27 Nov 2018

Lieu: International Environment House I | Room 3

Organisation: Geneva Environment Network

Sustainable forest management is essential to achieving sustainable development. Forests have a significant role in reducing the risk of natural disasters. At the global level, forests mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration, contribute to the balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity in the air and protect watersheds. Investing in forests and forestry represents an investment in people and their livelihoods. Worldwide, around 1.6 billion people - including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures - depend on forests for their livelihood.

About this Event

A discussion with two Right Livelihood Award (widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’) Laureates took place at the International Environment House on Tuesday 27 November.

The Burkinabé Yacouba Sawadogo is known as “the man who stopped the desert”. Starting around 1980 during a phase of severe drought, he has successfully created an almost 40-hectare forest on formerly barren and abandoned land. Today, it has more than 60 species of trees and bushes and is arguably one of the most diverse forests planted and managed by a farmer in the Sahel.

The Australian agronomist Tony Rinaudo is known as the “forest maker”. Having lived and worked in Africa for several decades, he has discovered and put in practice a solution to the extreme deforestation and desertification of the Sahel region. With a simple set of management practices, farmers regenerate and protect existing local vegetation, which has helped to improve the livelihoods of millions.

About the Right Livelihood Award

The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 to “honour and support courageous people and organisations offering visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems”. It has become widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ and there are now 174 Laureates from 70 countries.

The Right Livelihood Award is not an award for the world’s political, scientific or economic elite, but an award for the people and their work and struggles for a better future. The Laureates come from all walks of life: they are farmers, teachers, doctors, or simply, concerned citizens. The Right Livelihood Award accepts proposals from everyone through an open nomination process.

Celebration of the 2018 ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ Laureates, hosted by the Graduate Institue, took place Monday 26 November at the Maison de la Paix.


Mario BOCCUCCI, Head, UN-REDD Programme Secretariat
Paola DEDA, Chief, UNECE/FAO Joint Forestry and Timber Section


  • The conventional approaches to reforestation are costly, difficult to implement in arid and semi-arid regions in addition to not always being successful.
  • The Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) involves the systematic regrowth and management of trees and shrubs from felled tree stumps, sprouting root systems or seeds. It does not require a lot of funds, and puts the farmer at the center of the process. Indeed they select the species and choose all the other criteria related to the process.
  • Indigenous plants and local knowledge have a lot of value.
  • Rinaudo’s work with World Vision and Conservation International showed that biodiversity is everywhere. Tony mentioned the need to see the bigger picture by dealing with the large land as the degradation of one environment does have impacts on another one.
  • People’s perception of nature shifted. Indeed, it used to be seen as a food provider or a mean of survival, but that perception changed as population started to appreciate it more.
  • Paola Deda mentioned the need of more forests and more sustainable forest management.
    Deda thinks that natural solutions such as wooden buildings should not be neglected. She also believes that changing the principles that drive our economy and working with nature will lead us to the right direction.
  • For Mario Boccucci, Tony and Yacouba’s work is an example of the positive things that can happen if we listen to community and nature.
    UN-REDD supports and manages forests and land so they can contribute to the climate change fight. Boccucci said that nature and forests, in the short term, represent 50% of the solution to fight climate change.  Indeed, forests act as sponges by capturing the carbon dioxide. Also, by reducing deforestation, we will reduce the CO2 emission.
    Activities that restore land and vegetation are important. Boccuci sees “forest [as] the best technology ever invested on planet earth for climate change, livelihoods, stability and for a number of other environmental socio-economics benefits”.
  • Not many countries have an agroforestry strategy. Niger is one of the few countries to do so and it took 20 years.
    Common vision, engagement, bringing people together and knowledge sharing are very important.
  • The former director of the World Agroforestry Centre, Dennis Garrity,  formed an NGO called the Global EverGreening Alliance. It is an initiative like the Bonn Challenge that aims to promote the regreening movement across the world. This alliance includes more than 20 NGOs like the World Resources Institute.



The event was live on Facebook.