UNEP Honors Grassroots Action Against Desertification

The 2006 UNEP Sasakawa Prize (sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Nippon Foundation of Japan) has been awarded to two grassroots initiatives that combat desertification and land degradation in Colombia and Mauritania. The Inter-institutional Consortium for Sustainable Agriculture (CIPASLA) in Colombia, led by Rodrigo Vivas Rosas, is an alliance encompassing 16 governmental and non-governmental organizations with 6,500 members. The Consortium promotes the sustainable use of water and is seen by knowledgeable observers as a laboratory for sustainably managing hillside environments threatened by desertification. It has succeeded in reducing poverty that in the past led to a reliance on illicit crops, urban migration, and local guerrilla activity. Indeed, CIPASLA includes a foundation established by ex-guerrillas. The Tenadi Cooperative Group of Mauritania, led by Sidi El Moctar Ould Waled, has worked against a background of years of persistent drought in the Sahel region of Africa that since 1973 has killed 90 per cent of livestock and caused desperation among nomadic communities. Tenadi has developed innovative techniques to counter desertification. A large number of families are being trained in new income-generating agricultural techniques, and Tenadi serves as an example to other communities throughout West Africa.