On the World Day to Combat Desertification (June17), the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) has been selected for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) instituted Land for Life Award 2013, for its work on assisting village communities in sustainable management of common lands in India.

 This award comes close on the heels of FES being decorated with the Nobel Laureate Professor Elinor Ostrom International Award on Commons at Mt. Fuji, Japan, according to a press release here. 

137 applicants from 62 countries across the globe and 16 semi-finalists, FES was awarded the first place by a renowned panel of jurists from across the globe. FES was unanimously chosen as the winner because of its efforts in empowering communities to take ownership of their local land, mobilizing communities at a large scale and in influencing policy. The award would be presented during the meeting of the Conference of Parties 11 at Namibia in September this year. 

Mr. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, announced the winners at the Conference on Desertification and Land Degradation from the City of Ghent, Belgium, which hosted the World Day global observance.

In India more than 90% of the rural population is dependent on community lands for their survival. However these lands, mistakenly categorized as "wastelands", are shrinking at an alarming rate of 1.5 – 2.7% due to lack of proper tenure and appropriate village institutional arrangements to manage such lands.

In this scenario, FES is engaged in assisting more than 5,000 villages across seven states of India, restoring over half a million acres of common land  and in advocating for better policy and programmatic action for the restoration and conservation of the commons in the country.  FES aims to improve the recognition of such "wastelands" as community lands or village commons and help village communities gain secure access there, said Jagdeesh Rao, Executive Director of FES.


(This article was published on June 22, 2013)
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