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Ugandan community leader receives top forestry prize

Collaborative Partnership on Forests honors Gertrude Kabusimbi Kenyangi

Photo: ©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto
Gertrude Kabusimbi Kenyangi of Uganda received today the 2015 Wangari Maathai ‘Forest Champions’ Award.

10 September 2015, Durban - Ugandan forestry activist Gertrude Kabusimbi Kenyangi was today awarded the 2015 Wangari Maathai ‘Forest Champions' Award in recognition of her efforts to promote the conservation and sustainable use of her country's forest resources.

Given in recognition of outstanding efforts to improve and sustain forests, the award was established in 2012 by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), which is chaired by FAO. Its name honours 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.

Conferred today in a ceremony at the at the XIVth World Forestry Congress, in Durban, South Africa, the award carries a cash prize of $20,000.

Champion of community-based forestry management

Since 1994, Kenyangi has been working with Uganda's National Forest Authority to protect and promote the sustainable use of tropical forests in the country's Mbarara and Ntungamo districts. With the help of the women of the community-based non-governmental organization Support for Women and Agriculture (SWAGEN), she has planted over one million trees in the Rwoho Natural Forest buffer zone. These activities have not only contributed to mitigation of and adaptation to climate change in Uganda, but also have generated the new sources of income for local communities through beekeeping, timber harvesting and sales of carbon offset credits.

Kenyangi's efforts have been key to preventing further forest loss from cattle ranching in Uganda Rwoho's Forest.

"We are pleased to recognize Ms. Kenyangi's application of collaborative forest management in her work with the National Forest Authority, which has helped sustain a large portion of Uganda's tropical forests as well as the forest-dependent people within them", said Eva Muller, Director of Forest Economics, Policy and Products at FAO. "We need more community leaders like Kenyangi, who take a grassroots approach to natural resources management that benefit local livelihoods," she added.

Kenyangi is also active at the global level, and has discussed her community level approach in fora such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) and the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). She says she hopes to continue replicating and scaling up her grassroots approaches to influence global policies.

The Awards ceremony was attended by Wanjira Maathai, the daughter of Wangari Maathai, who recalled the spirit of her mother's work in the achievements of Kenyangi.

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests is comprised of 14 international organizations, including FAO, working together to promote forest management, conservation and sustainable development. 

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