St Andrews, Scotland – An innovative project integrating community-based health services with locally-led marine conservation initiatives has won this year’s St Andrews Prize for the Environment.
The prize identifies and rewards entrepreneurs with original and practical ideas for tackling specific environmental challenges, and is run by the University of St Andrews with independent exploration and production company ConocoPhillips.
Marine conservation organisation Blue Ventures was awarded this year’s prize in recognition of its efforts to address the multifaceted drivers of environmental degradation in coastal southwest Madagascar.
The project trains local women to offer health services in their villages, and coordinates closely with initiatives engaging communities in sustainable fisheries management and sea cucumber farming initiatives; improving food security, empowering women and boosting local conservation efforts.
The other two finalists were the Inga Foundation, for their work using alley-cropping to tackle deforestation and improve the livelihoods of farmers in the tropical developing world, and Reef Check, for their project training members of tropical coastal communities to survey the health of coral reefs and create non-extractive businesses as alternatives to fishing.
Following two days of presentations and discussions, Blue Ventures was awarded the prize at a ceremony in the University of St Andrews.
Dr Vik Mohan, Medical Director of Blue Ventures, said: “We’re thrilled to receive such high-level endorsement of our integrated approach from the environmental community. The St Andrews Prize funding is going to enable us to replicate our health work in the Barren Isles archipelago, where we’re currently supporting the establishment of the largest community-run marine protected area in the Western Indian Ocean.”
The prize will also further Blue Ventures’ efforts to convene a network of health and conservation agencies working in some of Madagascar’s most biodiverse and under-served areas, in order to explore opportunities for scaling up this interdisciplinary model through cross-sector partnerships.
Sir Crispin Tickell, Chairman of the St Andrews Prize, commented: “This is the 16th award of the prize and we are delighted to be able to support yet another empowering and innovative project that is making a huge difference to rural communities. I am confident that this year’s winner will use the US$100,000 award to drive their training efforts and reap the maximum benefit for those concerned.”
To mark the significance of 15 years of the prize, previous winners were welcomed back to St Andrews where they delivered a public lecture, explaining how the prize has allowed their projects to progress in recent years.
David Chenier, UK President of ConocoPhillips said: “Our involvement with the St Andrews Prize enables us to understand some of the issues faced by a wide spectrum of communities as we work with groups on the development of new technology, ideas and solutions that will ultimately create a path to a more secure and sustainable environment for future generations. It lets us recognise those people who make a difference with their innovative ideas. It also gives us the opportunity to support the development and sustainability of these life-changing projects..”
Further details about this year’s projects and a full list of the winners supported over the past 15 years can be found on the St Andrews Prize website.