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Somali conservationist bags UNEP's Champion of the Earth Award

NAIROBI, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) -- Fatima Jibrell, a Somali female environmentalist, won the 2014 UN Environmental Programme (UNEP)'s Champions of the Earth award for her fight against illegal charcoal trade in the Horn of African nation.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner told a news conference in Nairobi on Friday that Jibrell has joined the ranks of global icons who made history for championing environmental sustainability.

"For the last 20 years, Jibrell has mobilized local and international resources to protect Somalia's pastoral way of life and the fragile environment upon which many livelihoods depend," Steiner said.

The UNEP'S Champion of the Earth Award is dedicated to individuals who have demonstrated unwavering commitment to environmental conservation.

Jibrell became the first Somalia woman to bag the award since its launch in 2005.

She will be among the eight winners to be honored by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at a ceremony in Washington DC later in November.

Jibrell is the founder of the Horn of Africa Relief and Development Organization Adeso which has been championing for environmental and social justice in Somalia, South Sudan and Northern Kenya since 1991.

Steiner noted that Jibrell's environmental stewardship has transformed livelihoods in post conflict states.

"Her courage and commitment to fight for environmental and social justice under the most distressful circumstances shines light on the resilience of the human spirit," Steiner said.

Jibrell has campaigned against illegal charcoal trade in Somalia for the last two decades.

The 67 year old mother of five mobilized local communities to restore the Somalia rangelands that were destroyed through harvesting of acacia tree.

Her campaigns led to the ban on charcoal trade by the Puntland government.

During a press briefing in Nairobi, Jibrell hailed the role of grassroots stewards in advancing the sustainability agenda.

"Empowering communities to responsibly conserve and manage their natural resource base is critical to the transformation of rural livelihood," Jibrell remarked, adding that the Champions of the Earth award will inspire pastoral communities to protect vital ecosystems and coexist peacefully with their neighbors.

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