.

This is the first time the Equator Prize has been awarded to groups from Canada and Myanmar. Winners are also based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mexico, and Thailand. During the ‘Super Year for Nature’, their approaches exemplify what actions can be taken to protect crucial ecosystems and biodiversity for generations to come. The achievements of the winners also show how indigenous peoples and local communities have confronted legacies of disadvantage and discrimination in support of their communities, and the world at large.

“As our natural world faces a range of unprecedented challenges, the Equator Prize lifts the curtain on a range of exceptional nature-based solutions pioneered by local communities and indigenous peoples,” says UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner. “Indeed, as countries move to build back better after the COVID-19 pandemic, these innovative ways to protect ecosystems, biodiversity and tackle climate change are more important than ever -- I expect that the incredible efforts of the Equator Prize winners will have a ripple effect across the world.”

“At the same time, many of these communities are increasingly facing an erosion of their rights through land grabs, illegal mining or logging so recovery and resilience-building efforts must strive to bolster the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities,” he added.

Equator Prize winners will each receive US$10,000 and the opportunity to join a series of special events associated with the UN General Assembly, the UN Nature Summit and the Global Climate Week in late September. They will join a network of 245 communities from 81 countries that have received the Equator Prize since its inception in 2002.

The Equator Prize has been supported by former Heads of State Gro Harlem Brundtland and Oscar Arias, Nobel Prize winners Al Gore and Elinor Ostrom, thought leaders Jane Goodall and Jeffrey Sachs, indigenous rights leader Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, philanthropists Richard Branson and Ted Turner, and celebrities Edward Norton, Alec Baldwin, Gisele Bündchen, and many more. Partners of the Equator Initiative include the governments of Germany, Norway, and Sweden, as well as Conservation International, the Convention on Biological Diversity, EcoAgriculture Partners, Estee Lauder Companies, Fordham University, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, The Nature Conservancy, PCI Media Impact, Rainforest Foundation Norway, Rare, UNEP, UNDP, UN Foundation, USAID, WWF, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The winners were selected from a pool of 583 nominations from over 120 countries by an independent Technical Advisory Committee of internationally renowned experts. The selection was based on community-based approaches that provide a blueprint for replication and scaling solutions to address our biodiversity crisis.

For more information, please visit www.equatorinitiative.org or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter by using #EquatorPrize.

Media enquiries: Sangita Khadka, Communications Specialist, UNDP New York, email: sangita.khadka@undp.org

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More Information on Equator Prize 2020 Winners

Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation - Canada

After 40 years of advocacy, the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation achieved the protection of their land and waters for future generations by signing co-management agreements with national and territorial governments to create Thaidene Nëné, a 26,000 square kilometer protected area between the Canadian boreal forest and the arctic tundra.

Vie Sauvage - Democratic Republic of the Congo

In a remote part of the Congo Basin, Vie Sauvage has pioneered a holistic model for community development, conservation, and peace-building, helping to create and manage a 4,875 km2 reserve for the bonobo (a great ape) and other endangered species.

Alianza Ceibo - Ecuador

Alianza Ceibo unites four indigenous peoples to protect over 20,000 km2 of rainforest in the Ecuadorian Amazon. This indigenous-led alliance forms alternatives to business-as-usual extractive industries and monocultures, provides clean water and solar power to remote communities, and supports women entrepreneurs.

Asociación de Forestería Comunitaria de Guatemala Utz Che’ - Guatemala

A network representing about 200,000 people, Utz Che’ supports sustainable agroforestry and practices based on Mayan traditional knowledge, and guides advocacy efforts of marginalized communities confronting encroachments on their territories.

Forum Musyawarah Masyarakat Adat Taman Nasional Kayan Mentarang (Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Kayan Mentarang National Park) - Indonesia

Bringing together 11 indigenous groups spread over 20,000 km2, Forum Musyawarah Masyarakat Adat Taman Nasional Kayan Mentarang (FoMMA) successfully advocated for the first co-management arrangement for a National Park in Indonesia, where government and indigenous authorities decide jointly on resource managements and access and use rights.

Nashulai Maasai Conservancy - Kenya

Among the first indigenous-owned and -managed conservancies in East Africa, Nashulai Maasai Conservancy combines traditional knowledge with cutting-edge science to improve living conditions for villagers through wildlife-based tourism and small eco-businesses.

Vondron’Olona Ifotony Tatamo Miray an’Andranobe (VOI TAMIA) - Madagascar

VOI TAMIA has restored 90-hectare Andranobe Lake and reforested hillsides to double fish catches, reduce silting, and expand irrigation in four communities in Central Madagascar dependent on a functioning lake ecosystem.

Mujeres y Ambiente SPR de RL de CV - Mexico

This women’s association has partnered with a Spanish company, a local university and the government to sell cosmetics based on the ‘toronjil’, or lemon balm plant, as well as herbal products and medicinal plants. The activities have improved the women’s livelihoods through an innovative, sustainable global supply chain.

Salween Peace Park - Myanmar

The Salween Peace Park protects a 5,400 km2 continuous ecosystem of protected areas, community forests and indigenous lands. Based on a vision of sustainable use of natural resources, the park is an expression of Karen indigenous identity, founded upon principles of peace and self-determination.

Boon Rueang Wetland Forest Conservation Group - Thailand

The Boon Rueang Wetland Forest Conservation Group has maintained stewardship over the largest wetland forest in the Ing River Basin through advocacy and dialogue. A community forestry model protects an ecosystem critical for agriculture and consumption, habitat, carbon storage and biodiversity preservation in the Indo-Burma Region.

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