Equator Prize 2021 honors trailblazing Indigenous and local solutions for people and planet

July 15, 2021

Combining traditional knowledge and social media to ensure food security during a pandemic, the Asociación de Mujeres Indígenas del Territorio Cabécar Kábata Könana, in Costa Rica, is a model for community resilience to climate change and other external shocks

Asociación de Mujeres Indígenas del Territorio Cabécar Kábata Könana

New York - The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and partners announce the winners of the 12th Equator Prize, recognizing local and Indigenous communities from around the world. The winning organizations showcase local, innovative, nature-based solutions for tackling biodiversity loss and climate change, and achieving their local development goals even during a pandemic.

Equator Prize winners demonstrate the benefits of placing Indigenous and local communities’ knowledge and practices of nature-based solutions at the heart of local development. At a time when we are facing an unprecedented planetary crisis, it is essential to showcase actions that restore our sustainable food systems, mitigate climate change and protect nature – all while also contributing to green recovery from the pandemic.

"We need a profound transformation in our economic and development models that will drive forward the protection and restoration of our natural world,” said UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner. “This year’s Equator Prize winners demonstrate that this transformation is already happening across the globe -- their incredible nature-based solutions provide a blueprint to solve our planetary emergency.  This year’s winners exemplify the kinds of changes we need now, and they provide us with inspiration to follow in their footsteps. We are grateful to the Government of Norway for its generous support to the Equator Prize 2021.”

This year’s winners include locally-led cooperatives marketing sustainably harvested fruits and organically grown crops as an alternative to logging and poaching in forest reserves; an Indigenous group fighting to protect their ancestral territory from oil exploitation; a local organization protecting critical wetland ecosystems, helping mitigate climate change while safeguarding water sources for hundreds of communities; and a grassroots advocacy group promoting a transition to organic agriculture based on traditional practices, leading to a government commitment to organic-only food production country-wide within a decade.

This is the first time the Equator Prize has been awarded to a group from Kyrgyzstan. Winners are also based in Brazil, Bolivia, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Ecuador, India, Niger and Mexico. Looking ahead to the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, the winners exemplify what actions can be taken now to protect, restore and sustainably manage crucial ecosystems and biodiversity for the future of people and planet.

Equator Prize winners will receive US$10,000 and the opportunity to take part in a series of special virtual events associated with the UN General Assembly, the Nature for Life Hub and the UN Food Systems Summit later this year. They will join a network of 255 communities from over 80 countries that have received the Equator Prize since its inception in 2002.

The winners were selected from a pool of over 600 nominations from 126 countries by an independent Technical Advisory Committee of internationally renowned experts. The selection was based on community-based approaches that provide a blueprint for replicating and scaling solutions to address our biodiversity crisis. For example, the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network (Equator Prize 2002) has seen their model of locally managed marine areas expand first throughout the Pacific, and now on other continents. The Kayonza Growers Tea Factory in Uganda (Equator Prize 2015) has secured a loan for the construction of a satellite factory to keep up with the success of the tea growers cooperative.

For more information please visit https://www.equatorinitiative.org/2021/06/25/meet-the-winners-of-the-equator-prize-2021/, or join the conversation by using #EquatorPrize on Twitter or Facebook.

Meet the Equator Prize 2021 winners:

Asociación de Jóvenes Reforestadores en Acción (AJORA) – Bolivia

This group of young women promotes sustainable agroforestry models and addresses ecosystem loss and degradation through traditional fire management and restoration activities. AJORA helps slow the exodus of rural youth in the Bolivian Amazon.

CoopCerrado – Cooperativa Mista de Agricultores Familiares, Extrativistas, Pescadores, Vazanteiros, Assentados e Guias turisticos do Cerrado – Brazil

Through creative marketing of dozens of organic, sustainably sourced products from Brazil’s Cerrado ecoregion, this network of over 4,600 families improves local livelihoods, protects biodiversity, and supports the creation of sustainable-use reserves, showing a pathway to a green economy.

Tropical Forest and Rural Development – Cameroon

Empowering Indigenous communities in the Dja Biosphere Reserve in Cameroon, this community organization promotes cocoa-based agroforestry and the collection of forest products for better local incomes while protecting a vulnerable forest.

Asociación de Mujeres Indígenas del Territorio Cabécar Kábata Könana – Costa Rica

Combining traditional knowledge and social media to ensure food security during a pandemic, the Asociación de Mujeres Indígenas del Territorio Cabécar Kábata Könana is a model for community resilience to climate change and other external shocks.

Pueblo Originario Kichwa de Sarayaku Ecuador

The Kichwa people of Sarayaku have won legal battles to protect their 133,000-hectare territory in the Amazon rainforest from oil drilling, logging, and road construction. Their “Kawsak Sacha” Declaration (“Living Forest”) seeks recognition for a new category of protected area, reflecting Indigenous worldviews and ancestral practices.

Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company Limited – India

This 1,700-shareholder cooperative, managed and run entirely by Indigenous people from the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, improves livelihoods for villagers by supporting sustainable collection and cultivation of a wide range of forest produce and crops. Through local value addition, members earn premium prices.

Snehakunja Trust – India

Protecting and restoring freshwater swamps, evergreen forests, and mangrove ecosystems, this organization is preserving biodiversity, maintaining aquifers and safeguarding carbon sinks in the Western Ghats and the coast of Karnataka, while empowering local communities to pursue sustainable livelihoods.

BIO-KG Federation of Organic Development – Kyrgyzstan

Reversing land degradation in rural and mountain communities in Kyrgyzstan, BIO-KG has spearheaded the creation of “Organic Aimaks” (communities), whereby villagers commit to organic-only agriculture based on traditional knowledge and agrobiodiverse food systems. The model was instrumental in the government’s announcement to transition to organic agriculture nationwide within a decade.

Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda IAP Mexico

A leader in community-based climate change mitigation and adaptation, Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda IAP has advanced a state-funded carbon footprint mechanism, social entrepreneurship, ecosystem restoration activities and private reserves to holistically protect the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve and promote its 638 communities’ economic and social development.

Farmer Union Maddaben of Falwel and Farmer Union Hareyben of Tera, members of the Féderation des Unions de Groupements Paysans du Niger (FUGPN) MOORIBEN – Niger

These two farmer unions, part of a coalition of agricultural unions and farmer groups in Niger, have improved food security, local livelihoods, and community adaptation to climate change through the promotion of agrobiodiversity in participatory research, restoration and regeneration of degraded land, and organic agriculture.

Partners of the Equator Initiative include the governments of Norway, Germany, 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, One Earth, The Nature Conservancy, PCI Media Impact, Tribal Link, Rainforest Foundation Norway, Rare, UNEP, UNDP, UN Foundation, USAID, WWF, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

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.