Ten countries to bag UNDP’s 2023 Equator Prize

Ten countries to bag UNDP's 2023 Equator Prize

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and partners announce the winners of the 14th Equator Prize, acknowledging Indigenous peoples and local communities from ten countries. Selected from a pool of over 500 nominations received from 108 countries, the winners are from Brazil, Burundi, Bolivia, Ecuador, Greenland, Guatemala, Liberia, Philippines, Nepal and Zambia. The winners will be awarded at a ceremony in November, during UNDP’s Nature for Life Hub event. 

This year’s winners shine a spotlight on the theme of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: Indigenous Youth as Agents of Change for Self-determination. Among this year’s awardees, four are initiatives led by youth, each demonstrating a strong dedication to fostering intergenerational equity within their communities.

The 2023 awardees now become a part of a distinguished network comprising 275 communities that have been acknowledged for their exceptional contributions to adapt to and mitigate climate change and reduce poverty since 2002. 

Equator Prize winners will receive US$15,000, and the opportunity to take part in a series of special virtual events associated with the UN General Assembly, SDG Summit, UN Climate Ambition Summit and COP28 in Dubai. 

Equator Prize winners inspire us to reimagine our approach to sustainable development, reminding us that real progress lies in empowering Indigenous people and local communities, embracing their invaluable wisdom. We are thankful to the Government of Norway, the Government of Germany, the Sall Family Foundation, and all of our partners for the continued generous support to promoting the nature-based solutions,” stated Haoliang Xu, UNDP Associate Administrator and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support. 

Among this year’s winners are also a community safeguarding 10,000 hectares of forest from illegal mining and deforestation; a non-governmental organisation integrating ancestral knowledge to protect the Arctic ecosystem and to defend land and ocean rights; an organisation fostering sustainable natural resource management and community-led micro small and medium enterprises; a locally-driven organisation focused on improving food security and livelihood through crop diversification and sustainable crop management; a community-led organisation that successfully rejuvenated and conserved more than 10,000 hectares of mangrove forest, revived fish population and protected coastal ecosystem; and the first community in the region to gain formal ownership of their traditional land. 

For more information, please visit the Equator Initiative website and join the conversation by using #EquatorPrize on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Meet the 2023 Equator Prize winners:

Tergar Charity Nepal (TCN) - Nepal

This locally-driven organisation is dedicated to enhancing food security and livelihood in the remote Himalayan community of Samagaun. The organisation empowers women by raising awareness about menstrual health, offering guidance, and providing literacy classes for education and income generation. Through a partnership with a Canadian luxury tea company, they have successfully developed a value chain project, increasing income for Samagaun women who pick and process rose hips for tea production in North America. Expanding on this success, TCN built 32 additional greenhouses in Samagaun and 15 in Samdo village in 2022.

Comuna Playa de Oro - Ecuador

Nestled deep in Ecuador’s Esmeraldas province, Comuna Playa de Oro is an ancient Afro-Ecuadorian settlement that thrives despite facing threats like illegal mining, deforestation, and encroachment. With a population of 350 individuals, they safeguard 10,000 hectares of forest in the Chocó region and engage in sustainable activities such as ecotourism, sustainable agriculture, and bio-enterprises, preserving both their natural surroundings and cultural heritage. 

The Young Emerging Farmers Initiative (YEFI) - Zambia

This youth-oriented organisation empowers young people in rural and urban areas through sustainable agriculture, creating 1,000 jobs and establishing over 50 youth-led enterprises to combat high unemployment rates. Through tree planting, forest conservation, organic farming, and agroecology practices, YEFI has regenerated 10,000 hectares of degraded land, reduced nitrous oxide emissions, improved soil structure, and promoted resilient ecosystems.

Perfect Village Communities Burundi (PVC Burundi) - Burundi 

This community-led social enterprise acknowledges the correlation between environmental degradation and decreasing community health. By empowering local communities, with a particular emphasis on women and youth, PVC Burundi promotes self-sufficiency through the use of natural, locally-produced alternatives for land restoration and sustainable food production. PVC Burundi’s efforts have resulted in the successful regeneration of 5,000 hectares of land through the planting of over 500,000 diverse seedlings and trees, contributing to the restoration and preservation of the local environment.

Kapunungan sa Gagmay’ng Mangingisda sa Concepcion - Philippines

Established in 1986 by a fishing community, this organisation combats the depletion of mangrove forests and threats to the coastal ecosystem through community organizing, environmental education, policy support, and law enforcement. Their efforts have successfully rejuvenated the ecosystem, with 10,000 to 12,000 hectares of mangrove forests thriving again, bringing back vanished species and creating a sustainable environment for future generations in their communities and across the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, Philippines.

Inuit Circumpolar Council - Greenland

This non-governmental organisation brings together 180,000 Inuit Indigenous peoples from Canada, Greenland, Russia, and the State of Alaska in the United States to protect the Arctic ecosystem and to defend land and ocean rights using ancestral Inuit knowledge and practice. Through groundbreaking initiatives like the Pikialasorsuaq Commission, the organisation aims to establish an Inuit-managed protected area in the Pikialasorsuaq region, preserving its ecological integrity and facilitating unrestricted movement between historically connected communities.

Instituto Zág – Brazil 

This Indigenous youth-led organisation focuses on reforestation and preserving traditional knowledge related to the Araucaria tree, known as Zág, which holds sacred and symbolic value to the Xokleng Peoples. Their crucial reforestation activities, including invasive tree removal, promotion of ancestral traditions, and educational outreach, aim to safeguard the Araucaria as a source of nutrition, medicine, and cultural identity, recognizing the deep interdependence between the Zág tree and the Xokleng people.

Uru Uru Team – Bolivia

Initiated in 2019 by Indigenous youth from the Urus community, Uru Uru Team aims to safeguard Uru Uru Lake from severe pollution caused by nearby city waste. Through capacity building and the establishment of a community garden, they have created an effective model that preserves biodiversity, Indigenous knowledge, and cultural identity, successfully reducing lake pollution by 30 per cent.

Asociación Tikonel – Guatemala

Asociación Tikonel has strongly contributed to the sustainable management of 3,776 hectares of land through initiatives such as soil conservation, reforestation, and agroforestry, while also providing cookstoves to 50 families and training programs for over 8,000 community members on sustainable forest management. Additionally, they collaborate with the National Forest Institute and work with local grassroots organisations and MSMEs to promote inclusion, gender equity, and the empowerment of Indigenous peoples through activities like the production and sale of wooden and textile articles.

Kpanyan Community Land Development and Management Committee – Liberia 

In 2019, the Kpanyan Community Land Development and Management Committee became the first community in Southeast Liberia to gain formal ownership of their traditional land, protecting over 40,000 hectares of highly biodiverse forest and implementing sustainable agriculture interventions to enhance food security and climate resilience. Their success inspired seven other districts in the region to register their Customary Land rights, leading to the development of sustainable land use plans stretching over 700,000 hectares of mostly forested land.

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