27 September 2012, Rome - The first-ever Wangari Maathai Award has been given today to a forestry activist from Nepal to recognize his efforts to promote community forest management. The ceremony took place at the Committee on Forestry (COFO), at FAO headquarters in Rome.
The Wangari Maathai Awards were established by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), of which FAO is an active member, to recognize the efforts to improve and sustain forests and to honour the memory of Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist and the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.
The top prize was awarded to dedicated activist Narayan Kaji Shrestha from Nepal for his outstanding contribution in promoting community forest issues in Nepal for several decades at international forestry events.
"Narayan Kaji Shrestha's work captures the spirit of Wangari Maathai," said FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry, Eduardo Rojas-Briales. "His vision, courage, commitment, intelligence and praxis is recognized though this award."
Narayan Kaji Shrestha guided early attempts to create a more participatory approach to community decision-making, reaching out to women and low-caste villagers and initiating the country's first community forestry group. More than one-quarter of Nepal's forests are now protected by community forestry groups. The prize includes a cash award of $20,000.
This year the jury has decided to give a special Honourable Mention prize of $2,000 to Kurshida Begum of Bangladesh for her exceptional efforts in helping women of her village form a community patrol group alongside forest department guards to protect the forests and biodiversity of the Tenkaf Wildlife Sanctuary from illegal logging and poaching.
The Awards ceremony was attended by Rosemary Wanjiru Maina, niece of Wangari Maathai, and Professor Stephen Kiama Gitahi of the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies.
The Collaborative Partnership on Forests is comprised of 14 international organizations working together to promote forest management, conservation and sustainable development.