US$3m for initiatives helping communities adapt to climate change

The 2023 Zayed Sustainability Prize winners were chosen for their innovative solutions to health, food, energy, and water challenges.

Insect-based proteins for food and fertiliser, rainwater harvesting for communities and farmers in Bangladesh, blockchain to power Syrian refugee camps, and mobile healthcare for Amazonian tribes in Brazil. These were the four projects that won the 2023 Zayed Sustainability Prize - named after the UAE’s founding president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Six high school teams were also selected for their ideas to make health, food, energy, and water more sustainable.

Together the 10 winners shared a total prize pot of US$3m, with the first four categories each receiving $600,000, and the six winning high schools getting $100,000 a piece, making this the largest philanthropic prize awarded in the UAE.

The winners were named during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) at a high-profile ceremony attended by the current president of the UAE, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Praising the innovation on display, the president said the awards “created a pathway for delivering life-changing humanitarian aid and solutions to communities around the world.”

Mohon Kumar Mondal, executive director of LEDARS, one of the winners, told Philanthropy Age: “It is incredible win for us seeing as are a grassroots nonprofit working in remote village in Bangladesh."

He added: "This prize give us chance to scale-up our good work and find more appropriate solutions for the climate vulnerable people of coastal Bangladesh". 

The 2023 winners:

  • French company Ÿnsect, which produces insect-based protein and fertilizers for plants, fish, farmed animals, pets, and humans, won the food category for its production.
  • LEDARS (Local Environment Development and Agricultural Research Society), a nonprofit in Bangladesh, was recognised for its rainwater harvesting systems, protective ponds, and filters, which are helping to provide drinking water to communities and smallholder farmers.
  • An SME from Jordan, NeuroTech, clinched the energy prize for its AI-based algorithms and a blockchain-based transactions system that is bring smart and reliable energy solutions to Syrian refugee.
  • The health prize was won by Associação Expedicionários da Saúde (EDS), a Brazilian nonprofit providing mobile clinics for indigenous communities living in remote areas of the Amazon

"The bold ambition of the Zayed Sustainability Prize … creates a pathway for delivering life-changing humanitarian aid and solutions to communities around the world."

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE

Launched in 2008, the Zayed Sustainability Prize - formerly known as the Zayed Future Energy Prize - has paid out to more than 100 nonprofits, social enterprises, and high schools whose innovative ideas have impacted more than 377 million people worldwide.

This year, there were more than 4,538 entries and the ceremony enjoyed a greater spotlight than usual as the UAE ramps up its focus on climate and sustainability issues in the run-up to hosting COP28, the next round of UN climate talks.

UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the director general of the prize, said: “As the UAE prepares to host COP28 later this year, the Zayed Sustainability Prize stands as a critical reminder of the UAE’s commitment to accelerating practical solutions needed to help societies mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

In parallel to the prize ceremony, there was also a day-long forum, which convened global experts, policy makers, and activists to discuss practical solutions for climate and sustainability challenges, with a focus on the Global South.

“There are a billion people employed in agriculture. With an average family size of four, that is 50 precent of the world’s population,” noted Satya Tripathi, secretary general, Global Alliance for the Planet, during one session. “We fix our food systems; we’ll fix the climate problem. We need to go where the people are – whose lives will change – and as it changes, it will change and transform the world.”

Nicole Iseppi, managing director for Global Energy Innovation at Bezos Earth Fund, said the world needed to think about “how to change the business models and get more execution through innovation, especially addressing the developing world, through technologies like metro grids and distributed renewable energy.”- PA

The Global High Schools winners were:

  • Students at Fundación Bios Terrae (ICAM Ubaté) in Colombia proposed a sensor to alert communities when levels of air pollution spike.
  • In Germany, the Romain-Rolland Gymnasium suggested a device to use solar power to generate hydrogen that can be stored in a cell to power school buildings.
  • At the Gifted Students School in Iraq, students proposed developing a hydroponic greenhouse to grow food all year round using 92% less water than traditional farming.
  • Pupils at United World College (UWC) East Africa in Arusha, Tanzania, came up with an idea for a filter made from sanitised and charred locally sourced animal bones that would be be fitted to taps to reduce potentially harmful levels of fluoride in drinking water.
  • At the Dhaka Residential Model College in Bangladesh, students proposed using existing soil microorganisms to develop fertilisers and pesticides to grow crop yields without upsetting the chemical balance of the soil.
  • Finally, a team from the Kamil Muslim College in Fiji wants to expand the school’s existing miniature bee farm, fishpond, and poultry farm to provide food for low-income students, increase the capacity of its biogas plant to provide cooking fuel for the school canteen, supply free water to students and staff through a rainwater harvesting, and use solar panels to generate energy for the school and wider community.