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Changing lives through sustainability
23/ 02/ 2010

Changing lives through sustainability2009-10 Sasakawa Prize winners bring light and heat to communities in Latin America, Africa and India

Bali (Indonesia), 23 February 2010 - Two projects bringing green stoves and clean lighting to remote communities in Latin America, East Africa and India are the laureates of the 2009-10 UNEP Sasakawa Prize, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today.

This year's winners are Nuru Design, a company bringing rechargeable lights to villages in Rwanda, Kenya and India; and Trees, Water and People (TWP), an organization that collaborates with local NGOs to distribute fuel-efficient cook stoves to communities in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Haiti.

The UNEP Sasakawa Prize, worth $200,000, is given out each year to sustainable and replicable grassroots projects around the planet. The winners will receive their prestigious Prize at an Award Ceremony in Bali attended by dozens of Environment Ministers during the 11th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council.

In a year that saw global leaders meet in Copenhagen for the crucial climate conference, the 2009 theme for the Prize is 'Green Solutions to Combat Climate Change'. The winners, who were selected by a panel of four people including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and UN Messenger of Peace Wangari Maathai, will receive $100,000 each in order to expand and develop their grassroots projects.

Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary-General who chaired the Jury Panel, said: "Combating climate change is not just up to governments: it starts at the grassroots level, as communities tap into the power of renewables and sustainable technologies. Through pioneering green ovens and sustainable lighting, Nuru Design and Trees, Water and People are changing the lives of thousands of schoolchildren, housewives and villagers across Latin America, Africa and India. This is the Green Economy of tomorrow, in action today."

The two projects are both helping to improve daily lives in far-flung, non-electrified villages while helping to fight climate change.

Nuru Design has already converted thousands of households to rechargeable lights, and aims to prevent the emission of around 40,000 tonnes of CO2 from kerosene lighting in 2010.

And through fuel-efficient cooking stoves that burn 50 to 70 per cent less wood, TWP is helping households save money and preventing nearly 250,000 tonnes of hazardous emissions.

The winners

Nuru Design

Lack of reliable energy and lighting affects over two billion people in the developing world and remains a primary obstacle to improving health, increasing literacy and education, and, ultimately, reducing poverty and hunger. Meanwhile, the equivalent of 260 million tonnes of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere yearly from burning kerosene and firewood, which millions of people around the world rely on for lighting.

With seed-funding from the World Bank Lighting Africa initiative, Nuru Design UK co-developed and field-tested the Nuru lighting system with villagers and local partners in Rwanda - UNDP Rwanda and Millennium Villages. Nuru means "light" in Swahili, and the system consists of portable, inexpensive rechargeable LED lights that sell for $5.

Nuru lights can be recharged by solar panel or AC charger, but the primary recharging source is human power using the world's first commercially available, locally-assembled, pedal generator: the Nuru POWERCycle. Gentle pedalling for 20 minutes using feet or hands, bicycle-style, can fully recharge up to five Nuru lights - each one lasting up to 37 hours. The lights give up to two weeks of bright light on a full recharge, allowing children to study, home-based businesses to operate, and households to function after dark.

The project has been a runaway success, making a significant, immediate and long-lasting environmental impact. In Rwanda alone, Nuru is adding 40 entrepreneurs every quarter, meaning 10,000 households every quarter will switch from kerosene to Nuru light.

Nuru Design plans to use the Sasakawa funding to scale up in Rwanda and to replicate their work in Burundi, Kenya, Uganda and India - expanding to 800 entrepreneurs who will deliver lighting to about 200,000 households.

Trees, Water and People

Nearly half the world's 6.8 billion people rely on smoky open fires to cook their daily meals. This traditional practice causes deadly indoor air pollution which kills 1.6 million women and children annually.

Trees, Water & People (TWP) , a non-profit organization, collaborates with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Haiti to distribute fuel-efficient cook stoves that burn 50 to 70 per cent less wood and remove toxic smoke from homes. Other projects include community tree nurseries, reforestation, protecting watersheds and the promotion of renewable energy.

To date, TWP has coordinated the building of 35,000 stoves throughout Central America and Haiti, benefitting more than 175,000 people. The ecostoves burn 70 per cent less wood than traditional ovens, saving families $1 to $5 per day.

They also decrease harmful carbon emissions by 1 tonne of CO2 equivalent per year per stove for domestic users and 3.5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year for commercial users, like tortilla makers.

To supplement the fuel-efficient stoves project, TWP has helped villages create 16 community-run tree nurseries that sequester carbon and counter the effects of deforestation. To date, three million trees have been planted throughout Latin America.

TWP will use the Prize money to support and expand the fuel-efficient stove projects and community tree nurseries throughout Central America and the Caribbean, purchasing equipment and materials necessary for increased stove production, as well as vehicles for transportation and delivery.

Notes to Editors:

About the UNEP Sasakawa Prize
The UNEP Sasakawa Prize is sponsored by the Japan-based Nippon Foundation, an independent, non-profit grant-making organization that supports both Japanese and international philantropic projects. The UNEP Sasakawa Prize was originally created in 1982 by the late Ryoichi Sasakawa. The Prize was re-launched in its current format in 2005, and is currently chaired by Mr. Sasakawa's son, Yohei Sasakawa.
The four members of the 2009-10 UNEP Sasakawa Prize jury are Jury Chairman and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and UN Messenger of Peace Pr. Wangari Maathai, Nobel chemistry Laureate and 1999 Sasakawa Winner Pr. Mario Molina, and Ms Wakako Hironaka, Member of Japan's House of Councillors.
At the UNEP Sasakawa Award Ceremony on 23 February, last year's Sasakawa Winners - Sunlabob Rural Energy and Practical Action - will deliver a report on their progress since they were awarded the Prize.
Winners' Biographies:

Nuru Design - Sameer Hajee

Prior to Nuru Design, Sameer Hajee was the Global Business Development manager at Freeplay Energy plc, the developers of the world's first hand-crank radio and flashlight. At Freeplay, Sameer created the international aid and development sales team which in 2006 and 2007 generated $6 million in revenue. He also co-created and co-managed a Development Marketplace project that saw the creation of 50 rural energy enterprises in Rwanda.

In 2005, Sameer launched and managed the Growing Sustainable Business (GSB) initiative at UNDP in Kenya, where he helped domestic and multinational companies, such as SC Johnson, Tetra Pak and Microsoft, to develop and implement pro-poor business models in Kenya.

Trees, Water and People - Stuart Conway

After graduating from Colorado State University with a Bachelor's degree in Forest Management, Stuart Conway served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala for three years, where he introduced reforestation, agroforestry, soil conservation, and stove building techniques into nearby villages. Upon returning to the States, Stuart received his Master's degree in International Development and Agroforestry from Cornell University. He then served as Director for the New Forests Project at the International Center in Washington D.C., where he guided the program to plant over 2 million trees annually, establish agroforestry training centers in Guatemala and El Salvador, and initiated community reforestation projects throughout Central America.

In 1998, Stuart co-founded Trees, Water & People (TWP), a Colorado-based nonprofit committed to improving people's lives by helping communities protect, conserve and manage the natural resources.

In 2005, Prince Charles presented Stuart with the prestigious Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy, for TWP's fuel-efficient stove project in Honduras. Stuart and TWP were awarded the 2008 US$1 million Rio Tinto Prize for Sustainability.
For more information, please visit the UNEP Sasakawa Prize website at: or e-mail:
Or contact:
Nick Nuttall, Spokesperson/Head of Media, UNEP on Tel: +41 795965737, E-mail:
Or Anne-France White, Associate Information Officer, at tel: +254 20 762 3088, Mobile: + 254 728600494, or e-mail:

Further Resources
2009 Acceptance Speech - Sameer Hajee of Nuru Design
2009 Acceptance Speech - Stuart Conway of TWP
Photogallery of 2009 Award Ceremony
Press release - Spanish version
2009 Speech - Takeju Ogata of The Nippon Foundation
Photogallery of 2009 Laureates
11th Special Session of the Governing Council
UNEP Video: Nuru Design
UNEP: Sasakawa Prize
UNEP Video: Trees, Water and People