FES was chosen because of its efforts in empowering communities to take ownership of their land, mobilising communities on a large scale and influencing policy.

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.

The award was for Anand, Gujarat-based FES’ work in assisting village communities in sustainable management of common lands in India.

The 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.

From among 137 applicants from 62 countries across the globe and 16 semi-finalists, FES was awarded the first place by a panel of jurists from all over the world.

FES was unanimously chosen as the winner because of its efforts in empowering communities to take ownership of their local land, mobilising communities on a large scale and influencing policy.

The award will be presented during the meeting of the Conference of Parties 11 at Namibia in September.

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 per cent of the rural population is dependent on community lands for their survival.

However, these lands, mistakenly categorised 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 23, 2013)
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