Monday, June 2, 2008

Micro-enterprise program receives Energy Globe Award for Sustainability…

The backyard nursery micro-enterprise program being implemented by Armenia Tree Project was selected as the National Winner for Armenia of the Energy Globe Awards, also known as the World Award for Sustainability. I was fortunate to attend the award ceremony with my ATP colleague Paul Yeghiayan on May 26 at the European Parliament in Brussels.

During the televised evening gala in the Plenary Hall of the European Parliament, an honorary Energy Globe Award was presented to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mikhail Gorbachev. European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pottering and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso presented the award to Mr. Gorbachev for his role as cofounder of Green Cross International.

The ATP program recognized by the Energy Globe Awards earlier in the day is mitigating poverty-driven deforestation by creating micro-enterprise tree nurseries in the Getik River Valley of northern Armenia. These nurseries are owned by hundreds of Armenia’s most impoverished families, who have doubled their annual income by participating in the backyard nursery program.

ATP initiated the program as a pilot project with 17 families in 2004, and since then it has grown to include 400 families this year who are growing reforestation seedlings. One goal of the program is that some of the additional income be invested to reduce reliance on the forests for heating and cooking fuel by creating an economy for a natural gas infrastructure in these villages.

In the Plenary Hall of the European Parliament
the TV Gala (click photo for more images)

The afternoon program at the European Parliament included remarks by President Gorbachev and Maneka Gandhi, chairwoman of the Energy Globe Awards jury. The most innovative and sustainable projects from over 100 countries were recognized, from alternative energy projects in Bangladesh, Georgia, Kenya, Nicaragua, Poland, and Sri Lanka, to forestry projects in Argentina and Honduras.

During the evening program, awards went to a Peruvian waste management program, a project building wells in Mozambique, a parabolic power plant in Spain which produces emission-free energy, and a South African project that raises youth awareness of environmental issues. The overall winner was Austrian-based Fronius International, which operates zero emissions vehicles with hydrogen fuel produced by photovoltaic cells and electrolysis.

The television gala (click here for webcast) included remarks by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Bollywood star Aamir Khan, as well as performances by Dionne Warwick, Alanis Morissette, and Zucchero.