Environmental improvement through empowerment of people – theme for the Volvo Environment Prize 2003
The 2003 Volvo Environment Prize is awarded to two pioneers putting people and their experience in focus. Madhav Gadgil from India and Mohammad Yunus from Bangladesh has each in his respective field created new models for understanding and transforming the relationships between poverty, development and the environment.
Professor Madhav Gadgil is one of the world’s leading ecologists and conservationists, a scientist who has done pioneering work in integrating research on biodiversity with the needs of communities and poor people. He has worked to break down the separation between the interests of human communities and the requirements of conservation, and he was the main contributor to the establishment of India’s first biosphere reserve in the Western Ghats. He is guided by firm belief that traditional knowledge of communities is of central importance to scientific research as well as ecological and land use planning.
Dr. Mohammad Yunus founded the Grameen Bank in 1983, an untraditional way of giving small credits to villagers, especially women, who would never qualify for commercial credits. These small loans helped people to set up a small business from which they could earn money, and pay back at very high rates, compared to traditional banking. The environmental implications of the Grameen project flow from its impacts on both social capital and women’s empowerment, strongly associated with conservation and sustainable natural resource management.