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Environmentalist Wins National Geographic Award 

By Nformi Sonde Kinsai

CameroonPostline — The Regional Director of the World Agro-forestry Centre, ICRAF, for West and Central Africa, Dr. Zacharie Tchoundjeu, has won the 2012 National Geographic/Buffett Award for Leadership in African Conservation.

According to a press release issued by the National Geographic Society, the award was handed to Dr. Tchoundjeu on June 14 at the National Geographic Society in Washington D.C.
It notes that one Pati Ruiz Corzo, the creator of a grassroots environmental movement, in Mexico was a co-winner.

Dr. Tchoundjeu is recognised for having made invaluable contributions toward conservation of biodiversity in the Congo Basin, the development of sustainable agricultural techniques for small-scale farmers and the training of a new generation of African scientists and environmentalists.

It is noted that as a Regional Director of ICRAF, “he leads international teams in 21 West and Central African countries that are focused on agro-forestry, forest conservation and domestication of high-value indigenous fruit trees and medical plants, with the aim of enhancing the livelihoods of small-scale farmers.” Tchoundjeu, an environmental scientist, is credited with working with local farmers to find solutions to ending poverty and environmental degradation.

He currently works with farmers and indigenous communities to select plant species from the wild and adapt them for cultivation on small farms. The environmental scientist has also developed and adapted vegetative tree propagation methods that lead to early fruiting, duplication of desired traits, easy reproduction of species whose seeds are difficult to collect and conservation of valuable species.

“Through these efforts, thousands of small-scale farmers have been trained in simplified but efficient techniques of domestication and have been able to generate sustainable incomes, especially in the area of fruit trees, coffee, cocoa, medicinal plants and other important crop production,” the release states further.

The ICRAF Regional Director was also hailed for the creation, in 2010, of the International Bilingual Academy of Yaounde (BAYSUP) to enhance environmental education in Central Africa. With a central goal to teach environmental sustainability and conservation to students, the release notes that BAYSUP is a joint project with the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Gent and the University of Yaounde I.

Dr. Tchoundjeu has also published over 115 [scientific] papers and co-authored four books.
It should be noted that National Geographic Society/Buffett Award recipients are chosen from nominations submitted to the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration, which screens the nominations through a peer-review process.

The Chairperson of the Committee for Research and Exploration, Peter Raven, remarks: “This year’s awardees are recognised for their outstanding leadership and vital role they play in managing and protecting the natural resources in their regions. They are inspirational conservation advocates, who serve as role models and mentors in their communities.”
Howard Buffett is President of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which focuses on humanitarian and conservation issues.

The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest non-profit scientific and educational organisations founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,”
The Society’s mission is to inspire people to care about the planet.

First Published in The Post No 1353

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