First Wangari Maathai Award winner Narayan Kaji Shrestha and FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry Eduardo Rojas-Briales. Photo: FAO/Giulio Napolitano

27 September 2012 ? Nepali activist Narayan Kaji Shrestha has been honoured with the first-ever Wangari Maathai Award for his work promoting community forest management, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today.

The Award, which was established by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), of which FAO is an active member, seeks to recognize efforts to improve and sustain forests and to honour the memory of Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

?Narayan Kaji Shrestha?s work captures the spirit of Wangari Maathai,? said FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry Eduardo Rojas-Briales. ?His vision, courage, commitment, intelligence and praxis is recognized though this award.?

Mr. Kaji Shrestha guided early attempts to create a more participatory approach to community decision-making, reaching out to women and low-caste villagers and initiating the country?s first community forestry group. Today, more than one-quarter of Nepal?s forests are protected by community forestry groups, FAO said in a news release.

The prize includes a cash award of $20,000. This year, the jury decided to give a special Honourable Mention prize of $2,000 to Kurshida Begum of Bangladesh for her ?exceptional efforts? in helping women of her village form a community patrol group alongside forest department guards to protect the forests and biodiversity of the Tenkaf Wildlife Sanctuary from illegal logging and poaching.

Mr. Kaji Shrestha and Ms. Begum were honoured in a ceremony at the Committee on Forestry, at FAO headquarters in Rome, which was attended by Rosemary Wanjiru Maina, niece of Wangari Maathai, and Professor Stephen Kiama Gitahi of the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies.

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests is comprised of 14 international organizations working together to promote forest management, conservation and sustainable development.

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