Equator Prize Winners

15 years advancing solutions for local sustainable development.

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Spearheading the concept of the “Organic Aimak” (community or district), BIO-KG has promoted the transition of agriculture in rural and mountain communities to organic-only production in a landscape-level approach. Revitalizing the connection with Mother Earth in the face of depleted soils, this community organization has inspired bottom-up processes leading to village decisions to form “organic districts” based on the removal of chemical fertilizers, use of traditional knowledge and practices, farmer-to-farmer field schools, and saving of seed varieties suitable for variable climatic conditions. Over 1,000 farmers have been certified as growers of organic produce. Ten organic aimaks have be…

A community-based enterprise operating around the Dja Biosphere Reserve in southern Cameroon, Tropical Forest and Rural Development is empowering Indigenous communities through cocoa-based agroforestry value chains and the collection of moabi, wild mango and other fruits. The group has planted over 70,000 trees for production and provides training in collection quality standards to obtain higher prices for food and cosmetic products. Agreements between Indigenous women collectors and government agencies secure access and use rights in the Reserve. The model’s viability is proven through the avoidance of deforestation and a reduction in poaching in the communities. The initiative focuses on t…

Part of a coalition of agricultural unions and farmer groups in Niger, these two farmer unions have improved food security for over 5,000 members, more than half of which are women, through participatory variety development, the production and marketing of crop varieties, and agroecological practices. Guiding the work of researchers to support them, the unions have conducted participatory processes to diversify their food production including millet, sorghum, and legumes varieties, increasing community resilience to a variable and warming climate. The unions support their members to implement organic agriculture, process their crops for local value addition, and fight a crop pest biologicall…

This 1,700-member cooperative, managed and run entirely by Indigenous people from the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in Southern India, has improved livelihoods across 147 villages by processing and marketing a diverse range of forest products and crops. Through local value addition, members earn premium prices on a wide range of products including those collected sustainably from the Reserve such as honey, soap nuts and berries, phoenix leaves and others, as well as those cultivated organically such as coffee, pepper, silk cotton, cereals, spices, fruits, and many others. Shareholders regularly monitor harvesting and agricultural practices to ensure product quality and prevent overuse of resourc…

Snehakunja Trust has protected sensitive wetland and coastal ecosystems in the Western Ghats and the Karnataka coast for 45 years. With a focus on community-based restoration and conservation, this organization provides essential solutions to the climate crisis. It has supported hundreds of self-help groups and village forest committees to sustainably manage resources based on traditional knowledge, implement natural farming techniques, use clean energy, promote entrepreneurship, and provide community health services. The restoration and protection of freshwater swamps and evergreen forests safeguards endangered species, keeps significant carbon sinks intact, and maintains critical aquifers …

This group of young women and men is addressing bleak perspectives for rural youth in the Bolivian Amazon by improving economic opportunities while combating the effects of a warming climate. AJORA has created jobs in sustainable agroforestry, including beekeeping and award-winning cacao production. With a focus on inclusive and gender-balanced decision-making, the group has cultivated a sense of optimism and belonging in vulnerable communities. Wildfires have been reduced through the revival of traditional fire management practices. The restoration of degraded areas has improved soil fertility and water availability in the community.…

This community network of over 4,600 families in Brazil’s Cerrado ecoregion exemplifies the sustainable use of a vulnerable ecosystem at large scale. CoopCerrado works with smallholders in a “farmer-to-farmer” method to sustainably harvest and process fruits, plants and seeds of the Cerrado, commercializing dozens of different certified organic products with creative marketing, elevating both the prestige of Cerrado products and local livelihoods for 26,000 people. Community monitoring prevents overharvesting, while restoration activities improve degraded ecosystems. The network manages an area of 124,000 hectares for sustainable use and was involved in the creation of two sustainable-use re…

The Asociación de Mujeres Indígenas del Territorio Cabécar Kábata Könana brings together Indigenous women in Costa Rica’s Talamanca region to promote the use of traditional practices and knowledge for food security and medicinal purposes, improve women’s leadership and Indigenous rights, and protect the surrounding forest. In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the group quickly established a virtual market on social media to trade and share food during the closure of regular markets. The association also trains women in rotational and regenerative agroforestry, and promotes the use of local native seed varieties and traditional medicinal plants, improving community resilience in the face …

Deep in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, the Kichwa people of Sarayaku are leading Indigenous rights advocacy, protecting their ancestral territory and forest, and pursuing a sustainable lifestyle that sees nature not merely as resource but is in line with Indigenous wisdom. The group has won legal battles to shield their 133,000-hectare territory from oil exploitation, logging, and road construction. Facing further industrial development pressures, the group is promoting the concept of “Kawsak Sacha” (“Living Forest”) as a new category of protected area under Indigenous leadership, which also assigns legal rights to the forest. Kawsak Sacha guides forest management policies like sustainable hun…

In a 34-year effort, Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda IAP has united the 638 communities of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve in the State of Querétaro to promote their economic and social development alongside an intact and thriving ecosystem. A leader in community-based climate change mitigation and adaptation, the organization has driven the establishment of a state-funded carbon footprint mechanism, incentivizing landowners for climate-friendly land use including regenerative agriculture. The group is restoring 40,000 hectares of degraded ecosystems and has purchased 7,500 hectares for preservation. A network of social enterprises and environmental education complements an integrated approa…

In a remote part of the Congo Basin, Vie Sauvage has pioneered a holistic model for community development, conservation, and peace-building, helping create and manage a 4,875 square kilometer reserve for the bonobo (a great ape), and other endangered species. Deeply-rooted indigenous traditions see the bonobo as close relative to humans and forbid its hunting or eating. Local economic, social and health needs drive the planning of conservation activities, and support community ownership and mobilization. The initiative has created jobs in the management of the reserve and ecotourism. Basic health care, education programs, and agricultural cooperatives as well as a micro-enterprise program pr…

Among the first indigenous owned and managed conservancies in East Africa, Nashulai Maasai Conservancy is at the forefront of a paradigm shift towards a mixed-use conservation model.

This 2,400 hectare protected area forms an important ecological corridor in the Maasai Mara and has attracted elephants, zebras, giraffes, lions and numerous other species. Combining indigenous ecological knowledge with cutting-edge science, local Maasai communities are also engaged in economic development and cultural programming, so humans, livestock, and wildlife all prosper in harmony.

An elephant nursery and a bird sanctuary support the restoration of wildlife diversity and density. Tradit…

In an area of South-Eastern Myanmar marked by 70 years of conflict, the Salween Peace Park is the result of a Karen indigenous grassroots movement for stability and conservation of a 5,400 square kilometer continuous ecosystem made up of protected areas, community forests and indigenous lands. Based on an indigenous vision of sustainable use of natural resources, coupled with traditional practices and taboos, local communities lead a life that respects wildlife and local ecosystems. A camera-trap program led by female researchers has shown remarkable species diversity in the area, contributing to the conservation of the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot. Organic agriculture has allowed village…

Utz Che’ is a network of over 40 indigenous and local communities and farmer associations representing about 200,000 people in the entire country, 90% of them indigenous. Supporting its members in the sustainable management of their resources, mainly highland cloud forests and watersheds, the organization guides advocacy efforts of marginalized communities confronting encroachments on their territories. Incorporating Mayan traditional and cultural knowledge, training and farmer-to-farmer learning exchanges promote the conservation of local agrobiodiversity, use of heirloom species, and sharing of best practices in forestry and agroforestry. The livelihoods of 33,000 families have been improv…

Alianza Ceibo unites four indigenous peoples in their struggle to counter environmental degradation to protect over 20,000 square kilometers of primary rainforest across four provinces and 70 communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems, this indigenous-led alliance provides alternatives to extractive industries, ranching, and large-scale monocultures. Alianza Ceibo’s activities provide clean water to over 6,000 people, connect remote communities to solar power, and support women entrepreneurs. The alliance’s advocacy and ongoing legal accompaniment have led to the revocation of mine and oil concessions in indigenous territories. Participatory commun…

In 2004, facing the deterioration of the 90-hectare Andranobe Lake which provided the base of their local fishing and agriculture livelihoods, four communities in central Madagascar came together to form the community-based organization Tatamo Miray an’Andranobe (TAMIA). Based on customary social contracts, TAMIA has served as a platform to restore the lake’s water level and quality, remove invasive aquatic species, and repopulate fish stocks. Planting trees on the adjacent hillsides, the communities reduced silting of the lake by 50%. Fish catches increased from 8 tonnes in 2004 to 20 tonnes in 2019. 420 hectares of farms are under irrigation with lake water even in the dry season. The lake…

Bringing together 11 indigenous groups, Forum Musyawarah Masyarakat Adat Taman Nasional Kayan Mentarang (FoMMA) advocates for the rights of communities who live on 20,000 square kilometers of customary land in Northern Kalimantan. A large portion of their ancestral lands, mainly made up of forests and rivers, overlaps with Kayan Mentarang National Park. The park was the first in Indonesia to be placed under a collaborative management arrangement. Government and indigenous authorities, represented by FoMMA, decide jointly on resource management as well as traditional access and use rights, promoting local stewardship over the park. FoMMA has supported communities to document and map over 20,0…

The Boon Rueang Wetland Forest Conservation Group formed in response to threats against the largest wetland forest in the Ing River Basin in Northern Thailand. The community has maintained stewardship over the 483 hectare forest through coordinated advocacy and dialogue with stakeholders, while pursuing a successful community forestry model under a landscape conservation paradigm. Education, mobilization, fundraising, and extensive research on the rich biodiversity and significant economic value of the wetland forest all have ensured the protection of an ecosystem critical to providing natural water reserves for agriculture and consumption, habitats for wildlife, acting as carbon storage and…

In the state of Querétaro, this women-founded and women-led association has been working with an environmentally-minded Spanish company, the Mexican Government, and a local university to develop and market cosmetics based on the ‘toronjil’, or lemon balm plant. The agreement signed between the parties is considered one of the first cases of full compliance with the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing. The association supports women entrepreneurs to grow their agricultural micro-businesses, and engages in biodiversity conservation, restoration, stabilization of soils, and nursery cultivation. The activities have empowered the women to create jobs and improve livelihoods in their com…

After 40 years of advocacy, the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation achieved the vision of protecting their land and waters for future generations in 2019 by signing agreements with national and territorial governments to officially create Thaidene Nëné, a 26,000 square kilometer protected area between the Canadian boreal forest and the arctic tundra. This intact landscape features some of the cleanest freshwater in the world and provides habitat for grizzly bears, wolves, moose, wolverine and some of the last herds of barren-ground caribou. It is also a globally significant carbon sink. This indigenous-led conservation model is made possible through the use of an innovative conservation finance me…