Gaza-based urban farm project scoops US$1m

Winners of Zayed Sustainability Prize announced at COP28

A Gaza-based urban agriculture programme combatting food insecurity and generating income for women. A floating hospital providing medical care to remote Indonesian islands. And a small Namibia-based business using kelp forests to drawdown CO2 emissions.

These are some of the winners of the latest of the annual Zayed Sustainability Prize, which was launched in 2008 and named after the UAE’s founding president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

The winning entries in the five categories (climate action, food, health, energy, and water) each received US$1m, while six high schools from around the world were given $150k for their efforts to make their communities more sustainable.

The winner of the food category, the Gaza Urban & Peri-urban Agricultural Platform (GUPAP), was launched in 2013 to make Gaza more food secure and less dependent on imports and aid packages.

A co-operative with more than 80 members ranging from local government actors and NGOs to women’s organisations, agri-preneurs, and SMEs, it delivers training and capacity building to help family farmers improve their yields. This includes the provision of materials such as fertilisers, fences, and support with marketing their food items to access markets.

GUPAP follows a Community-led Solidarity Marketing (CLSM) approach, focusing on empowerment over handouts, and to-date it has provided jobs to 200 women and provided more than 7,000 people with access to local produce.

“This funding will help scale innovative solutions and deliver transformational progress around the world, especially across the Global South.”

Sultan Al Jaber, director general of Zayed Sustainability Prize and COP28 president.

The winners were announced at a ceremony held at COP28, which was hosted by the UAE at Dubai’s Expo City and attended by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the UAE.

Sultan Al Jaber, director general of the Zayed Sustainability Prize, and president of COP28, praised the winners and reaffirmed the UAE’s dedication to combat climate change and empower vulnerable communities.

“This funding will help scale innovative solutions and deliver transformational progress around the world, especially across the Global South,” he said, adding: “The Prize not only honours Sheikh Zayed's legacy of social good but extends the reach of his vision on a global scale.” 

This year’s total prize pot was $5.9m - up from $3.6m, making this one of the region’s largest philanthropic prizes. The purpose of the Global South-focussed award, now in its 15th year, is to recognise excellence as well as help winners scale their projects to amplify their impact on communities and the environment.

GUPAP co-founder Ahmed Sourani said: "Winning this prize will help us to reach more needy families to give them food security and give them hope.” He added: “It is important that we all work hard to support the resilience and sustainability of food systems in communities suffering from protracted crises and war.

Tragically, the ongoing Israeli bombardment on Gaza, which began on October 7th in retaliation to Hamas’s attack on Israel, has destroyed a number of the farms supported by GUPAP, Sourani said in an interview, but those that are still able to produce are doing so, albeit at a limited capacity. 

The five winners

Gaza Urban & Peri-urban Agricultural Platform (GUPAP), a Palestinian nonprofit providing technical support and income-generating opportunities to urban family farmers won the food category. The community-led organisation targets women agri-preneurs giving them new skills to grow food sustainably and reduce their dependence on food imports and aid.

Kelp Blue plants large-scale kelp forests in deep water off Namibia, New Zealand, and Alaska, to trap CO2 emissions and enhance ocean biodiversity by providing food and shelter to underwater species. Kelp Blue won the newly-introduced Climate Action category.

Indonesia’s doctorSHARE was the winner of the Health. Since 2013, its floating hospital has been sailing to remote Indonesian islands performing examinations and surgeries for communities with limited access to healthcare due to geographic or financial constraints

Eau et Vie (now better with water) won the Water category for its provision of clean water to more than 52,000 underprivileged people living in informal settlements in Bangladesh and the Philippines. Operating since 2008, the French nonprofit uses a solidarity and social business approach to provide low-cost water to domestic taps.

The winner of the Energy category was a small business from Rwanda called Ignite Power, which provides affordable and sustainable solar-powered electricity using a pay-as-you-go model to last-mile and rural villages across sub-Saharan Africa.

Read about the Global High Schools winners here 

Middle East & North Africa: Students at the International School in Morocco, proposed a plan to build a plant that will convert seaweed and algae into edible food products, organic fertiliser, and biogas fuel, providing a sustainable source of food and energy for their school.

The Americas: At the Colegio De Alto Rendimiento De La Libertad in Peru high school students proposed the use of plants to clean water (phytoremediation) to improve the quality of water for a district of 35,000 people.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Nigeria’s Gwani Ibrahim Dan Hajja Academy plans to construct a solar dryer (using solar energy to dry crops and eliminate moisture) to help smallholder farmers limit post-harvest losses and increase their revenues.

Europe & Central Asia: In the UK, Northfleet Technology College students proposed the establishment of an ethical entrepreneurship programme to manage school bee farms that will produce honey and wax products providing income for pupils.

South Asia: Pakistan’s KORT Education Complex, a school for orphans in Kashmir, plans to create a school garden to promote organic farming and water conservation for their school and surrounding areas.

East Asia & Pacific: Students at Beijing High School No. 35 plan to install vacuum glass solar panels or films on the school windows, which will help with insulating heat, sound, and at the same time, generate electricity for their school.