Hundreds of GC delegates, UN officials, and guests led by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai gathered to attend the UNEP Sasakawa Prize awards ceremony and reception hosted by UNEP and The Nippon Foundation (TNF). The evening’s festivities began with an energetic and engaging performance by the Jua Kali drummers – a community-based project of the AMREF Dagoretti Child in Need Project aimed at rescuing and reintegrating children from the streets and other difficult circumstances back to their families and society. They set the tone for the evening both with their enthusiasm and their instruments made entirely from recycled material.
The Prize comes with more than 25 years of legacy of rewarding and recognizing amazing initiatives and accomplishments by organizations and individuals from around the world that significantly helped to protect the environment and promote sustainable development. It focuses on sustainable, grassroots initiatives that promote environmental awareness and empower people at the local level under the annually changing theme of World Environment Day. In 2008, the theme was “Moving towards a low-carbon economy”.
UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner and TNF President Takeju Ogata, presented the trophy and cash prize of USD100,000 to each of the 2008 co-winners: Practical Action from Peru and Sunlabob from Laos. Both projects stood out for their significant impact to the local communities and contribution to the reduction of green house gases through their use of renewable energy.
Practical Action makes use of the vast potential for hydroelectricity of the eastern Andes region of Peru. To date, 47 microhydro schemes have been installed in the area by Practical Action, bringing clean power to over 30,000 people and dramatically boosting the development of small villages.
In a country where only 48 percent of the population – mostly those in cities and towns – has access to grid electricity, Sunlabob brings light that sparks development in communities that previously relied only on highly polluting and hazardous kerosene lamps. Renting solar lighting is more affordable than kerosene; now, many households are switching to cleaner energy. Through Sunlabob, over 1800 solar home systems and 500 solar lanterns have been rented out to families in 73 different villages across the country.
Also present were UNEP Deputy Executive Director Angela Cropper , who was a member of the UNEP Sasakawa Jury along with Prof. Maathai, and GC President Minister Oliver Dulic of the Republic of Serbia.