Zambian development specialist Hammerskjold Simwinga is this year’s winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize. The prize, which is worth 125,000 dollars, will help him pursue his dream of protecting the elephants and rhinos of Zambia’s North Luangwa valley.
Simwinga began working in the valley in 1994 with a US couple, Mark and Deli Owens, who started a project to study and protect the elephants of the area. When they left, he continued the project and eventually created awareness of the elephants’ needs. With help from some community projects, people who lived the valley stopped poaching and found other ways to earn money.
Simwinga won the Goldman Environmental Prize for what were called his significant efforts to protect and enhance the wildlife in the North Valley of Zambia.
He said he helped end poaching in the area with incentives that encouraged people to protect wildlife but still earn money. He said that his work has brought about “a magnificent change” in the people’s lives in the valley:
“One,” he said, “is the increase in income levels within the communities. There is an increase in food and seeds security because the communities are now producing their own seeds. We have trained 55 seed growers in various seed types. A lot of people have gone into entrepreneurship activities; a lot of people are keeping bees for business, [and are] beginning to fish for business and protein. There is a lot of entrepreneurship development with a lot of young men producing sunflower seeds and processing it to increase value. So we are seeing a great improvement from when the project started.”
Simwinga said he will likely use the prize money to help finance some of his future projects: “It is a big amount of money,” he said, “but looking at the work in front of me, it is quite demanding. I think it will contribute a lot because I have another vision for the area to help the youth with smaller businesses. Of course, it will improve my livelihood.”