Coastal communities in southwest Madagascar, rainforests around the world, and coral reefs are set to benefit from innovative projects shortlisted for this year’s St Andrews Prize for the Environment.
Following receipt of 488 entries from 101 countries, three finalists have been chosen for this year’s prestigious prize. The winner will receive $100,000 USD (£60,000) and the two runners-up will each receive $25,000 USD (£15,000).
The Prize is a joint environmental initiative by the University of St Andrews in Scotland and independent exploration and production company ConocoPhillips, which aims to find practical solutions to environmental challenges from around the globe. This year the Prize is celebrating 15 years of success supporting finding innovative solutions to environmental challenges.
Sir Crispin Tickell, Chairman of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment Trustees, said:
“The purpose of the Prize is to find and reward entrepreneurs who come forward with original and practical ideas for coping with specific environmental problems. Such ideas must be designed to lead to action, be realistic, realisable and easy to be replicated elsewhere taking account of their social and economic implications.
“The world faces an intimidating array of problems unknown to previous generations and we need to remember how small and vulnerable we are as members of a particular species in a particular environment at a particular moment in time. Let us enjoy that environment as long as we can. The ideas and projects generated by the Prize help us all to do so.”
The finalists’ presentations will be heard at a seminar at St Andrews University and the winner will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday, 1 May 2014.
This year’s finalists are:
Blue Ventures Madagascar: An integrated approach to conservation
This project is empowering coastal communities in southwest Madagascar to protect their marine environment and manage their resources sustainably by integrating holistic community-based reproductive health services within local biodiversity conservation initiatives.
Along Madagascar’s southwest coast, semi-nomadic Vezo fishing people face extremely limited access to basic health services, with clinics located up to 50 kilometres from some villages.
Blue Ventures’ project addresses this by training female community health workers to offer voluntary counselling and contraceptive options in the community, supported by a wide-ranging programme of community education. The project coordinates closely with marine conservation and coastal livelihood initiatives, engaging women in octopus fisheries management and sea cucumber farming.
This integrated model allows better provision for families; improves food security, empowers women and boosts local conservation efforts by allowing populations to achieve a more sustainable balance with the marine ecosystems upon which their livelihoods depend.
Inga Foundation – Land for life programme
This project aims to create sustainable rural livelihoods in tropical areas across the world, removing the need for farmers to slash and burn rainforests.
Worldwide, an estimated 300 million people rely on traditional slash and burn subsistence farming methods. Every year, each farmer clears a football pitch sized area of forest to create new nutrient-rich soil.
Inga alley-cropping is a tested and proven organic technique that, through the planting of Inga trees, enables an area of previously cleared, infertile land to regain the nutrients required to remain fertile, year after year.
Through providing farmers with hands-on training, Inga tree seeds and ongoing support to enable them to establish alley-cropping upon their land, the initiative creates a sustainable rural livelihood for farmers and their families, providing them with food security and the ability to grow cash-crops.
Reef Check – Empowering local communities to improve reef health
This worldwide project trains coastal community members, including fishermen, to scientifically survey the health of coral reefs and to create non-extractive businesses that can provide a higher income than fishing.
Coral reefs contribute enormous value via fisheries, boating, surfing, recreational diving and tourist beaches as well as providing a food source for hundreds of millions of people. Coral reefs are threatened primarily by overfishing, pollution and climate change.
The simple, innovative and scientifically rigorous Reef Check method pioneers the use of citizen scientists, trained and led by professional marine biologists, to recognise 30 easy-to-identify ‘indicator species’ to measure the health of the broader reef ecosystem.
After the initial trial, the project invited the fishermen themselves to survey the reefs they were overfishing, enabling them to see the problems and to seek solutions.
So far, Reef Check has trained thousands of volunteers to survey over 4,000 reefs in 90 tropical countries and has helped set up many ecologically sound and economically sustainable marine protected areas.
NOTES TO NEWS EDITORS
The St Andrews Prize for the Environment is celebrating its 15th Anniversary. Over the years, the prize has consistently attracted entries on topics as diverse as sustainable development in the Amazon rainforest, urban re-generation, recycling, health and water issues and renewable energy.
Submissions are assessed by a panel of Trustees representing science, industry and Government, with the award going to the project the Trustees consider displays the best combination of good science, economic realism and political acceptability.
Find out all you need to know about the Prize at www.thestandrewsprize.comAwards