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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 April 2007, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
Zambian wins 'Nobel green prize'
Hammerskjoeld Simwinga
Hammerskjoeld Simwinga was named after the former UN chief
A Zambian man has won a prestigious Goldman Prize for helping to curb widespread elephant poaching by setting up economic projects for villagers.

Hammerskjoeld Simwinga wins $125,000 for the award, sometimes called the Nobel prize for the environment.

He helped set up bee-keeping and fish-farming projects for people in the North Luangwa valley, where elephant numbers had shown a dramatic fall.

He persuades local people they can earn money by keeping elephants alive.

The elephants help attract tourists, and their money, to the region.

"People are now seeing the benefit of protecting their natural resources," Mr Simwinga said.

"Not only do they see the beauty of a live animal, but the live animals are now putting money in their pockets."

Threat

Over 70% of loans are made to women and Mr Simwinga says they are the backbone of the programme.

Human and elephants have long had a troubled relationship

"We deliberately pushed our resources to the womenfolk in the community because we knew that working with the women was the strongest part of persuasion," he told Reuters news agency.

Local communities were given a grinding mill to earn money but this was withdrawn if elephants were poached in the area.

The programme also provides 35,000 people with services such as healthcare and education.

He inherited the North Luangwa Wildlife Conservation and Community Development Programme (NLWCCDP), when its US founders Delia and Mark Owens were forced to leave in 1996.

Despite fears it would collapse, Mr Simwinga, known as "Hammer" and named after UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold who died in a 1961 air crash in Zambia, instead managed to expand the project.

"If I had left as well then the work we had worked for so many years to build would have just collapsed," he said.


SEE ALSO
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