UNEP Climate Hero Honored by Kenyan Government for Environmental Commitment
On 1 December, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Climate Hero Luo Hong became the first foreigner to be awarded a State Commendation by the Government of Kenya. President Mwai Kibaki bestowed the honour on the Chinese entrepreneur in recognition of his achievements and distinguished service to the nation.
Mr. Luo’s affinity for Kenya stems from his interest in the country’s wildlife and natural environment. The UNEP Climate Hero fell in love with the country on his first visit in 2001 when he observed the magical display of flamingos performing a courtship dance in Lake Nakuru National Park.
His next visit to Kenya was to attend the annual wildebeest migration in Masai Mara National Game Reserve, and he has since returned thirty times, visiting almost all the country’s national parks and game reserves taking photographs and films of landscapes and wildlife.
On his fondness for Kenya Mr. Luo said, "I was so much moved by the beauty of this country and its people. I believe that beautiful things can evoke kindness from the depth of people’s hearts."
Although Luo Hong is best known as the wealthy owner of China’s largest bakery chain, Holiland, over the years he has made his mark as a talented nature photographer. Since 1985, he has taken photos while flying over almost all western regions in China, and has shot stunning aerial shots over African landscapes.
In 2006, Mr. Luo was awarded the "Outstanding Photographer" of the year award by the Chinese Photographers Association and for World Environment Day (WED) that same year, he held a solo photographic exhibition entitled Earth, Our Home at UNEP’s headquarters in Nairobi.
Also in 2006, Hong established the Luo Hong Fund, setting out to train and reward talent worldwide in environmental protection. Two years later, the Luo Hong Fund announced that it would sponsor a Chinese Children’s Painting Competition. The hugely successful event coordinated by UNEP has been held consecutively over the past three years, with over six million entrants cumulatively.
Luo Hong was also the first Chinese national to hold an environmental photographic exhibition at the UN Headquarters in New York in 2009, following many successful exhibitions in China. All of the artwork in this exhibition - which primarily featured scenes from Kenya - was, auctioned for charity, with the entire income donated to environmental causes.
In 2006, he donated US$1.5 million to UNEP in support of various grassroots environmental protection programmes in Kenya, with US$150,000 going to the preservation of flamingos in Lake Nakuru National Park – the site that captured his attention during his first visit to the country in 2001.
Reacting to the Kenyan State Commendation, Luo Hong said: "I firmly believe that the Earth is the only home for human beings, and that the animals are our best friends. We can only make the earth more beautiful if we all live in harmony."