In the two years since Mariama Mamane won the Young Champions of the Earth prize back in 2017, she has taken great strides in her mission to provide people in Burkina Faso with energy.
The regional winner for Africa is the founder of Jacigreen, a project that uses the water hyacinth, which chokes waterways across the continent, to create sustainable energy and environmentally friendly fertilizer for farmers.
We asked Mamane what benefits she has received through the Young Champions of the Earth prize, and how it has changed her life. We hope her answers inspire you to apply!
How has the funding you received through the Young Champions of the Earth prize supported your work?
The funding I received from the Young Champions of the Earth prize enabled me to buy materials for my prototype. Working together with a team of people, I have now built the unit produces fertilizer and biogas.
What other support did you receive through the prize?
My work has been highly recognized in Burkina Faso and across Africa, even on other continents. People have requested me to share my experiences—they say that I am a good example to the youth and an inspiration to work hard. Through this work, I can mobilize other youth to change their habits related to the environment. We now have an organization that advocates for a sustainable environment and through it, we engage young people in activities that protect the environment. I have had the opportunity to inspire other young ladies and men to protect our world, which gives me deep satisfaction.
Has winning the prize helped you to deepen your understanding of environmental concerns?
After winning the award, I have gained a much clearer picture of what the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) does. For example, I am now aware of its wider goals and efforts to protect biodiversity. Besides that, I am now conversant with some of its advocacy work such as the Beat Plastic Pollution and BreatheLife campaigns. There are several other professional benefits I have gained. Many people have offered to work with me on my project, as they know that I have the capacity and knowledge to scale my project further. I have therefore been able to take my work to another level. When people visit me, I tell them that I acquired funds from UNEP’s Young Champions of the Earth prize, which has helped me reach much higher goals for my project. People have offered to help me move further, and I have since secured funding from the African Development Bank. They financed my incubator because they saw the progress I had made.
What would you say to others who may be thinking about applying, but are not sure?
This award is like a cushion, because it has helped me to start something which people can see from scratch. They can now see what I am doing and can choose to further support it. Organizations can be confident about my work and support me further. I believe that youth can drive change and the prize helped me to make a start. I would encourage others who are passionate about the environment and have an idea for a project to go for it! I would definitely encourage young people who want to make a difference to apply because I know that this prize can change their lives. I am confident about the potential of the youth—we do have the potential to fight for the environment and make a positive difference in society.
What did you learn through being a prize winner that was unexpected?
Being a winner in the first series of the Young Champions of the Earth has brought me together with other young champions. We support each other and encourage each other to push boundaries and move our projects to another level. I have also connected with other organizations that support my work. Although I really need more investment to scale my project, this prize helped me to a great start, and I hope that others will be inspired to take this step as well.
Do you have what it takes to be a Young Champion of the Earth? Applications open in early 2020. Pressing submit makes you part of our change-maker community – get involved and be part of the conversation on environmental change.
The Young Champions of the Earth Prize, powered by Covestro, is UN Environment Programme’s leading initiative to engage youth in tackling the world's most pressing environmental challenges.