The $100,000 St Andrews Prize for the Environment has gone to an innovative project in Madagascar.
It empowers communities in the southwest of the island to protect their marine environment and manage their resources sustainably by integrating holistic community-based health services within biodiversity conservation initiatives .
Semi-nomadic Vezo fishing people face extremely limited access to basic health services, with clinics located up to 50 kilometres from some villages.
Blue Ventures’ project addresses this by training female community health workers to offer voluntary counselling and health services in the community, supported by a wide-ranging programme of community education.
The project co-ordinates closely with marine conservation and coastal livelihood initiatives engaging women in octopus fisheries management, and sea cucumber farming.
This integrated model allows better provision for families; improves food security, empowers women and boosts local conservation efforts.
At a ceremony in the University of St Andrews, Vikas Mohan, representing the Blue Ventures Conservation team, was presented with the winning prize of $100,000 USD.
He said: ‘This will enable us to undertake a rigorous process evaluation of our programmes and also provide funding to replicate this integrated approach on and around the Barren Isles Archipelago where we are supporting the formation of one of the largest marine protected areas in the western Indian Ocean.’
The St Andrews Prize for the Environment is an environmental initiative by the University of St Andrews, which attracts scholars of international repute and carries out world-class teaching and research, and independent exploration and production company ConocoPhillips.
Professor Louise Richardson, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of St Andrews said: “Global warming and the finite nature of fossil fuels together present one of the greatest threats to the 21st century. At the University of St Andrews, we are working to address this threat both locally and internationally, on a theoretical and practical level; with ground-breaking research in this field, the creation of a six-turbine wind farm and the development of a centre of renewable energy.
“The St Andrews Prize for the Environment is a natural progression of this effort, allowing the University to honour and support the bright ideas that have the potential to translate into world-changing action.”
To mark the significance of 15 years of the Prize, previous winners were welcomed back to St Andrews this year where they delivered a public lecture entitled ‘Eight people who are changing the world’.
In this session they explained how winning the Prize had helped their work and how their projects have developed and progressed.
As part of the prize programme, a further public lecture was given by Dame Fiona Reynolds DBE, Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, l entitled ‘Beyond £s: Valuing the things that really matter’.