Fighting the Desert

04 Oct 2006

A Colombian environmentalist and a Mauritanian organization, both active in the battle against desertification, are the co-recipients of the “Sasakaw” prize, bestowed annually by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The prize recognizes environmental work carried out by small groups and individuals and awards $200,000 to the winner’s activity.

Rodriga Vivas Rosas from Colombia is involved in several Andean sustainability associations, has launched successful initiatives for improving the use of water resources in the region, particularly rainwater and agricultural water use, and is working towards an institutional model for organizing community efforts to combat desertification, poverty and resource degradation.

The Tenadi Cooperative from Mauritania is working to stop the desert’s advance through activities such as digging wells and planting trees, which also shade crops, reducing the need for irrigation. The drought, which has affected the country since 1973, has resulted in nomadic populations losing 90% of their livestock, and they are also involved in activities of this cooperative.

“Desertification and the earth’s decline are a massive problem with wide reaching consequences, from the loss of productive land to the increase in salinity in rivers to hydroelectric damns,” stated Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP. “Fighting and avoiding desertification is in all of our interests, not only in those of the two million people which live on arid land.”

United Nations Environment Programme News Centre

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