Lancaster research centre picks pioneering projects for prestigious prize

Two women picking tomatoes

Lancaster University’s sustainability research centre has nominated three pioneering projects for a prestigious prize led by Prince William and Sir David Attenborough.

The Centre for Global Eco-Innovation, based at Lancaster Environment Centre, was first chosen as an official nominator for The Earthshot Prize in 2020.

Described as the most ambitious and prestigious of its kind, The Earthshot Prize is designed to provide incentive for change and help to repair our planet over the next ten years.

Each year, five The Earthshot Prize winners are awarded £1,000,000 to support their work.

The Centre has been chosen as a nominator three years in a row and has named their nominees for the 2023 prize.

Prof Jess Davies, Director of The Centre for Global Eco-Innovation at Lancaster University said she was thrilled to champion the three initiatives and wished them well on their next steps.

The Centre chose Practical Action, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, and Solar Sister as the three projects that stood out as potential ‘Earthshots’.

Practical Action put forward their Farming That Works project - a peer mentorship model to support farmers to adopt regenerative agriculture techniques that improve soil fertility and increase incomes of farming families in Africa and South America.

The peer mentorship model teaches young people how to make organic pesticides and fertilizer, diversify crops, and reforest.

Farmers are supported to collaborate, getting a fair price for their crops or produce, sharing information, and accessing finance to grow their businesses.

Akinyi Walender, Practical Action Africa director, said: “As we all know, soil degradation is a serious problem, with one-third of the world's soil being moderate to severely degraded.

“This greatly impacts farmers' incomes, food production, and rural economies.

“We are working to reverse this trend, revive traditional farming practices that improve soil fertility, increase incomes and build a thriving rural economy, in Kenya and beyond.”

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) support a network of half a million global volunteers to map climate-impacted areas, creating free and open maps of places most impacted by climate change. HOT works directly with communities and partners living in impacted areas to use maps in their projects, and advocate for change.

Mapping is a simple process.

First, volunteers anywhere in the world draw buildings and roads onto the map using satellite imagery. Then, people living in the location being mapped ground-truth the map, adding local data like place names, and health services.

The maps are used to build climate resilience; by governments, local communities, and international development organizations to respond to and plan for community needs and anticipatory action.

By harnessing the power of citizen science and crowd-sourced map data, HOT is able to greatly increase the availability of accurate, up-to-date information. The mapping community has mapped an area home to 440 million people to date.

HOT’s deputy executive director, Rebecca Firth, said: "HOT is honoured to be nominated for the EarthShot prize by Lancaster University, a recognition of the potential open mapping has for helping communities adapt as climate change adapts the places they live."

“Climate related events such as severe weather, floods, prolonged drought, wildfires, and sea level rise are increasingly impacting vulnerable populations, and the widespread devastation they will bring will change communities physically.

“Having an up-to-date map is critical to understanding the risks communities face and taking anticipatory action.

“That map will also need to be continually kept up to date as climate change leads to real changes for communities on the ground."

Solar Sister supports local women to create and sustain clean energy businesses to eradicate energy poverty in last-mile, off-grid communities across Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya.

Their model includes training coupled with ongoing mentorship for women entrepreneurs. These women, in turn, develop financial resilience, confidence, and status, by delivering solar and clean cooking solutions to last-mile communities.

Katherine Lucey, CEO and founder of Solar Sister said: "It’s a tremendous honour to learn that Solar Sister has been nominated for this year’s Earthshot Prize, which is known as 'the most prestigious global environment prize in history', by the Centre for Eco-Innovation.”

“We are pleased to share Solar Sister's success in fighting climate change by empowering local women with economic opportunities."

Lancaster University’s Centre for Global Eco-Innovation is one of more than 350 official nominators that have nominated projects for this year’s Earthshot Prize.

Prof Jess Davies, Director of The Centre for Global Eco-Innovation at Lancaster University said: "We really value being a part of the Earthshot prize as it’s incredibly inspiring each year to hear of so many exciting eco-innovations being developed and implemented across the planet.

“Amongst the many excellent ideas that we received, a few stood out to us this year as being exciting initiatives already finding impact, with people, diversity, and local communities at their centre.

“This aligns with our ethos of place-based innovation at the Centre for Global Eco-innovation as well as with the Earthshot prize.

“We’re thrilled to champion these initiatives and wish them well on their next steps."

The nominees will now be assessed by the Earthshot team, and a shortlist of 15 finalists will be announced in September 2023.

Five winners will then be selected by the Earthshot prize council and announced at a ceremony in December.

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