October 4, 2021

Equator Prize 2021: Local Leaders Ignite Global Change

This year’s Equator Prize winners show that local solutions can help solve global problems. The awards ceremony recognizing local and Indigenous communities worldwide that implement nature-based solutions for biodiversity loss, food insecurity, extreme poverty and the effects of climate change will be held on October 4, 2021. 

EcoAgriculture Partners has a longstanding relationship with our UN Development Programme (UNDP) partners at the Equator Initiative, which administers the Equator Prize. Working together since the award’s inception in 2002, EcoAg recognized the importance of providing recognition and resources for local landscape leaders. 

“EcoAg got involved from the get-go to promote community initiatives that were good for livelihoods, good for agriculture, and good for biodiversity,” says Seth Shames, EcoAg’s Director of Finance and Policy. 

This collaboration still holds for the Equator Prize today. Shames serves as a member of the Technical Advisory Committee, which reviews the prize applications. He revealed that winning projects have both demonstrated success and are community-led. The winners of this year’s prize illustrate the importance of using bottom-up, locally-based approaches to tackle broad societal and environmental challenges.

But how can local initiatives create a global impact?

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner speaks to how grassroots initiatives can contribute to larger planetary goals. “This year’s Equator Prize winners demonstrate that this transformation is already happening across the globe—their incredible nature-based solutions provide a blueprint to solve our planetary emergency,” he said. “This year’s winners exemplify the kinds of changes we need now, and they provide us with inspiration to follow in their footsteps.”

One Equator Prize 2021 winner shows how a locally-led program can create momentum for national law and policy. 

A local group with national impact

Across the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan, farmers are harvesting healthier, better-tasting crops grown using the traditional knowledge of local communities. The group spearheading this movement is the BIO-KG Federation of Organic Development

The center of BIO-KG’s program is transforming Kyrgyzstan villages into “organic aimaks,” which follow organic farming practices rooted in traditional farming knowledge. 

Working since 2012, BIO-KG now has 23 organic aimaks where more than 1,000 certified farmers have grown 5,800 tons of organic products. But BIO-KG did not stop there. Due to their widespread success, BIO-KG played an integral role in getting the Kyrgyz government to commit to transitioning the entire country to organic agriculture in 10 years. 

BIO-KG’s dedication to developing their initiative illustrates grassroots organizations’ value and ability to make impactful change. 

Ecoagriculture paves the way 

Of the 10 prize winners selected out of a pool of 600 contenders, several focus on ecoagriculture and employ the tenets of integrated land management. These groups include Niger’s Farmer Union Maddaben of Falwel and Farmer Union Hareyben of Tera, Costa Rica’s Asociación de Mujeres Indígenas del Territorio Cabécar Kábata Könana, and our partner Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda IAP in Mexico. 

Community-led initiatives like these stand out because of their basis in traditional knowledge, use of multi-stakeholder land partnerships and dedication to regenerating and restoring the land. They also embody the landscape partnerships EcoAgriculture believes will pave the way for the future. 

“We want to show that these types of initiatives can be successful and developed at the grassroots,” says Shames. “Our vision for what a better world looks like is that there are a lot of these initiatives around the world.”

Grassroot catalysts

This year’s prize winners join a network of 255 communities from more than 80 countries that have received the Equator Prize since its inception in 2002, according to the UNDP’s press release. Each awardee earns US$10,000 and the chance to take part in events around several of the UN’s high-profile international assemblies. 

Congratulations to all of the amazing winners! We are inspired by these landscape leaders whose work demonstrates the solutions we need to tackle our most pressing global problems.


Photo: Combining traditional knowledge and social media to ensure food security during a pandemic, the Asociación de Mujeres Indígenas del Territorio Cabécar Kábata Könana, in Costa Rica, is a model for community resilience to climate change and other external shocks. Photo courtesy of Asociación de Mujeres Indígenas del Territorio Cabécar Kábata Könana.

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