Nairobi / Leverkusen (Germany) – Four students from Ecuador, Indonesia, Kenya and the Philippines have received the 2011 Young Environmental Leader Award for their innovative sustainable development projects.
The award ceremony was held on the final day of the Young Environmental Envoy Programme, co-organised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Bayer. The week-long programme brought together 47 young environmental leaders from 18 developing countries for an environmental study tour in Germany, which focused on waste management, forests, renewable energy and other issues.
Each Young Environmental Envoy is involved in a sustainable development project in his or her home country. The projects put forward by the four winners of the Young Environmental Leader Award were judged to have the most potential impact.
Co-winner Sara Rudianto from Indonesia has developed a small bioreactor that can be used for cooking in households. The project puts forward an alternative source of fuel to the firewood that is traditionally used in Kidang Pananjung village in West Java province. With the bioreactor, farm and household waste can be processed to make renewable energy. Sarah also holds workshops on biogas in the local community.
María Rose Reyes Acosta from Ecuador received the award for her project to tackle the contamination of water by the toxic element mercury – usually resulting from gold mining. Maria is developing a process to treat contaminated water using the symbiosis of an aquatic fern with algae known as Anabaena Azolla.
Michael Muli from Kenya is implementing a green energy project that produces clean fuel briquettes made from dried foliage and waste paper. The aim is to lower carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, reduce the risks to respiratory health from traditional cooking fuels such as charcoal, and to create jobs and income for local residents through the production and sale of the cleaner fuel briquettes.
Mary Jade Gabanes from the Philippines has established an environmental education programmes for children with special needs. Mary Jade organizes art therapy sessions and photo exhibitions and has also produced a musical variety show entitled “I Am Special”, to provide an insight into environmental issues for special needs children.
“I was surprised but very pleased to win the award, given the high standard of the other projects put forward by my fellow Young Environmental Envoys”, said co-winner Michael Muli from Kenya.
“The visit to Germany showed me that although we may come from very different backgrounds, the challenges faced by many developing countries are similar, such as waste management or meeting energy needs. I came away from the programme realizing that, when it comes to sustainable development, the time for action is now,” he added.
The four winners of the Young Environmental Leader Award receive project support worth a total of EUR 3,000 and further support in their home countries to make their projects environmentally and economically sustainable.
An independent panel of judges from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), an NGO and Bayer selected the four winners.
Launched in 1998, the UNEP-Bayer Young Environmental Envoy Programme aims to improve knowledge of environmental issues among young people and support them in developing and implementing projects on sustainable development, conservation and other aspects of the environment in their own communities.
Since its inception, some 11,200 young people have applied for a place on the programme and around 500 envoys have been selected to travel to Germany. Some 800 applications were received from young people around the work to take part in the 2011 Young Environmental Envoys Programme.
The Young Environmental Envoy Programme now covers 18 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, Venezuela and Vietnam.
Through an alumni network on Facebook and UNEP’s TUNZA youth programme, envoys past and present can stay connected and exchange ideas on how to develop their individual projects.