London (UK) A Zambian man Hammerskjoeld Simwinga, has scooped this year’s prestigious Goldman International Prize for helping to curb widespread elephant poaching by setting up economic projects for villagers in his country.
Simwinga won US$125,000 for the award, also known as the Nobel Prize for the environment.
The award was instituted several decades ago, aimed at recognising the impact of world environmentalists and nature conservationists across the globe. Previous winners include the late Nigerian-born environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.
The award jurists and the Goldman office in London Monday hailed Simwinga’s consistent effort in setting up bee-keeping and fish-farming projects for the people in the North Luanga valley where elephant numbers had shown a dramatic fall.
He persuaded the local people that they can earn money by keeping elephants alive. The elephants help attract tourists, thereby boosting tourism revenue to the region.
“People are now seeing the benefit of protecting their natural resources, having been inspired by Simwinga’s project. Not only do they see the beauty of a live animal, but the live animals are now putting money in their pockets”, said the Goldman officials.
Over 70 per cent of loans given by the project were made to the women as Simwinga said, they are the backbone of the programme. “We deliberately pushed our resources to the womenfolk in the community because we knew that working with the women was the strongest part of persuasion”, said the award-winner.
He further revealed that, under his project, local communities were given a grinding mill as an income-generating venture. But this was to be withdrawn if elephants were poached in the area.
The programme also provides 35,000 people with services such as healthcare and education.
Simwinga’s project operates under the North Luanga Wildlife Conservation and Community Development Programme (NLWCCDP), which he inherited when its US founders Delia and Mark Owens were forced to leave the country in 1996.
Despite growing fears that the programme would collapse, Simwinga successfully managed to expand the award-winning project.
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