The 12th Equator Prize Award Ceremony honored 10 local communities and Indigenous peoples from across the world. Due to the ongoing global pandemic, the ceremony was held virtually and garnered over 20,000 viewers. The winners were awarded a cash prize of US$10,000 each for their significant work that showcases innovative nature-based solutions for addressing biodiversity loss, our climate crisis, and sustainable development. The ten winners were recognized for championing effective solutions to manage sustainable food systems, strengthening climate resilience for people and planet, and spearheading a new nature-positive economy.
See the recording of the full event here as part of the 2021 Nature for Life Hub.
EP Winners 2021 (Copy)
R e m a r k s
The ceremony opened with a blessing from an Equator Prize 2021 winner. Kerly Santi, a youth group leader from the Pueblo Originario Kichwa de Sarayaku offered her benediction: “From the womb of the Living Forest, the women of Sarayaku bless humanity.”
Master of Ceremonies, television presenter and journalist, Femi Oke, welcomed the audience by celebrating the ways each of the Equator Prize 2021 winners lead sustainable development and address the unique challenges affecting their communities. “These awards are very special because what they do is bring honor to Indigenous and local communities who are finding creative solutions to tackle biodiversity and climate change. Really creative solutions!”
Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, highlighted the vital role nature-based solutions led by Indigenous peoples and local communities play in current conservation policies and efforts. “At this moment, we need hope, but perhaps even more importantly, we need solutions. This year’s ten Equator Prize winners, selected from 600 applications in 126 countries, are providing many reasons for optimism about the future. But it is much more than blind optimism. Their nature-based solutions show us the value of working with nature for climate action, for food and water security, and for sustainable livelihoods … Equator Prize winners show us what it means to put nature at the very heart of our economies, and at the very heart of sustainable development.”
Youth group leader from the Pueblo Originario Kichwa de Sarayaku
Master of Ceremonies, television presenter and journalist
Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme
Model, actor, producer, UNEP Goodwill Ambassador and UN Secretary-General’s Advocate for Sustainable Development Goals, Dia Mirza, opened the thematic category on Food Systems by highlighting the importance of traditional practices to shape larger food policy.
This year’s Equator Prize winners demonstrate the success of Indigenous peoples and local communities in promoting a sustainable food system based on their traditional practices.
W i n n e r s
Asociación de Mujeres Indígenas Kábata Könana del Territorio Cabécar, Costa Rica
Christiana Figueres, Founding Partner of Global Optimism and former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), celebrated the work of Asociación de Mujeres Indígenas Kábata Könana del Territorio Cabécar. She offered her “very, very enthusiastic congratulations on receiving this well-deserved award that recognizes the virtual bartering operating under the principles of solidarity, exchange, collectivity, and dialogue.”
As the community accepted the prize, they highlighted that their organization has been working to promote community resilience in many ways: “One solution to pandemics is to look for solutions to climate change, and returning to ancestral cultural knowledge can help us do that.”
|Christiana Figueres, Founding Partner of Global Optimism and former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)|
BIO-KG Federation of Organic Development, Kyrgyzstan
Cholponbek Abikeyev, Secretary of State of the Kyrgyz Republic, emphasized the importance of organic farming in sustaining nationwide food production. He underscored the relevance of BIO-KG’s work: “The move towards organic agriculture will make our country ready for a sustainable future."
BIO-KG was honored for their exemplary work in promoting a just rural transition to regenerative agriculture in the Kyrgyz Republic, and for playing a crucial role in prompting the Kyrgyz government to commit to a nationwide switch to organic agriculture. The organization’s Executive Director, Iskenderbek Aidaraliev, accepted the prize and stressed that BIO-KG’s work promoting traditional agricultural practices aims to pass on a sustainable living to future generations.
|Cholponbek Abikeyev, Secretary of State of the Kyrgyz Republic|
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
Dr. Makoto Kitanaka, President of Association Sasakawa Africa (SSA), presented the Equator Prize to the 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. Mahamadou Sanoussi Hassane, the Executive Director of the Féderation des Unions de Groupements Paysans du Niger (FUGPN) MOORIBEN, explained how Indigenous peoples and local communities are best equipped to promote the health of their community and economy. FUGPN MOORIBEN protects and nourishes soils to build agricultural assets while promoting gender and youth equity.
|Dr. Makoto Kitanaka, President of Association Sasakawa Africa (SSA)|
What Future Will You Choose?
The 10 Equator Prize 2021 winners delivered a powerful community statement – in their own words and languages – calling on world leaders to join them in their work to create a safe climate, healthy ecosystems, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The winners emphasized the impact of their work around the world. They made it clear that they cannot solve our planetary emergency alone, posing a stark question for world leaders: “What future will you choose?”
Paloma Costa, activist and member of the UN Secretary-General's Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, opened the category of Climate Resilience for People and Planet. She lauded the unique and innovative ways in which Equator Prize winners are leading a global movement to take on the climate crisis.
The solutions to our climate emergency already exist. Communities all over the world have come up with creative ways to adapt to a changing climate … (The Equator Prize winners) show that defending their Indigenous lands serves all of us. They show that protecting wetlands and mangroves not only helps our climate but also improves community well-being…They show that humanity is ready for a sustainable future.
W i n n e r s
Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda IAP, Mexico
Mauricio Kuri González, Governor of the State of Querétaro, Mexico, presented the Equator Prize to Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda IAP. He said: “The fight to address our climate crisis can be won – because we have the solutions.” Martha “Pati” Ruiz Corzo accepted the prize on behalf of Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda: “Querétaro is a model for incentivizing sub-national action. That is why we are so proud to talk about our state as a leader in climate action.”
Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda was recognized for their leadership in protecting the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve and promoting the sustainable development of its 638 communities. Pati concluded her acceptance speech with a short song in honor of Mother Earth.
|Mauricio Kuri González, Governor of the State of Querétaro, Mexico|
Snehakunja Trust, India
Rohini Nilekani, Chairperson of Arghyam Trust, awarded Snehakunja Trust with the Equator Prize: “The work of Snehakunja Trust is really a model for all of us to see how we can work together to enhance conservation-based livelihoods and nature-based solutions."
Working in the Western Ghats of India for over 45 years, Snehakunja Trust is using community-based conservation practices, citizen science, and women-led green entrepreneurship to protect critical habitat and freshwater resources in the region. Snehakunja Trust’s Chairperson Aruna Rangachar Pohl emphasized that equity is key for sustainable climate finance. “Climate finance needs to benefit directly local communities who are the most affected by climate change consequences.”
Rohini Nilekani, Chairperson of Arghyam Trust
Pueblo Originario Kichwa de Sarayaku, Ecuador
Alberto Acosta, President of the Constitutional Assembly of Ecuador, 2007-2008, awarded the prize to the Pueblo Originario Kichwa de Sarayaku. José Gualinga, spiritual and political leader of Pueblo Originario Kichwa de Sarayaku received the honor. On behalf of this people, he stated: “Kawsak Sacha, Living Forest, is a proposal of coexistence with the millenary nature of the wisdom and the way of life of the Amazonian peoples. It is made up entirely of living beings and their communicative relationships with each other.”
Alberto Acosta emphasized the global significance of the Pueblo Originario Kichwa de Sarayaku’s work in lobbying for the establishment of a new, Indigenous-led type of protected area in the Ecuadorian Amazon – “Kawsak Sacha”: “To protect the Amazon is to protect life on the planet.”
|Alberto Acosta, President of the Constitutional Assembly of Ecuador, 2007-2008|
H i g h l i g h t s
Bård Vegar Solhjell, Director General, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), the main funder of the Equator Prize 2021 and a longstanding partner of the Equator Initiative, addressed the audience and congratulated the winners. He stressed the global importance of the Equator Prize and its winners: “We see this initiative as a great inspiration for all of the thousands of local groups working tirelessly to improve their livelihoods in and the natural environment in which they live.”
Musical Performance: Djuena Tikuna & DJ Eric Marky Terena
Mr. Solhjell’s statement was followed by a musical performance by Indigenous artists and journalists Djuena Tikuna and DJ Eric Marky Terence, recorded in the Amazon rainforest.
Bård Vegar Solhjell
Director General, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD)
Djuena Tikuna & DJ Eric Marky Terena
Indigenous artists and journalists
Edgar Villanueva, author of “Decolonizing Wealth”, opened the category “A New Nature Economy”. He encouraged corporate and governmental leaders to recognize the long-term importance of local and Indigenous-led economies.
These community enterprises merely need to be afforded the same chances that their big competitors enjoy. It is our collective work to ensure that this paradigm shift exemplified by the Equator Prize winners and driven by Indigenous peoples and local communities all over the world receives the attention, appreciation, and partnership necessary to scale up.
W i n n e r s
Tropical Forest and Rural Development, Cameroon
Honorable Joshua Osih, member of the National Assembly of Cameroon, presented Tropical Forest and Rural Development with the Equator Prize. He commended their model, which “shows the power of local entrepreneurship that improves community livelihoods and well-being while protecting the environment. This is a win-win-win situation with economic, social, and environmental benefits.”
Manfred Aimé Epanda, the President of Tropical Forest and Rural Development, received the Equator Prize on behalf of the organization and spoke about how local communities can participate in global food and cosmetics supply chains. Manfred emphasized the importance of fair tax codes for community enterprises: “We are currently paying the same tax rates as multinational businesses in our country, yet we are doing business better than them.”
|Honorable Joshua Osih, member of the National Assembly of Cameroon|
Asociación de Jóvenes Reforestadores en Acción (AJORA), Bolivia
Ciriaco Rodríguez Vásquez, Mayor of Riberalta (Bolivia), and Elmina Martinez Subirana, Councilwoman of the Municipality of Riberalta and President of the Commission of Productive Development, Environment, Tourism and Risk Management, awarded the prize to Asociación de Jóvenes Reforestadores en Acción (AJORA). As government officials in the region of AJORA’s work, Mayor Rodríguez Vásquez and Councilwoman Martinez Subirana congratulated AJORA on their work addressing the challenging livelihood prospects of rural youth in the Amazon. As a youth-led organization creating dignified jobs in sustainable agroforestry for their peers, the group has been able to improve economic opportunities while combating the effects of climate change in an increasingly vulnerable part of the Amazon.
Ángel Jesús Peña Cortez, AJORA’s spokesperson, and Hilton Domínguez Canamari, AJORA’s Vice President, accepted the award on behalf of AJORA. They reiterated why they are dedicated to reforestation: “We use agroforestry practices to reforest, recover degraded soils, prevent fires, and combat climate change.”
Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company Limited, India
Professor Gita Sen, Public Health Foundation of India, presented the Equator Prize to Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company Limited. Professor Sen celebrated the success of Aadhimalai’s work in creating sustainable livelihoods while protecting forests and unique ecosystems.
Working in and around the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in Southern India, Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company Limited has advanced just, inclusive, and sustainable economic development in over 150 villages through the sale of non-timber forest products and sustainably harvested produce. Jestin Pauls, Chief Executive Officer of Aadhimalai, accepted the prize with gratitude, stating that their larger goal is gaining resource rights for their community-led enterprise.
|Professor Gita Sen, Public Health Foundation of India|
Cooperativa Mista de Agricultores Familiares, Extrativistas, Pescadores, Vazanteiros, Assentados e Guias turisticos do Cerrado (CoopCerrado), Brazil
DJ Alok, DJ and Musical Producer from the Brazilian Cerrado, enthusiastically presented CoopCerrado with the Equator Prize: “This community network is showing how to live off our precious land sustainably… CoopCerrado shows that we don’t have to destroy Mother Earth to make a good living.”
CoopCerrado’s has created sustainable-use reserves in the Brazilian Cerrado and supports historically marginalized groups in marketing organic products. The cooperative has improved the livelihoods of 4,600 families while preserving their important ecosystems. CoopCerrado exemplifies inclusive local economies that protect nature, communities, and future generations.
|DJ Alok, DJ and Musical Producer from the Brazilian Cerrado|
P e r f o r m a n c e
Portugal. The Man, “Grammy” award winning rock band and activists, performed from their home studio to celebrate the Equator Prize winners, and close the Equator Prize 2021 Award Ceremony.
P a r t n e r s
The Equator Prize 2021 Award Ceremony was possible thanks to the Equator Initiative partners: