x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Dubai gives $30,000 grants to 12 sustainability programmes worldwide

Initiatives in Africa, China and Spain were among those to receive US$30,000 grants in the ninth Dubai International Award for Best Practices To Improve Living Environments.

DUBAI // Kenya's Garissa is known to be of the harshest places in the world to live, but a donation from Dubai Municipality may soon make life easier for those who live there.

Located in north-east Kenya, east of Nairobi, the landscape is mostly arid desert terrain, and most of the population are Somali refugees.

Womankind Kenya, an NGO based in Garissa, partnered with Unicef and community leaders to show that teaching women and girls about water resource management, food security and environment management could making living in a tough economic, cultural, and political environment easier.

The charity was one of 12 sustainability programmes honoured by Dubai Government on Wednesday. Initiatives in Africa, China and Spain were among those to receive US$30,000 grants in the ninth Dubai International Award for Best Practices To Improve Living Environments.

"Harsh climate conditions, especially with climate change, have really taken a toll on people in rural Africa," said Abdi Omar Farah, programme manager with Womankind Kenya. "There is nothing we can do to change the weather, but we can teach them how to anticipate things like drought and prepare for it.

"Our main efforts are in making sure that the basic living and hygiene standards are available. Such as access to clean water, these women sometimes have to walk for hours to get water.

"We are also talking with the government to set up a disaster management policy."

Womankind Kenya is currently working to improve the living standards of 2 to 3 million women and children in Kenya.

A Uruguan programme to build organic vegetable gardens at thousands of schools was also among the recipients of the grant.

"I think this award will really change lives," said Julia Ganeman of Fundacion Logros, the organiser of the programme. "Things are very difficult financially at the moment in Uruguay. But if people there see the other countries acknowledge just how important this programme is, we may get more local support.

"We started with just one private school in 1996. We made it to more than 4,000 schools before the economic crisis, since then we have gone down to 3,000," she said.

For many children, especially those in rural Uruguay, these vegetable gardens yield the only vegetables in otherwise unhealthy diets.

"We also saw students that are usually misbehaving and getting in trouble have found gardening very relaxing and rewarding," said Ms Ganeman.

A Spanish programme to encourage youth involvement in government policymaking, City of Children, was another recipient.

Gabriel Rosa, a schoolteacher and one of the 12 people who runs the City of Children programme in Spain, said: "This award means so much to us, not just that we are getting international recognition but also the financial aid that comes with this award allows us to continue our research and continue to help people."

The Dubai International Award, organised by Dubai Municipality, is distributed every two years.

"Since 1995, when we started this award, we have received more than 4,900 applicants from 155 countries," said Hussai Nasser Lootah, the director general of the civic body.

"The award has gone through different phases of development where we tried to ensure participation from all societies across the globe to enriched the concept of sharing best experiences and practices among different communities and to apply the best for a brighter future for all."

malkhan@thenational.ae