San Francisco. A Tanzanian, Mr Edward Loure, is the only African in the list of winners in this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s biggest award for grassroots environmental activists.
He became one of the six winners of the 2016 Goldman Environmental Foundation Prize whose names were announced yesterday.
Mr Loure led a grassroots organisation that pioneered an approach that gives land titles to indigenous communities.
The Goldman Prize is awarded annually to environmental heroes from each of the world’s six inhabited continental regions. It recognises fearless grassroots activists for their significant achievements in protecting the environment and their communities.
The winners were awarded at an invitation-only ceremony yesterday at the San Francisco Opera House.
“The only winner from the African continent, Mr Edward Loure, is a Tanzanian, who has led a grassroots organisation that pioneered an approach that gives land titles to indigenous communities—instead of individuals—in northern Tanzania, ensuring the environmental stewardship of more than 200,000 acres of land for future generations,” reads part of the foundation’s statement released yesterday.
Other winners of the prestigious prize are Mr Leng Ouch (Cambodia), Ms Zuzana Caputova (Slovakia), Mr Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera (Puerto Rico), Ms Destiny Watford (United States) and Ms Maxima Acuna(Peru).
The Goldman Environmental Prize (goldmanprize.org) was established in 1989 by late San Francisco civic leaders and philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman. Prize winners are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide network of environmental organisations and individuals.
A happy Mr Loure, expressed his joy at the honour of the Goldman Environmental Prize.
“I appreciate the recognition of the efforts that I have made in securing community and communal land rights, sometimes under a very harsh enviroment. I and my colleagues at Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT), facilitate villagers to secure their communal land rights,” said Mr Loure.
He added, “We help them to obtain Certificates of Customary Rights of Occupancy (CCROs). So getting the international recognition is a very big thing for me, those I work with and the communities that we serve. I hope it will bring more awareness for the need of communal land rights for pastrolist communities in Tanzania.”
On what his message to Tanzania’s government was, he responded:
“We are asking the government to find a way of securing our pastoralists communal land; for example, if they can gazette a national park, why not a community residence grazing area?” posed Mr Loure.
A Maasai tribesman, Mr Loure grew up in the Simanjiro plains, where his family and others in the community led a peaceful semi-nomadic life raising their cattle in harmony with the surrounding wildlife. In 1970, the Tanzanian government sealed off part of their village land to create Tarangire National Park and forcefully evicted the Maasai residing within the park boundaries.
His personal experiences, cultural background, and education (he has degrees in management and administration) put him in a unique position to lead the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT), a local organisation that has championed community land rights and sustainable development in northern Tanzania for the past 20 years.
Loure was one of the first people to join UCRT, and together with his colleagues—hunter-gatherers and fellow pastoralists—began driving efforts to protect his people and traditions.
Loure and the UCRT team found an opportunity in one particular aspect of Maasai governance: its strong communal culture. It became the basis for Certificates of Customary Right of Occupancy (CCRO), a creative approach to applying Tanzania’s Village Land Act.
Instead of the conventional model of giving land titles to individuals, CCROs allow entire communities to secure indivisible rights over their customary lands and manage those territories through bylaws and management plans. By formalizing communities’ land holdings and providing legal documentation, CCROs would help them protect their land rights and ensure the environmental stewardship of their territory for future generations.
Their early work and experience with the Hadzabe paid off in 2014, when the Tanzanian government issued the first-ever CCRO to a Maasai community in Monduli district.
Thanks to Loure’s leadership and his team’s dedication, UCRT has protected more than 200,000 acres of rangeland through CCROs. With their land rights secured, a group of Hadzabe people are ensuring the survival of their hunter-gatherer lifestyle while generating modest revenue from carbon credits and carefully managed cultural tourism.